7/24/2006

MPAA and RIAA as Instruments of Piracy

Right now software engineers and encryption specialists work tirelessly to develop a new form of digital rights management (DRM), or copy-protection, software that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) will use to encrypt their music and movies in an effort to thwart mass piracy of their content. What these industries do not realize, however, that the only people they are thwarting are the legitimate buyers of their content from using the product in mediums other than what the industries intended. Instead of the industry preventing piracy, they are actually creating more piracy by restricting the use of music and movies. The average, legitimate consumer, in order to satisfy the want to use the content they bought in the manner that they desire, must learn how to crack this type of encryption and, thus, become pirates as defined by the law.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) makes circumventing copy protection on any piece of intellectual property (DVDs and music CDs, for example) by the use of technology that is designed to bypass this type of encryption illegal. It also makes the production of any type of application that has the ability to bypass any form of copy protection encryption illegal as well. This law only applies to DVDs and CDs that have encryption already on them, and the music and movie industries have obligated themselves to place DRM encryption on every DVD and CD that they produce. Thus, this law makes it illegal to make a copy of virtually any CD or DVD that is sold to the average consumer.

The RIAA and MPAA want their consumers to use the DVDs and CDs they produce only in the manner in which music and movie industries dictate: movies to be played only on DVD players and music to be played only on CD players. With this wave of technology, however, the consumers now have more options to use their media. They can play movies on their laptop, portable DVD players, or even on tiny devices such as the latest iPod or the Sony PlayStation Portable. Anyone today can make a home theatre system powered by a computer that is dedicated solely to storing movies and playing them when need be. The MPAA, however, wants the consumers to buy a new movie for each individual medium. For example, if one went to the local Wal-Mart and bought a DVD of Ice Age for approximately $20, he would also have to buy a separate copy Ice Age on UMD (Universal Media Disc, the PlayStation Portable disc standard) for another $20 in order to watch it on his PlayStation Portable as well as another $10 from the iTunes movie store if he wanted to watch it on his iPod Video. By the time he has this movie on all the devices he desires, he would have paid for the same movie--just one--three times at a total of $50 (more than twice of which he originally paid for it). Should this person have to pay for one movie three times? I think not, for once one buys a movie one should be able to use however one pleases or make copies of that movie as a backup if one pleases.

This example of a man buying one movie three times is also an example of what the average, non-tech savvy consumer would think of doing. The average consumer has no idea that programs, along with tutorials on how to use them, are widely available on the Internet that have the ability to crack the encryption on any DVD on the market today and allow the consumer to make copies. DVDDecrypter, a program that is famous for its ability to copy encrypted DVDs with relative ease, is a prime example of one such program. The entry in the works cited of this paper for DVDDecrypter contains a direct link to where a copy of this notorious program can be downloaded as well as a tutorial that provides a step-by-step guide of the copying process. A simple Google search for the terms “decrypt DVD” displays several links to useful free programs available on the Internet that can copy and place an entire DVD onto a computer’s hard drive.

The MPAA does not realize that they are only hurting the average consumer by encrypting their DVDs, for people that pirate DVDs already know how the bypass the encryption and do not give a second thought to. What the MPAA is doing, in actuality, is teaching the average non-pirating consumer how to become a pirate. If the consumer wishes to use the content they bought on a different medium, then that consumer will find a way to use it the way he/she wants to. An example can be a businessman who travels by plane most of the time for his line of work. During these long flights he wishes to watch a movie or two on his laptop to help pass the time, but he doesn’t have enough space to pack the necessary DVDs that he owns with him on flight. He thinks he can copy the DVDs onto his hard drive, but finds that the discs are encrypted. He searches the internet for ways to solve this issue, perhaps using a popular web forum. From this forum he learns that he can use a program named Fair Use Wizard to decrypt and convert the DVDs that he wants to watch into video files that can be played directly off the hard drive of his laptop computer (Fair Use Wizard). To copy these DVDs onto his hard drive would violate the law as it stands presently and make this man a pirate. Because of the copy protection on these discs, the MPAA has, in essence, taught this man how to pirate a movie. Even though this is a hypothetical situation, I can say without a doubt that an even like this has taken place in reality at one time in the past. A popular radio station on the west coast of the United States called KFI AM 640 has a technology show hosted by Leo Laporte also known as the “Tech Guy.” Leo has been in the technology industry since 1985, has helped write a numerous technology books and magazine articles, and hosts Call for Help, a technology help television show that originally aired in the United States and has now aired in Canada for years. On this show he tackles many technology problems, including how to make copies of DVDs and bypassing copy protection. He shares the same view that the MPAA is turning people towards piracy instead of away from it, for the MPAA restricts access to its content so much that consumers have no other choice but to violate the law in order to use the content they bought the way they want.

I consider myself a patron of the arts. I buy DVD movies that I enjoy watching, and I support the directors and actors that help produce them. I also, however, make backup copies of those movies as well, for I believe in protecting my investment in the movies that I bought. Even though I backup discs I already own, I am a pirate to the MPAA. Why should I not be able to provide myself with a second copy of a movie that I already own? DVDs can, over time, become scratched to where a DVD player can no longer read them, but with a backup DVD I can preserve the original copy of a DVD that I legally purchased with legal U.S. tender. Why should this seemingly unalienable right to backup DVDs be denied by the greedy movie industry that wants consumers to pay for the same movie multiple times? Consumers do not want to pay another price for a movie that they have already bought, and they will exhaust all other options before paying more money for the same content that they already own.

5 Comments:

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