That DVD on your shelf? Yeah… you don’t own that.

To me, and many other folks, owning something means that I can do what I want with it.  If I go to the store and buy a DVD, I should be able to take it home, and watch it on any of my devices that have a DVD drive in them right?

Nope.  At least not legally.

Ever since the DMCA passed, a group from the federal government gets together every couple years to agree upon what is an isn’t a breach of the DMCA.  They’ve once again decided that jail breaking/rooting your phone is permissible, but oddly enough not tablets that are essentially the same thing except bigger.  Also, apparently modifying your gaming console?  Also illegal.  Which, oddly enough, means that the DoD is in violation of the DMCA for buying a boat load of PS3’s and using them for cluster computing.

Oh, and those DVDs that I mentioned?  Yeah… you can only watch those on approved devices with approved software.  If you were unaware, most DVDs that come from Hollywood are actually encrypted (CSS encryption).  Of course, this encryption was broken years ago by people that wanted to watch their DVDs on non-approved players, but it’s still encryption.

This becomes important to me because most of the computers in my household are running Linux on them.  There is no Hollywood approved player for Linux out there.  The reason?  because that would cost money.  There’s a paid license attached to every encrypted DVD, DVD player, and commercial copy of DVD playback software that goes to the owner of the encryption scheme (the DVD CCA).

So… just to be clear, I were to:

Buy a legal copy of… say… the Avangers, a bit of my purchase goes to the DVD CCA

I pop it in to the DVD-ROM in one of my Linux computers that came with a Windows only DVD playback program (so, a little of that purchase went to the DVD CCA).

I use one of the handful of free DVD playback programs for Linux to watch my *legal copy* of the movie.

I’m breaking the law, and am an evil, evil pirate.

Oh, and those nifty new Blu-Ray discs?  Just as bad, if not worse.

One of the definitions of ownership is being able to do what you want with the item.  Legally speaking, I am not allowed to consume DVDs and Blu-Ray discs in the fashion that I desire, therefor I can not say that I own them.

Oh, and by the way, those commercials and PSAs that you can’t skip through on DVDs?  Yeah… using non-authorized software means that you can.  Doing the illegal thing is actually a better user experience than walking the straight and narrow and you have coughed up the money to the right people.

*EDIT – Corrected the typo pointed out by Chris Byrne*

5 comments to That DVD on your shelf? Yeah… you don’t own that.

  • Uhh… DMCA not DCMA

    Digital Millenium Copyright Act.

    DCMA is the Defense Contract Management Agency.

    Otherwise, yeah, the point of your piece is basically spot on.

    Oh and technically, owning the physical media a creative work is transported on doesn’t give you any ownership over that creative work; it is a license to poses and use that work.

    The doctrine of first sale allows you to resell things like DVD’s and books, but big media are trying to overturn that as well:

    • oddball

      Whoops, thanks. I tend to get acronyms mixed up a lot.

      I know that even owning a copy of the work doesn’t mean that I own the work to the extent of being able to start distributing it myself, etc, but I should be able to consume it in the fashion that I desire. The odd thing is that DVDs that aren’t CSS encoded don’t run afoul of this. Just like it was legal for folks to transfer music from LP’s to tapes back in the day, you’re allowed to make copies of the unencrypted movies to, say, your hard drive for personal use. It’s when you run into security devices that you have to break first (no matter how easy), that you’re breaking the DMCA.

      I’ve been following that case for a while, and it’s kind of interesting. On one hand, the ability to sell your personal items should never be questioned. That’s part of ownership. If I can’t sell my copy of George Orwell’s 1984, then I don’t own it. On the other hand, this guy has clearly set up a small business importing books with the intent for resale. I could see the companies reporting him as running an unlicensed business.

      Of course, the fact that the kid can order the same text book from an overseas retailer, pay for them to ship it here, and still pay significantly less than if he were to buy it from any retailer here in the states says something very sad about how much students are being ripped off over their text books.

  • Steam made it easier to buy a game than to pirate it in most cases. Amazon has DRM-free MP3s that have become easier to purchase than to pirate – And I can use them anywhere!

    I hypothetically would have to decrypt blu-rays to get them to run through my insecure connection to my HDTV from my computer if I want to see them in high definition.

    It’s odd that Hollywood spends millions on copyright protection and draconian restrictions since pirates usually have a torrent of a major movie, in high definition, less than a week after it’s released (and sometimes before it’s released). In the end, those with the will and know-how are barely bothered, while the average consumer is saddled with a major inconvenience and price increase.

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