In my recent Slate article about downloadable DVDs, I had room to give only a brief mention to the copy-protection measures used by EZTakes, saying it "offers virtually no safeguards against piracy." Jim Flynn, the CEO of EZTakes, rightly points out that EZTakes does provide more safeguards than a DVD you would get in a store. Specifically:
We've invested a fortune developing technology that marks DVD images with the identity of the purchasing consumer in several ways and also links the content back to the original credit card. Someone can make a copy (as they can any commercial DVD), but a copy of an EZTake DVD will be traceable. A sane pirate would pay cash at Wal-Mart and then use one of many free, downloadable decrypters to make a 100% untraceable copy.
That actually is a clever, unobtrusive
mechanism. What I should have said in my essay was that it was not a
draconian enough copy protection measure to satisfy the studios. That
also explains my statement in the essay that we need a system with
digital rights management to make online movie-distribution work. I'm
not so sure we really need that in order to adequately suppress
piracy, but we sure do need it in order to get Hollywood to play
along. And it looks like they are warming up to expanded DVD
downloading, according to this c/net article.
Jim offers an interesting argument on why more copy-protection matters aren't needed, or even useful. It's worth considering:
Technology vendors are always looking for a way to lock out competition. That's why, for example, the only way you'll get a copy-protected movie on an iPod is if you buy it from iTunes. For the foreseable future, there is no way that Apple will support Windows DRM, nor will they open up Fairplay so that other services can compete with their iTunes store. In general, the strongest tech vendor on any one platform will always do everything to make sure that their DRM does not work with anyone else's.
Bootleg DVDs are available months before movies are released to theaters. HBO specials are available for download hours before they air on the West Coast and just about every marketable film on Movielink and CinemaNow is available on Bittorrent as a free illegal download. Given that, just how is copy protection imposed on paying customers going to benefit anyone but the technology provider? It won't. It might stop Aunt Millie from making a copy for Aunt Mabel, but it doesn't stop the massive pirates, who are the ones that do the economic damage. And when something is on DVD, even Aunt Millie can copy it. In fact, you could train a monkey to decrypt just about any commercial DVD. The only sane way to fight piracy is to provide value and convenience to paying customers, not make them wait 4 hours for a low-quality, twice-transcoded movie without a backup option, all in order to impose futile copy protection on those paying customers.