Copying Hollywood, Iowa?

Commercial software manufacturers specializing in software designed to duplicate DVD media must find the consumer buying public to be completely out of our collective gourds. Why else would they slap statements like ‘Copy Hollywood Movies’ or ‘Protect Your Investment in DVDs’ all over their marketing material?

To give companies the benefit of the doubt, I’m going to assume these decisions come from the marketing guys. The conversation probably goes something like this:

Marketing Guy: “Our product makes copies of DVDs, right?”

Developer: “Yes, but it won’t back up copy protected DVDs.”

Marketing Guy: “So, it would be safe to say our product will copy DVD movies purchased at Best Buy?”

Developer: “In our test of over 1,000 popular movie titles, we found no DVDs without copy protection.”

Marketing Guy: “So you only tested 1,000 movies? That means there are probably some without copy protection.”

Developer: “Possibly, yes.”

Marketing Guy: “You said possibly…”

Two weeks later, in the local electronics store: “Hey dad, this says it backs up ‘Hollywood Blockbusters’. We should buy it.”

In fairness, there’s usually some fine print on the box warning the unsuspecting consumer that protected disks won’t be copied. But how many people actually read the fine print?

While there are plenty of grey market copy utilities (dvdshrink being the most popular), those of us who would prefer to stay on the right side of the law are faced with no way to exercise our fair use rights. 321 Studios lost our best hope to several ill-fated court decisions. Marketers are taking advantage of our hopes for something that allows us to make copies of the DVDs our kids frequently scratch by placing clever positioning statements on the packaging.

The moral of this story is, buyer beware. When it comes to copying DVDs, even the brands you trust are attempting to mislead with language that says one thing and means another. I’m sure there are Hollywood movies with no copy protection on them, but in my experience, even distributions of material which should be considered public domain contain CSS codes.

For those willing to take the risk, 123 Copy DVD carries the fair use torch, offering a version that won’t duplicate copy-protected DVDs for sale, with a plug-in hosted offsite for users who want the functionality.