Saturday, May 05, 2007

So you want to encrypt your DVD.

When a DVD publisher is preparing a DVD, one question that comes up is whether to encrypt it. This is an expensive process that doesn't add any value to the consumer. While most eventually do decide to encrypt, not all do.

The aim is to stop piracy. Pirates come in a variety of sorts. Unfortunately one of those sorts is organizations who find they can make a lot of money pirating things. They're capable of hiring hackers to find a way around the encryption (if there isn't something already published) and they have enough motivation to make this really a very small barrier.

Pirates also come in small groups or individuals that, for whatever reason, like to provide free movies on the net. They may not have any expertise, but add in one person who thinks it's fun to defeat encryption and they're quickly off to the races.

Encryption also affects consumers. Some consumers who are perfectly capable of watching unencrypted DVDs do not have the means to watch encrypted DVDs everywhere they might like to. This is usually, but not limited to, Linux users who at least sometimes want to watch a movie on their computer. It's a fairly small subset of consumers. Once these users were generally computer savvy enough to find whatever software they needed, even if it was hosted in Scandinavia. However as Linux flavors become very user friendly there are more users who may not be able to figure it out. For these people encryption can be a very large barrier.

Looking at that, I can see why someone would choose not to bother. Providing little to no barrier to the pirates you wish to stop while providing a large barrier to some small subset of consumers doesn't sound like a good idea. So why do the majority go for it?

Incidentally, all this reminds me of the telephone companies trying to charge for tone dialing. They had to put in devices to block people from using tones instead of pulses so they could charge for the faster tone dialing. Without the devices, they could charge for tone dialing but couldn't actually keep anyone not paying for it from using it. When you look at it from the standpoint of what is actually achieved, adding encryption seems a lot like paying to make sure the consumer can't quite do all they could do if nothing were added. Just like the telephone companies were doing. It didn't last long.

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