Hollywood v. DVD

With billions sold the DVD remains the principle way that millions of consumers experience digital video. Yet Hollywood has from the birth of this format imposed unprecedented restrictions on what customers can do with the DVDs they own.

Hollywood has argued in lawsuits and before policy-makers around the world that it is always illegal to make a digital copy ("rip") of a DVD. Even if you own it, even if you're trying to make a personal copy so that your children don't scratch the original, even if you want to make a copy to watch on your iPod, even if you want to skip those annoying "unskippable" commercials at the beginning.

Hollywood has also sued companies that try to provide DVD owners with the same kinds of innovations that we take for granted with CDs—such as a "DVD jukebox" that lets you watch your own DVDs around your own house from a central home media server.

The difference between DVDs and previous media formats—like the CD—is the CSS encryption system used to "scramble" the digital bits on the DVD. Thanks to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) a federal law passed a the behest of Hollywood consumers enjoy fewer rights with respect to copyrighted works that are protected by "technical protection measures" (aka DRM) than they did with prior formats. Congress was told that the DMCA was necessary to prevent "digital piracy" online but the use of anti-consumer DRM has been a total failure at preventing "piracy." Instead the legacy of the DMCA has been to penalize legitimate consumers and impair competition and innovation. So Hollywood today clings to DRM not because it has any impact on "piracy," but because it allows the movie studios to dictate the features and innovations that legitimate companies can deliver to legitimate consumers.

This page tells the story of Hollywood's persistent efforts to punish DVD owners and the companies that want to help them get the most from the DVDs they own.

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