Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Protected Digital Assets Inspire Pirates

To the exclusion of other real work, I have spent an awful lot of time on the New Yorker DVD's - explicitly getting them on to a hard drive to minimize the disk swapping. Lots of Hooptyreaders have offered options and opinions on how to do it and some of them almost work.

As near as I can tell, there is no way to copy the DVD-ROMS on a Macintosh. The best tool for Macrovision protected DVDs seems to be Mac The Ripper, but it does not work with DVD ROMs. This is a common problem with lots of the tools out there, as a DVD ROM does not contain the video files that such applications are looking for, such as VIDEO_TS and the like.

So, I started in on the PC. Much better tools there. Hooptyreader Keith pointed me to Alcohol 120% and may I just say, that is a kick ass piece of software. Mac users would be lucky to have something similar. It handles all the peculiarities of DVD-ROMs without issue, as it is able to just perform an ISO copy of the files, as files. And Macrovision is defeated handily.

But, it still doesn't work. I was able to create images of the DVDs and mount them as accessible drives, but The Complete New Yorker viewer will not mount multiple disks. I believe, even if you had multiple physical drives, you will not be able to mount multiples. New Yorker technical support says that it will always look to the drive that it was installed from, and it may look to the original installation drive first, but I was able to mount an image from a virtual drive G:. You just can't mount two images or physical discs.

So, the copy protection was beaten quite easily - I could sell copies all day long. Maybe in a fake Kate Spade bag. But the protection lives and prevents legal, sensible use.

Ed Klaris is general counsel for the New Yorker and, also, the project director for The Complete New Yorker. So that makes sense. The role of the media company attorney seems to be, lock it. Without due consideration to the impact. So, I read a bit more about The Complete New Yorker and found this radio interview with Mr. Klaris. It is so stunningly offensive that I made a donation to EFF today.

A listener calls in and asks if he can copy the Complete New Yorker to his hard drive! And to think I was the only one crazy enough to desire such rich abundance!

Mr Klaris: "For now, sir, we have just the discs, we're not able to put it on the hard drive and copy them over, it's pretty, it's a lot of data there..."

The listener interjects, that with hard drive capacities having soared, that this is no longer an issue.

Mr. Klaris agrees, hard drives are big. And the listener asks, "Is that a mechanical issue or a legal issue? As to why you haven't done it as a convenience sake..." - At this point, I wanted to pump the listener's hand in appreciation.

Mr. Klaris: "Mechanical or legal... Well, it's definitely not legal. Although, there is no legal requirement for why we did it, no. And mechanical... it was a decision... based on the product we decided to come out with, which was DVD's. We wanted people to have similar experiences, instead of... and the experience we wanted them to have was this one, although I know it can be frustrating to go disc to disc, the way I viewed it is, when you are in a disc you can set your program to look just within that disc and there's 500 issues in there. Oftentimes, you can spend an eternity just on a single disc."

It turns my stomach.

An attorney for the New Yorker determines how we should read the archives. If you wish to read about a single subject, like Chinatown, Rockefeller Center, the advertising industry, Coco Chanel, the Ford Motor Company, forensic science, concubines, railroad travel, Russia or diamond mining, that will stretch over all 8 discs.

I have spent ten hours on this. I looked forward to having the Complete New Yorker on my laptop. Airplanes trips would never be the same. But I have reached the limits of my technical expertise and I have some other big fish to fry. Along the way, I learned a lot about pirating - including how to copy the Complete New Yorker - but I'm stuck.