It looks like the ridiculous “drive-to-the-store-and-pay-to-have-us-rip-your-dvds”
service that was hinted at last week was not a
joke. Today Wal-Mart and the major
movie studios are rolling it out for real.
As we have already detailed, this program is insulting to the public and embarrassing to
movie studios, but let’s go a bit deeper. We should be clear about one thing – there is nothing inherently wrong
with movie studios and Wal-Mart offering people a service that lets them upload
their movies to a cloud service. Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with charging them for the
The real problem arises when they use this service as a
justification for making it illegal for you to rip your own DVDs without using
the service and paying the fee. As
luck would have it, the Copyright Office is considering this issue right
now. Public Knowledge is asking
the Copyright Office to allow people to circumvent the DRM that protects DVDs in order to
make copies of movies they own. The MPAA is arguing that allowing this exemption
would unleash a tide of piracy and destroy the movie industry (set aside, at
least for the moment, the fact that in every other forum the MPAA argues that
there is already a tide of piracy destroying the movie industry).
The MPAA has argued that there is no reason to allow people
to make copies of DVDs they own because there are so many other alternatives
available. What they fail to
mention is that none of these theoretical alternatives actually provide the
same easy of use and utility as the simple act of making a copy of a DVD you
own. There is no reason that copying a DVD you own should be any harder or
more controversial than copying a CD you own.
The short term solution here is for the Copyright Office to
grant the exception that we are requesting that would allow people to copy DVDs
they own. The longer term solution
is for Congress to pass a bill (like the one we have drafted for them over on
the Internet Blueprint) that allows you to
break digital locks to do otherwise legal activity (like making copies of DVDs
you own for personal use).
Until then, any announcement from the movie studios that
they are doing the public a favor by charging them again to watch DVDs they own
is going to be met with a hearty degree of skepticism. As they should be, because these
announcements are ridiculous.