The Staggering Hypocrisy of the MPAA

MPAA shows how to videorecord a TV set from timothy vollmer on Vimeo.

This video is shot by my friend Timothy Vollmer at the current DMCA exemption hearings. The issue is whether Congress should allow educators and students the rights to rip DVDs for educational purposes. Peter Decherney succeeded in establishing this right for film historians working at universities, and is now seeking to broaden it to all educators and students.

In the video, a representative from the MPAA is demonstrating that it is "easy" to access and compile content from a DVD without the need to rip it using decryption software. Their suggested technique? A camcorder pointed at a flatscreen hooked into the audio signal.

This is evil and hypocritical a number of reasons. First, the MPAA has positioned themselves against camcording movies. Here, they're showing how easy it is to do. They're also one of the main organizations which have successfully lobbied for criminal penalties against people bringing camcorders into movie theaters.

Second, the software used in the presentation is VLC. VLC disables the MPAA's price fixing scheme known as region encoding and can also decrypt DVDs, providing yet another example of where the MPAA thinks their own rules don't apply to them.

Third, the MPAA has been leading the pack in attempts to close the "analog hole" through legislation and collusion with hardware manufacturers. The analog hole is precisely the phenomenon demonstrated in this video; since audio and visual data needs to be broadcast into an analog signal eventually (our brains are not capable of decrypting 1s and 0s into images and audio yet), there will always be a avenue in which to record media so long as our computers obey us.

"Closing the analog hole" refers to forcing manufactures to cripple hardware so that it is incapable of broadcasting analog signals and also incapable of recording them. It is the stuff of a dystopian science fiction plot not technical reality.

Ultimately this video demonstrates the insidiousness of the MPAA's strategy: they want to force educators to use a technique that they're simultaneously lobbying to prohibit.

End result? The precise strategy suggested by the MPAA, the analog hole, gets legislated away by the MPAA, and educators are left wasting money and time on multiple copies of crippled media.

UPDATE: Another way I'm thinking about this video: it proves that the MPAA knows closing the analog hole is impossible, thus exposing their attempts at legislation as disingenuous.

Props go to Tim for posting such a illustrative video (not to mention the nerve to post clips of Harry Potter under fair use!)


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