MPAA to teachers: don't rip DVDs, just record your television with a camcorder

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

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Fred von Lohmann sez, "Hearings for the DMCA triennial rulemaking are going on this week in DC, where the educational community is asking for an exemption to rip DVDs to take clips for classroom use. The MPAA responded with a video showing how to camcord (!) movies from a flat screen monitor, arguing that educators and students should do this instead of ripping DVDs. In the words of media literacy researcher Martine Courant Rife, that's like typing up a quote from a book, taking it outside, chiseling the words in a rock, photographing the rock, scanning the photo, and running OCR on it. And for what?"

MPAA shows how to videorecord a TV set (Thanks, Fred!)


  1. This is fantastic news, since it sets the precedent for cam torrents of current movies to be completely legal! (Just as long as you record them 18 seconds at a time.) Woohoo!


  2. This reminds me of back in the late 70s before I figured out you could just connect tape decks via a cable. I used to hold a mike up to the speaker of one to record to the other.

  3. I wonder how they could do this with a straight face. Why didn’t they at least show how to use a camcorder with a line-in jack and directly record the video since they didn’t seem to mind directly recording the audio?

    There is some irony in that video because it seem like they are using VLC which is of questionable legality in the USA because of its ability to play back certain codecs that they haven’t paid a licence for.

  4. Those unlucky few who have to rip dvd’s or stream for “educators” know this is laughable. What’s even worse, an educator requesting student’s watch a five hour length video.

  5. Yeah… “Don’t copy our content the easy way! Waste your time doing it in a way that benefits absolutely nobody!”

    I also enjoy the use of VLC. I use it all the time to bypass the idiotic DVD region coding the MPAA insisted on…

  6. So, what you’re saying is that camcording a movie at HOME is ok, but camcording it in the THEATRE isn’t?

  7. Is there a more direct source for this? It’s almost literally incredible, as described.

  8. Not only will you not be taken seriously with statements like that, you are also poised to be ignored alltogether.

  9. (I must be wearing my cynic cap today.)

    They’re making it hard to do, because if it’s hard to do, then nobody will bother.

    What’s being forgotten is that they did the SAME THING with copy protection for DVD’s, and the end result of that.

    Both situations play out the same way:
    1) People are easily making copies
    2) Throw a monkey wrench in easy copies
    3) Somebody figures out an easy way around wrench
    4) People are even more easily making better copies

  10. If this is true, the MPAA is adding a huge road block for teachers and students. It’s for EDUCATIONAL purposes and you would expect those hungry power 80’s tripping executives to get the support of students when they’re young.

    With all the technology available for development and this guys suggest to go back to the Dark Ages.

    I hope the teachers and student talk more about alternative downloading and a higher use of bit torrents.

    I also agree with #11

  11. Hahaha oh they can’t be serious? This has to be a practical joke by the MPAA. They HAVE to be in their offices, igloo, or shack, whatever passes for offices for them laughing their asses off. “Hey Cletus, hahaha, they took us serious again.”

  12. This explains their technical depth perfectly. Do they secretly believe that VLC, Handbrake and ffmpeg are the WORK OF THE DEVIL???!!!

  13. #9 Does that mean if someone is found with a camcorder in a theatre they can argue they were just doing what the MPAA suggested?

  14. So the MPAA is telling teachers, who are already underfunded, to get the following equipment in order to create clips:

    1. TV
    2. DVD Player
    3. Camcorder
    4. Computer
    5. Editing software (because they are never to get the clip they want that way)

    instead of just ripping the DVD with:

    1. Computer.
    2. Editing (maybe not necessary, because ripping software makes getting clips much easier)

    I love how they showed the process of capturing the clip. How can they do that with a straight face?

  15. Wow. Who would have thought that the next thing to come back into vogue would be…kinescopes?

  16. Of course, it’s not that long since the MPAA and RIAA were trying to force copyright filters into each and every A2D converter made on the planet (I would’ve loved to have seen that pushed into a homebrew resistor ladder) so that no copyrighted analogue signals could be digitised.

    Of course, A2D chips don’t get used in ANY OTHER CONTEXT THAN COPYRIGHT INFRINGING, so that was an ENTIRELY REASONABLE demand. You never know what these pirates will do – pushing video data through an engine’s fuel management system to digitise it, for example – so every simple 2 cent chip would need to become massively complex to defeat pirates (and the complexity would raise the carbon footprint as well, but that’s necessary to stop people seeing the latest Wayans Bros film on the nets)…

    Amazingly, they didn’t get their way – but if they had, they wouldn’t be able to show how to use a camcorder to record the screen unless they had special A2D converters with a knowledge of Fair Use. I’d love to have seen what they’d have suggested in that situation.

  17. I’m a high school teacher in Pennsylvania. I teach economic theory with a heavy emphasis on current events to explain the course content. I would like to use information from major news sources to illustrate what we are discussing in class, but I’ve given up on that.

    All streaming audio and video is blocked in my class. I can get it unblocked, but the district tech wanker has the server set to randomly reset the blocks. There are times where I’ve used a NPR story during period one and found that it is blocked during the second class. I can do the paperwork, two sheets for each site proving appropriateness and justifying the use according to state standards, however they might just get blocked again in a few days. Consequently, I almost never turn on the computer.

    If there is something that I think is really useful, like the commie sock puppets, I have to prep the thing at home. I rip the audio or video using audiograbber or another program and burn it to a cd. I can’t even email myself a mp3, because all incoming attachments are shitcanned by our system. I used to get around the email by using my gmail account until I was told that I could be fired for using web mail. Don’t even ask about thumb drives.

    Bottom line, I rarely use tech, since the school has put up so many walls and makes it difficult to incorporate into lessons. On a slow day, I don’t have time to eat a proper lunch. I always take work home and often spend the evening on the phone working with students. Do ya think I got time to go through all this extra hassle?

    Oh, and our district initiative this year is…expanding the use of technology in the classroom.

  18. Hang on a minute. I thought that the MPAA was also pushing to close the “analog hole” by mandating that camcorders would shut down if someone tries to record something with a watermark in it.

  19. Am I the only one who sees the irony here? You know, the fact that I’m watching a version of this that was recorded from a screen with a camera?

    The MPAA would be proud!

  20. How about visual effects artists that need clips for their reels? Because some companies just shrug and say, ‘You want copies of your work? Just get it from the DVD.’

  21. Look up any Let’s Play on Youtube recorded with a camcorder. The shitty display is all you need to prove that something like this is a bad idea.

  22. Heh. I’ve submitted this to the dailyWTF.

    There’s a classic WTF there, where (students, admittedly) design a flyer, print it out, digitally photograph it (along with the wooden table it’s sitting on), then put it on a website.

    This is just too similar to that to believe.

  23. Does this mean that it’s ok to bring a video camera into a movie theater…if you are a teacher?

  24. Isn’t this still a violation of the DMCA, as you’re circumventing copyright protection (albeit not in the traditional sense)?

  25. #21 Irregular:

    “so every simple 2 cent chip would need to become massively complex to defeat pirates…”

    Impossible – if it can be done with computers, it can be undone with computers.

    They have 0% chance of defeating pirates. Just look at the past of software AND hardware piracy. (looking at Compaq for reverse-engineering the BIOS of the original IBM PC)

    /in the early 90s I helped unlock the original beta of the parallel portlocked 3D Studio (help button litterally said, “This is help”) and various software like AT&T’s Rio and Topas, Ron Scotts Hi-Res QFX, CAD-CAM, etc.

    //I had the hardware to test them – Truevision Targa+ 64 that cost me $2500 with NO software

    ///original WAReZ internation BBS sysop is a good friend, I am one of the few people to be allowed to go to his home. Heh, various tape formats covered his floors

  26. Hmm, interesting movie, I want to put it on my own blog. Now where is my camcorder…

  27. This blows my mind. How the MPAA could organize a room full of high-paid executives and come up with this BS is an achievement of incredibly stupid proportions.

    They’re unbothered by directly capturing the audio, so what’s different about the video? Do they only claim copyright on the video track of a DVD? And do they realize that there is absolutely no possible way that a teacher ripping a DVD will lead to any further copyright infringement or pirating?

    Plus, given the pittance that most public school teachers are paid these days, how many of them have a nice flat panel tv (and camcorder) to record from. Most of them would have to record off a CRT, thus inducing a nice oscillating band onto their video clip.

  28. I wrote a little more about this on my blog:

    tl;dr: The MPAA is simultaneously aruging for using the analog hole that they’re trying to legislate away. Also, aren’t they supposed to be against camcording films?

  29. OMG. How is it that the most technologically ignorant people on earth are in charge of making laws regarding our technology. I’m not even sure of the point of all of this. Was it ever mentioned? I hope school children studying Harry Potter Movies enjoy craptastic quality. For me, I will be ripping the crap out of Macrovision, a technology based on DEGRADING legally purchased media, which ends up destroying what I pay for when I want to do something crazy like hook a VCR or Dvd Player up to my video projector. These guys are all morons. I’m in the movie business myself, have had my OWN film pirated, and I don’t care about the MPAA or copy protecting any of my media. It’s a loss cause, and hurts more than it helps.

  30. May be a step in the right direction. (i.e. “You can have your fair use, but you’re an evil pirate if you want it to be convenient,” may be marginally better than, “Fair use? What fair use?”

  31. So, let me get this straight: we’re watching a (flash) video of someone filming a (camcorder) video of someone else filming a (different camcorder) video of a (DVD) video, Harry Potter?

  32. Maybe they like it because it ensures degradation inherent in the re-scanning process, ensuring that if people really want the “original”, they’ll pay for it, and the ‘copies’ are inherently lower quality.

    It’s not unlike what companies advertising art books do, where they only include lores copies of the art pages, so that people don’t just accumulate the full res images and never buy the book.

    It’s all content publishers have to hold onto it seems. Otherwise there’s nothing unique about the purchasable copy if free digital copies are floating around.

    1. Maybe they like it because it ensures degradation inherent in the re-scanning process

      Hmm. They must be related to the Joint Photographic Experts Group.

  33. Yikes! This has got to be the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen. BTW, does this now mean it is OK to take a camcorder to the cineplex and tape the latest movie off the screen?

  34. #30 JOHNPHANTOM: 90s, good old times. Resistors plugged into the holes of the D0..D7 of parallel port, hooked to the input of an amplifier, a crack from the speaker announced port writes – then tracing down with Borland debugger…

    Also, if they put a hardware detector of watermarks into every ADC, we still can make a simple analog scrambler, which applies a reversible transformation to the signal which renders the mark incomprehensible for the ADC, then reverse it back once the data are in digital domain.

  35. Sure, you can use the obvious analog hole to telecine video. But that’s just stupid when fully digital format shifting is possible.

  36. #41 ShadDack

    Do you remember ICE?

    The Iceman was the cracker. I only tested stuff. Heh, I still have my Borland C++ 2.0 manuals.

  37. Brilliant video. I’m going to record it with my webcam and post it on my blog.

  38. Sometimes you have to love the MPAA, just because they can be so entertaining.

    Not only did they show that their all-important CSS can be trivially bypassed through the analog hole, they illustrated how DRM and the DMCA interfere with Fair Use rights, and did so by emulating the most well-known WTF joke ever.

    With this kind of technical prowess, it’s easy to understand the reasoning behind their lobbying.

  39. I have a better idea, have the teacher bring the dvd, and lend it to one student a day. Or a student can invite someone to watch it, as long as it’s not in public. There, the letter of the law followed.

    I got this idea from how I can buy a book, read it, then lend it to someone. It works with CDs, magazines, almost anything! You could even organize it on the neighborhood level.

    So everyone wins. The MPAA got money for 1 dvd bought. Then everyone can watch it in full, and not have to buy it, or pay a royalty to show it in the class.

  40. This is really just starting to get absurd.

    Maybe it already exists and I don’t know about it, but it would be really nice to see a tech-saavy group like the EFF extend an olive branch to the industry and honestly sit down and brainstorm new models that could work.

    In fact, the newspapers could use it too.

    I could see a whole conference series, new media meets old media.

    Because seriously, as the economy tumbles and these industries evaporate, we’re just going to end up with a bunch of people who don’t “get it” making a bunch of asinine laws trying to protect old models which are broken.

    Can we still have high cost productions of movies and music in the era of shared media? I think so. Potential models would be radically different from what we have now (big media wanting to go back to the past and the internet set wanting everything for free) and such a solution would probably annoy both groups in the short term, but hey, if everyone has a mild distaste for it, then you know you’ve found something that works.

  41. The offer to sit down and have the discussion has been on the table for years; the problem is that the industry doesn’t _want_ a new model that might work. They’re terrified of the idea, and for good reason.

    The old model made vast amounts of money by leveraging an effective monopoly of an expensive distribution chain. Hollywood has the most notoriously crooked books of just about any industry, and music industry artists contracts have always done their best to resemble debt slavery.

    _Any_ new model would break this, because it would have to be based on the important fact: the media industry no longer has a distribution monopoly; there are new direct channels and cost-of-distribution is rapidly approaching zero.

    They need to restructure into an industry that can no longer make the easy cartel profits of the past… and it cannot possibly contain the same high percentage of profit for them that the past model did. They’re going to have to provide much better service, or take a much lower cut. Understandably, they’re fighting this to the death.

    (It’s stupid and destructive, yes, but understandable. Fear makes people stupid and destructive.)

  42. I just don’t understand how this avoids copyright infringement.

    A copy is still a copy right? Are they saying its ok to copy as long as the copy is sufficiently degraded?

    If using a camcorder to copy a DVD is ok, how is this different from using a camcorder to copy a theatrical screening?

    Seems like the MPAA is really undermining their own argument by creating a slippery slope where some copies are OK and some are not. Good for them.

  43. “that’s like typing up a quote from a book, taking it outside, chiseling the words in a rock, photographing the rock, scanning the photo, and running OCR on it. And for what?”

    Actually a better anaolgy would be simplky photographing the page or using a photocopier.

  44. I am a Media Developer at a State University regional television station and this crap comes up all the time. Most faculty/staff just steal the media saying, “We’re education its okay.” Others scramble to get every piece of paperwork filled out and bam! Denied. All this is hilarious because they, in turn, refuse any rights to their taped lectures.

    Hollywood studios and broadcasters love their distribution network – affiliates pay billions to the national broadcasters and studios – billions! They do not want to give that up just because some people think “the internet is free.”

    Classroom or online, this is just a fight to keep the money that the artists/creators deserve but the corporate execs will pocket.

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