Warner wants you to go to a depot and pay to rip your DVDs to DRM-locked formats

Here's a scathing editorial from Public Knowledge's Michael Weinberg on the Warner Home Entertainment announcement of a new "service" that allows you to legally rip your DVDs by driving over to a special DVD-ripping depot and paying a fee to have them converted to DRM-locked formats that only play in approved devices. Warner calls this "safe and convenient."

You did read that last paragraph correctly. The head of Warner Home Entertainment Group thinks that an easy, safe way to convert movies you already own on DVD to other digital formats is to take your DVDs, find a store that will perform this service, drive to that store, find the clerk who knows how to perform the service, hope that the “DVD conversion machine” is not broken, stand there like a chump while the clerk “safely” converts your movie to a digital file that may only play on studio-approved devices, drive home, and hope everything worked out. Oh, and the good news is that you would only need to pay a reasonable (per-DVD?) price for this pleasure.

To be fair, this plan is easy, safe (safe?), and reasonably priced compared to the movie studio’s current offer to people who want to take movies they own on DVD and turn them into a digital file to watch on, say, their iPad. That offer is a lawsuit, because personal copying of a movie on DVD requires circumventing DRM, which is a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Furthermore, right now all of the major studios are arguing passionately (pdf) to stop the Copyright Office from granting a exemption that would make personal space shifting of movies on DVD legal.

Try to picture the real alternative to this hokum – people making their own copies of their movies at home. Luckily you won’t have to use your imagination too much because people making their own copies of media they own is exactly what people do with their CDs. They download a free program, make a copy of the CD at home, put the MP3 files on whatever device they want, and go on with their lives.

Warner Bros. Embarrasses Self, Everyone, With New “Disc-to-Digital” Program (via Hack the Planet)


  1. Remember, these guys truly believe that they own the content forever. This explains why they are trying to make us pay for it again and again and again.

    1. How many peeps bought vinyl records, then the same album on CD, then again bought the same thing on iTunes?
      I think the media companies have recouped their investment just fine.

      What I don’t understand is this great reluctance to offering the most convenience to their customers.  iTunes did it and we all know how that turned out.

      People only copy, rip, steal when the alternative is too expensive or too much effort.

  2. “Oh, you thought it was ‘safe and convenient’ for you? Heavens, no, that wasn’t what we meant at all. When we say ‘safe and convenient’, we mean that it’s safe and convenient for us. It’s convenient for us to charge you twice for something you already own. It’s convenient for us to sell you a shitty crippled copy that will probably stop working in a couple of years when we decide that we don’t want to support it any more, at which point it will be convenient for us to take some more of your money. And it’s safe because we don’t actually have to do any of the hard work involved in adapting to a changing marketplace. Safety, convenience, this solution has it all – but for us, not for you.”

    1. It would be great if we had “Truth in advertising” paragraphs along with the hypocritical marketingspeak coming out of corporations.

      Something like what we have on cigarettes.

  3. When are the big media companies going to wake up and smell the digital age? Have none of them looked at Kodak and thought “evolve and survive”?

    1. When buying laws becomes less easy or more expensive than evolving. Which is not a change they would make, is it?

  4. Can the fuckwits behind this scheme please submit urine samples, stat?    This is so anti-consumer,  I guess they want even more illegal downloading to deal with.   Stunned.   You sure this isn’t an article from The Onion?

  5. Such a wondrous age we live in! I guess I’d better figure out how to get to the shop. Why don’t I just pull out my phone book and look up the nearest Rand McNally store…

  6. In that Public Knowledge illustration, it seems unfair to emphasize the possibility that the machine might not work at the junky DRM copy shop, but assume that home equipment will work. I would change it from “Hope machine works” to “Make a copy” (the equivalent step in the idealized home version), and maybe the final “Hope it works” step could emphasize “Play it on approved devices”.

    1. Considering that the “print photos from your SD card” machine at my local CVS is out-of-order more often than not, I’d say that it is a valid concern.

      1. Seriously.

        The only public DIY machine I think that doesn’t have a failure rate of 70% is the slurpee machines.

  7. These Jurassic dorks really need to proceed with evolution and move along already. I, for one, am weary of reading about their tired opinions – and even more so with their purchase of U.S. military might to enforce their antiquarian, thuggish way of doing business.

    by the way, is hopping in a car to drive (something about auto accidents comes to mind) to someplace to get your legal digital copy really safer than staying at home?

  8. Soon in the UK they’ll have an amnesty program where you can turn in your DVDs.  There will be a picture in the paper of an officer holding a Laserdisc, and a quote about how a DVD that big could take off someone’s head…

  9. To be fair, the home-ripping approach takes 3 hours, while driving to the shop, having the “ripping machine” verify that it’s a real product and being given a pre-coverted digital file shouldn’t take as long.
    Then again, a few hours of ripping are a small price to pay…

    1. A key-code could just as easily unlock your pre-converted digital file at home. If the studios want to initiate total-greed-mode (and they do, it seems) they could charge a stipend for purchase of this code. There is no way that I can imagine a brick & mortar store could protect their precioussssssss revenue anymore than a key-code (for example) might. If anything, a store-front leads to a decrease in revenue…who’s going to pay to build/open/staff these businesses? The studios?

    2. My 4+ year old machine rips a dvd in about 20 minutes.  Encoding to another format can take awhile, but it’s not like you can’t just queue up a few jobs and let them run overnight.

      1. Well yes that’s my point, the time it takes doesn’t matter since you’re getting an open file out of it… and tools like Handbrake (which takes ~1.5x the running time on my 1 year old machine) make it really easy.

    3. The three hours (or less, in my experience) are hours during which I can be doing other things. The drive-to-shop option blocks all other activity, the net is that it’s much more demanding.

      1.  Yes, three hours sounds like a Pentium III. Anyway, the in-shop option isn’t likely to encode much faster, and that’s assuming there’s no queue!

    4. You should not use a ‘386 and a 2x burner from 1991 to do your ripping. If you take 3 hours to do anything- you are DOING IT WRONG.

      1.  Really?

        Converting a DVD to H.264/MKV with MeGUI and a custom Avisynth script goes at about a 1:4 rate for me on a 3.3Ghz Core 2 Duo machine.

        But I also am applying a deinterlace, decimate, and temporal smoother filter in the avisynth script.  Of course if I took all those out it’d be much faster, and my files would be 20% larger as well.  So tradeoffs I guess.

        1. Eeek. Sounds like a lot of cpu time and energy.  Do you really need all those filters?  I say start with better source material and forgo DVD altogether if you can’t just play it as is.  Does mpg2 degrade that bad on whatever you are playing it on? Is it the uprez to a tv?

          1. I suppose I don’t need all of those filters, but considering the travesty that video standards are I prefer to have a 24 fps progressive output instead of telecined NTSC.  The smoothing filter really takes the most processor power, putting around a 30% hit on speed alone.  But since I don’t have tons and tons of space (not that I keep things after I watch them) I like the smaller file sizes.  Previously I transcoded them to xvid and that was somewhat faster than H.264.  Depending on your target codec I think somewhere between a 1:1 to 1:3 is probably reasonable for the average pc.  Obviously the most things you do to the stream along the way the longer it’s going to take.

            Most of these get played back on a TV via HDMI from a laptop, so the resolution and clarity are never really an issue.  I could just keep the DVD iso, but that’s usually around 5 gigs.  Doing this usually places it around 1.

    5. No. It doesn’t. Ripping a DVD with handbrakes takes about five minutes of the user’s time. All other times are almost inconsequential, secondary at best.

  10. Convert the DVD “easily, safely and at reasonable prices” and with the added extra of receiving some free bonus content in the form of even more unskippable trailers, adverts and several warnings about just how evil piracy is being prefixed to your movie. A bargain regardless of how you look at it.

  11. I want to say ‘yay it’s at least sorta progress…’ When all the machine would have to do is verify DVD title and such rather than actually rip then spit a drm loaded file out. However i’ts still a locked down file that may or may not work with the stuff I want.

  12. It’s safe in exactly the sense you would expect from the MAFIAA.

    That’s some awful nice stuff you’ve got. It sure would be a shame if someone sued you.

  13. hm….. nah, I think I’ll just wait for some 15 year old from Europe to crack the encryption, then continue to rip it using some third-party open source app. Thanks for thinking of us, though!

  14. If it costs B to buy laws to make profit P, and it cost C to change my business model to make profit P, then until B > C continue to buy laws, else change business model.

    Anything else is illogical from their perspective.

  15. This is what’s wrong with corporate studios. They are like 15 years behind. No guys, NO ONE,  anywhere,  is going to jump through those hoops. Until you guys figure it out, that all we want is quick access to content you will never succeed.  Quit insulting all your customers and assuming they are pirates and just give us a copy of your crappy movie we will watch once and forget about. Work more on your content, and less on your idiotic DRM. Dvd’s? Who uses those anymore… Sigh….

    1. The problem is they’re going to see this as proof nobody wants a legal solution.

      Bumkis really given if they ran a steam-like service with as few hurdles as possible once your account is set up and verified we’d be lined up out around the block.

  16. At this rate, a few years from now I’ll probably just avoid anything created by Hollywood because I’ll be too afraid whatever I decide to do with it might be illegal. Is it ok to display the artwork openly in my home? Should I close the windows in case non-paying neighbors accidentally hear the soundtrack? Will I go to work and discuss the plot of the movie in an infringing manner? Too much worry. The safest route would be adapt public domain novels yourself with hand puppets.

  17. In the words of that immortal Warner contract performer, Bugs Bunny, “What a maroon!”

  18. We are living through a total change in the dynamics of a high-stakes industry. I imagine that in ten years time we will think of this as “the decade of copyright idiocy”, and a new and far more settled situation will have replaced it. I hope.

  19. As a consumer, there is another point this raises, which is that without illegal downloading, the options for buying a legal HD digital copy of a film are very very limited.

    1. And that’s a point: Big Media are still fixated on moving physical objects, rather than just the content – which is what people care about. That fixation is expressed in, for instance, the irritatingly staggered international release dates that mean, for Kiwis like myself, that we receive the LOLpix months before the source material is officially released here. If it is considered economically viable to release here at all.

      A tiered range of release products, ranging from a low-resolution 360px MP4 (to watch on a phone or iPod), to a full boxed DVD set with accompanying blooper reels, booklet and commemorative gewgaws, would be absolutely marvelous. Actually, given Big Media’s fixation on mass production, it’d be more than marvelous. It’d be a goddamn miracle.

      Also, given how obsessed the companies are with attempting to lock you in to their individual systems, being able to purchase what you wanted through an impartial single-point-of-purchase would raise such a situation to the status of Proof Of A Loving God.

  20. Or they could just make their content, all of it, easily accessible and affordable online the same time a physical disc is released and have multiple branches of distribution.

  21. The story, as the Media Giants would like to see it:

    I once bought a DVD that had a song on it I liked. But I didn’t want to play the DVD every time I wanted to hear that song, so I bought the CD which also happened to contain a dozen more songs I didn’t like, which cost me as much as the DVD. Then I wanted to play the song on my MP3 player, but it wasn’t available anywhere as an MP3, so I had to purchase an iPod and a copy of the song as an MP4. Then I wanted to put a few seconds of the song on my phone as a ring tone, and they were kind enough to sell me that few seconds for about half the price of the CD. Now I’m thinking about wanting a copy of the movie on my iPhone, and they want me to go to a special store, wait in line, and charge me for that.

    The story as it is always going to be:

    I borrowed the DVD from the public library, ripped a copy, watched it with the record executive’s daughter and then we did the horizontal hula.

    1. No. They think that the members of cobgress are that stupid, when they represent this to call for tougher surveillance laws.

  22. I have often wondered how we would feel about (say) IKEA if they required us to throw out all our books when we buy a new bookshelf. This is more or less what the media industry wants us to do with digital media.

  23. So umm, when they rip or convert the DVD for you, what do they give you the digital copy on? Do they burn it to a DVD for you, upload it somewhere, or just point and laugh at you and then damage your DVD in their machine and point at their “we’re not liable for damages” sign?

  24. I think the thing that irritates me the most about how content providers are handling their customers is par of the course. During the vinyl, 8-track, audio cassette, and video cassette era where you really had to baby your collections and your players. When one format was abandoned, if your high-quality player broke your ability to find a suitable replacement may be nil. There were/are few, if any, offers from the content providers for “upgrade discounts” if (for example) you wanted to replace your shredded cassette copy of U2’s Joshua Tree with a new, shiny CD or if you want to get the tracks at a discount on iTunes, tough luck.

    If I want to take my VHS cassettes and encode them to DVDs or BluRays, that should be my right. If I have a delicate, brittle, old copy of a book and am worried about it eventually falling apart, I should be allowed to scan the pages into an OCR program and make my own e-book.

    The DVD standard is especially stupid because the region coding. If you purchase a legitimate copy of a DVD from another region (often at inflated prices) how does the movie studio miss out on the royalties from your purchase? What if you would like a disc with a non-French or non-Spanish language subtitle track for your grandmother or friend? Oh wait!  This disc is from another region. I guess I will do without… or I will rip the disc I paid for. That certainly sounds like a hassle and isn’t ripping a DVD technically illegal? Screw it. I’ll just download it illegally.

    The iTunes TOS in the US explicitly states that Apple can deactivate your libraries if you attempt to use them outside of North America. From my experience, they have never deactivated my legally purchased albums and videos, BUT the threat really irritates me. 

    If I want to watch a variety show that airs in Japan that will likely NEVER be released on DVD and is currently unavailable for legal international viewing, where do I go? Wouldn’t it just be smarter if the company licensed the show to a website that detects your IP Address and after determining your geographical location shows you advertising from your region? No, lets just insist the potential audience member does without.

    If I want to see a movie I vaguely remember watching on TV when I was 5 years-old (Let’s say, for example, the animated version of Brian Froud’s Faeries that aired on CBS in the early 80s) but have never seen available on VHS, DVD, or BluRay. I would gladly watch it with commercials on Hulu or Netflix. For some reason, the rights-holders refuse to make it available.

    What if I am a person who purchased an imitation version of Showbiz Pizza’s “Rock-afire Explosion” from a closing Pizza/Arcade and had no way of getting show performance cassettes from the maker because the company closed in the mid-to-late 80s and because internet searches for the animatronics show tapes brought up nothing? If someone offers me access to the tapes through shady means and a buddy wants to replace the original Apple II computer with a Linux machine with Ardunio crossovers it should be my right to do this.

    Why is new merchandise and new formats exempt from these rules? If I want to convert my HD-DVDs to BluRay (perhaps at a loss in visual quality) why should it matter to the studios? The studios won’t refund my money for content such as games, music CD-ROMS, and proprietary movie formats that no longer support modern PCs. If I rip the content or emulate the hardware, I should be permitted.

    It is the content industry’s obligation to find a way to offer their content to anybody willing to consume at a fair price. If I already bought your content, I shouldn’t be obliged to pay extra for a copy of it.

  25. Damn! Sorry for reviving this old thread. But, there can be malice where we suspect simple stupidity. 

    Is Warner they just offering a “legal” alternative that of course nobody will want?  Just to be on record as having one, so consciences will be assuaged as they try to crackdown on all the people who do the sensible thing at home?

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