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December 07, 2006

Digital Looting Divide

Amidst all the fuss about people cracking DRM protection schemes to steal movies and music, it's often ignored that you can copy all this stuff rather trivially--as long as you are willing to go analog during the copy process. You can copy a DVD by playing it and running the output into a VCR (I know there's some system where certain VCRs detect that they are not supposed to record a signal, so you need a VCR that is old, stupid, or sneaky enough); failing that, you can train a video camera on the television and record that. I suspect that you could come up with a controlled environment and get a pretty good copy. Meanwhile with music, you can run the output of your playback device into a tape recorder, computer, etc. or even just record it off the air. Shoot, people buy ripped-off movies that have been recorded with a camcorder in a theater; those have to be worse than what you could do at home (note that I'm not encouraging anybody to actually make such copies, or commenting on the legality or morality of doing such copying; just thinking about the psychology of the result).

The problem, of course, is that then you don't have a digital copy. It's not as (gasp) perfect as it could be. I know I have this feeling even though I grew up listening to music on an AM radio and watching television off the air, which are probably both much worse quality than what you could achieve by starting with a digital version and going analog for a couple of feet. In fact I doubt it's noticeably worse than what you get with a straight store-bought VHS or cassette tape.

It's probably part of marketing by content people. While contuing to sell analog versions, they are simultaneously hyping the perfection achieved with digital content, so that making your own analog copies seems too infra dig to even consider. Very clever.

Posted by AdamBa at December 7, 2006 09:55 PM

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