Be careful what you wish for

from DVDs
to cigarettes
Thanks to Doc, I came across Mark Pilgrim’s post on A History of DVD Copy Protection. I have always found DVD Region Coding to be laughable, almost tantamount to fraud, so I loved the article. Read it and decide for yourself.

What I particularly enjoyed was how Mark moved from DVDs to cigarettes:

On a side note, this turn of phrase reminds me of a similar one told of the Liggett Group, formerly known as Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company, the company that formerly manufactured Chesterfields, which I formerly smoked, before selling the brand to Altria, formerly known as Philip Morris. In fact, the last time I smoked Chesterfields was right around the time the brand was sold to Philip Morris. At one point, I had a pack of Liggett-branded Chesterfields that bore the history-making label, “Smoking is addictive.” Then the brand was sold to Philip Morris, and suddenly Chesterfields were no longer addictive. Or if they were, their packaging no longer admitted it. ;-)

All of which is a roundabout way of quoting an article I once read about Liggett — or rather paraphrasing, since I have long since lost track of the original in the infinite sands of time and bookmarks — which stated that Liggett had managed to lose an enormous amount of money, despite the overwhelming business advantage of having an addictive product.

The analogy to copy protection, if indeed there is an analogy to be made, is left as an exercise for the reader.

Well, I followed Mark’s advice and did his reader exercise. And what I found was instructive (at least for me).

Let us assume that both cigarettes as well as DVDs are addictive products.

Let us also assume, for the sake of argument, that Smoking Kills labels on cigarettes are broadly analogous to Copy Protection on DVDs (whether in Region Coding form, RCE form or vanilla copy protection. Analogous because both devices serve to protect.

The analogy breaks from then on. Protect whom? At least in the cigarette case I can see the consumer being protected. But in the DVD case there’s no way of understanding just how the customer is protected.

There’s also the question about the agency that requires the protection to be implemented. In one case it is a regulator of sorts, in the other it is “self-governing”.

But it doesn’t matter. It all comes back at the end, just like Mark says.

Someone with an addictive product manages somehow to achieve two aims:

  1. make no money
  2. damage the customer

You know how I think. (b) will always lead to (a). It’s just a matter of time.

One thought on “Be careful what you wish for”

  1. A post in Christian Nitot’s blog (president & founder, Mozilla Europe) “the amazing parallel between Frankestein & DRM” :
    * DRM gets in the way of sales,
    * everybody is scared of pirates
    * the music majors realized too late “the mistake they made when they left the power to copy in the user’s hands”
    * Apple is the big winner there
    * Now Microsoft wants to join the fray with Zune & their DRM system
    * & they ruined Vista in the process
    * Virgin boss says “today it’s more difficult to buy music than to steal it!”…
    Plus lots of links (most of them in French unfortunately)…

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