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Technology

Baby, this DVD is driving me crazy

Mrs Bigmouth and I headed off to hospital yesterday for a 20-week pregnancy scan (everything’s fine, thanks) and on departure, the doctor gave us a shiny disc. Excellent, I thought. We’ve had one of these before. It’s a CD with some screenshots of the scan.

It turns out it was even better than that. It was a DVD containing about ten minutes of video footage. If you’ve done the parent thing and watched an ultrasound scan you’ll appreciate just how mind-blowing it is to actually own a video of your unborn baby; if you haven’t, you’ll have to take my word for it.

So we came home, watched the DVD about 100 times, and then decided to make a backup of it. And we figured our respective mothers would appreciate a copy too. So I stuck the DVD into my DVD recorder, hit One Button Copy – a brilliant invention, I reckon; it copies the disc to the hard disk and then wallops it on to a blank DVD – and nothing happened.

Hello, DRM!

It wasn’t deliberate DRM, but it was DRM nonetheless. Because the doctor used a Sony DVD recorder, and Sony’s a big fan of DRM, the disc he burned was copy protected automatically. Which means that if you have mainstream copying hardware or software it can’t be backed up, and it can’t be copied.

Incidentally, this was a private scan (this year, the NHS in Scotland doesn’t fund 20-week scans) that cost a pretty large sum of money, so the DVD in question is probably the most expensive disc I’ve ever owned.

There are, of course, ways around DRM, so I duly downloaded a dodgy DVD ripper, cracked the copy protection, backed up the disc and ripped the video to my Mac, so I can use iDVD to make as many backups or copies as I want. But how many people in the same situation would know to do that, or know where to look?

We all know that DRM doesn’t work, and that if you’re determined to get a dodgy copy of something you can do so fairly easily. And yet the content owners’ DRM obsession means that while I can easily download a movie torrent, I can’t easily copy the video of my own unborn baby.