Online DRM in movies: A fake interview

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“That’s simply not true.” Says the lady across the table from me, throwing her hands in the air in exasperation. “How many times do we have to tell you? It requires an internet connection because there’s no other way to play it!”

The lady in question is Jennifer Refinner, vice president of St. Dorito’s Home Video. As my dictaphone silently takes record of our conversation she is, as she has been forced to do many times over the past week, defending her company’s controversial release of the latest Alien movie. Alien 5: Ripley’s (Alive Again) Believe It Or Not has not only seen a home release restricted to blu ray, but said blu ray discs will only work in players capable of connecting to the internet. If the player loses its internet connection for more than 30 seconds, the movie stops playing.

“DRM.” I say once more and, as soon as the acronym has left my lips (leaving an unpleasant taste in my mouth), a look of anger briefly flashes across Jennifer’s face. “Digital Rights Management. That is the real motivation behind this decision, isn’t it? To make it much harder to pirate the disc, and harder still to sell it on?”

“Listen here, monkey junket.” She growls through gritted teeth, so enraged that she has made up a brand new insult for me on the spot. “If there is any ‘DRM’ at all, it’s nothing more than a side effect. Without the internet people would not be able to enjoy this movie at home, simple as that.”

I stay silent for a few moments, allowing Jennifer to compose herself. She quickly calms down, and apologises for her behaviour. I wiggle my eyebrows in the universally recognised ‘please continue’ motion.

“Alien 5: RAABION is a complex movie. An incredibly complex movie. The industry has moved on so much, in so many different ways, since the first few films. It’s full of surprises – oh, you may want to mark the interview with a spoiler warning here.”

Indeed, she goes on to name a few plot twists found in Alien 5. So, for the next paragraph: SPOILER WARNING.

“For example, there was nothing in the first four films to indicate that Ripley was 85% horse meat. And who could have foreseen the involvement of the Wombles? Not me! It’s a reasonably priced thrill ride full of twists and turns. A complex one, I really do want to stress here. How many films have the main character speak three different languages at once? During a sex scene? With an alien?”

It would take a wiser man than me to find even the smallest of faults with Alien 5. But that, of course, is not the issue. Well – not when it comes to the original cinema release. The disc version released to the public, on the other hand, has a number of… quirks. I have to bring this up.

“It’s not really the film everybody was expecting.” I say, allowing myself to get temporarily side-tracked. “There are some scenes that don’t seem to make a lot of sense. Take the opening; that’s not the only time we see aliens running in circles for minutes at a time in the home release.”

“Something we can fix later via the internet. See, the connectivity feature comes with all sorts of bonuses!”

“Also, the cinema release was three hours long; the blu ray lasts 45 minutes.”

“Don’t worry about that, we already have plans for downloadable content – some of which will be free!”

I pause, running arguments through my head at light speed. This woman puts up a flawless defence every time I think I’ve found a criticism! The controversy will soon die down with her expertise. With no other option immediately available, I return to the main issue.

“To come back to the main point of contention though, the very fact that the blu ray player must be constantly connected to the internet… complex as the film undeniably is, does that really mean this connection is essential to play it? There have been complex movies throughout history, none of which have demanded the home movie player to have any sort of extra connection or feature.”

“How about a TV?” she says, smugly.

A TV, or ‘television set’.

“Well, apart from a TV.” I mumble, thoroughly embarrassed. “In actual fact as you may have heard, one consumer has taken apart the information on the disc, and made a copy that plays the whole three hour movie – without an internet connection. Surely this proves not only that the whole cinema release is on the disc, but also that an internet connection is not necessary in order to play it?”

“Somebody’s reverse engineered the disc? Made a copy? That’s illegal!”

“Is it? Gosh. I will of course find his details and hand them over, but that aside, this does seem compelling evidence that -”

“That man did a bad, illegal thing!”

“Yes, but-”


“Of course -”


I give up, my will crushed under the weight of her legal mumbo-jumbo. Jennifer is, of course, right; the person who fiddled with the information on the disc did something illegal, therefore he is in the wrong.

“Thank you for your time.”

“It’s been a pleasure!”

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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