Sunday, January 6, 2013

DVD and Blu-ray vendors are trying to make me a video pirate

I have never pirated a single piece of digital content.  I know that's probably hard to believe, but it's true--though I have to admit to having watched a few pieces of pirated content that friends downloaded (and then deleted).  I don't avoid pirating out of fear; I actually like owning copies of my digital content.  I buy CDs and DVDs and Blu-Ray discs in vast quantities (really; I own over six thousand music discs and about the same number of film discs).  I also like paying money to content creators.  I do, after all, create content in book (and ebook) form, and I greatly appreciate it when others pay me for that content.

So why are DVD and Blu-Ray vendors working so hard to make me a pirate?

When you pirate a movie or TV show, the process is simple:  you download it, and then you watch it.  That's it.

When I plunk down my hard cash for a DVD or Blu-ray disc, I expect to do roughly the same thing: Put it in the player, pick the "Play" option from the menu, and watch the movie or TV show.  I don't mind the disc's menu, because I like the extras that come on the discs and the ability to make my choice of their audio and subtitle options.  This simple process is what, in the very early days of DVDs, actually happened.

Today, though, vendors have engineered these discs to piss me off.  I put the disc in the player and wait while the device and the content work out with each other whatever copy protection and special software hoo-ha the vendor has put on the disc.  Often, the wait is long enough that I could more quickly have downloaded the content.

When the disc finally starts to play, however, the truly annoying shit begins.  Disclaimers appear.  Trailers start.  Sometimes, even commercials assault me.  I can't easily skip this crap; no, if I press the "Menu" button on my remote-control device, the disc tells me that this function is not supported.  (I fucking hate that passive-voice construction.  It's not, you assholes, that the function is not supported by the hardware; it's that you chose to turn it off.)  So, one by one I have to fast-forward through the trailers.

Finally, the menu appears.  More and more, though, the menu is not simple.  No, it's some designers idea of how to turn something clean and functional into something so pretty and unnecessarily complicated that you have to figure out how each one works.  That process doesn't take long--there's only so much they can do to the menus--but it does waste time, particularly on collections of TV shows.

Once I find the "Play" option, I expect to finally watch the movie, but on quite a few discs I now have to read warnings that the FBI, Interpol, the CIA, and two thugs named Mick and Larry are going to come bust my kneecaps, throw me into jail, confiscate all my possessions, sell my children into slavery, and pimp my dog if I pirate anything--even though I'm watching on a disc I purchased!

Again, contrast this with the simplicity of the pirating process, and you can easily conclude that the DVD and Blu-ray vendors must want me to stop buying their products and instead pirate the videos.

I really hate this.

These companies should wake up to a basic human truth: if you want to encourage people to do something, make the process simple and reward them for doing it.

Until they do, I'm going to keep cursing my discs and fighting the temptation to pirate content.  I wish they'd help me in that fight.


JP said...

I totally agree with all of that and it makes me nuts. So in case you haven't thought of this, what I do is:

1) insert the DVD without turning the TV on, then go away for 10-20 minutes. This gets me to the main menu.
2) Turn on the TV then manually play chapter 2, and rewind to where the content actually starts.

It's ugly and clunky as hell, but it "works" for certain values of works.

Anonymous said...

Ahh but you left out the joy of rewatching or fast forwarding thorugh the trailers again when you watch the disc again where "coming soon to DVD" was 5 yrs ago.

Mark said...

Always a fun time!

Anonymous said...

I don't know? One of my favorite parts of watching some of the old VHS's is that very prospect. Turn that same 5 years into 15 - 25 years or even more and it becomes pretty neat.

Of course with any discussion like this you have to give George Lucas his props. I wonder is Disney will keep up the tradition?


Mark said...

I hope Disney will.


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