Videotape Protection

I recently copied a videotape even though the law tells me not to. Rage against the machine, man. Oh… so, anyway, as it turns out, this tape had some copy protection on it which sort of suprised me because it was the first time I’d come across it, and sort of didn’t suprise me because I’d heard of it before. However, only the first 2 minutes or so were protected. So, I lost the opening credits (big whoop) and about 20 seconds of intro (which was just visuals anyway). Is the protection just intended to keep me from selling off copies of the flick as the real thing? Keeping me from seeing the opening credits isn’t going to make me throw my copy away. Why not protect the entire thing? Not that I’m complaining…

“I guess it is possible for one person to make a difference, although most of the time they probably shouldn’t.”

I think the first few minutes are protected to trick you into thinking that the entire tape is protected. I’ve run across this before also. I nearly gave up, but opted to make sure the entire thing was protected… sure enough, the protection stopped about three minutes into the film, cutting out previews. I don’t know why this is so common, perhaps the people who do the job are just lazy.

“Man prefers to believe what he prefers to be true” -Albert Einstein

I just wonder how they protect it at all. I mean, the output from a VCR is just a television signal, right? How is directing that signal to a second VCR any different than putting it on TV? That is, what is different about those first few minutes, that makes them watchable but not recordable?

On the other hand, I bought a Disney tape in England (not available in the U.S.) and the techies at my firm swore they could convert it to U.S. size tape. (For those who don’t know, VCR tapes between Europe and the U.S. are not compatible – audio casettes, CDs, no problem, but VCRs are different sized.)

Anyway, turns out the entire tape was copy-protected. My techies made a copy on U.S. sized tape, but it was pretty much unwatchable… and we checked at various points along the way to see if the protection vanished, but it din’t.

So, my experience is that Disney’s copy-protection is pretty thorough.

Luckily, the tape later became available in the U.S. … anyone want a British version of THE BLACK CAULDRON, cheap?

If your talking about how it comes out scrambled when you copy it IA belive that you can by pass that my taping FROM a 4 head VCR TO a 2 head VCR

I would like to remind our gentle readers the FBI warning against copying videotapes appears on commercial footage for a reason.
I won’t launch into a dissertation on copyright laws, but suffice it to say: The Straight Dope does not advocate or condone the copying or illegal distribution of copyrighted material in any medium.

Please omit from your discussion any and all
references to methods or means whereby illegal activity can be accomplished. I trust you’ll all see the wisdom in this; we wouldn’t want Unca Cece answering a summons instead of our dire questions, now would we?

For The Straight Dope

The standard copy protection for videotapes is called Macrovision. It works by varying the signal in the overscan area (non-visible portion of the signal). This forces the Automatic Gain in most modern VCRs to go haywire and keep fading in and out as it adjusts for the variations in the signal. This is why it [Macrovision] doesn’t affect older VCRs [no automatic gain] or the decks made by Go Video [they do not support Macrovision].

As the administrator said, this is generally illegal. It IS legal to make backups for your own personal use, however, VHS is such an inferior medium, I don’t know why one would want to back it up.

Copyguard is the most popular method of making tapes unrecordable, which diminishes or removes the synchronization pulse that your t.v. needs to lock the picture (keep it from rolling vertically or tearing horizontally). It is only truly effective when the VCR cooperates, since as Laura has already speculated, the raw video signal output already contains enough of a sync pulse for televisions to lock onto. A video clarifier is sold (legally) to clean up & restore the video signal, and in the process it usually also restores the sync pulse, which just coincidentally allows for duplication. Some newer VCRs have this clarifier built-in, and when the incoming sync pulse is weak -possibly because of Copyguard- the VCR attempts to boost the diminished synchronization signals. This process can sometimes take a minute or two, which may account for the delay preceding a clear signal noted in some earlier posts.

More difficult to overcome is the serial copy management system currently being built into digital audio recordings, preventing pirates from mass-producing more than one digital copy of a CD MD, or DVD. However, unlimited serial copies can be made in the analog domain if you don’t mind the loss of the digital format on your copies.

Doesn’t the FBI warning say that we can’t make copies for public display, or for making a profit in some way? I thought it was okay to make one personal copy, as long as you don’t sell tickets to your neighbors for viewing privileges.

Yes, Macrovision does unsync the signal, which makes it pretty weak, so weak it doesn’t have enough strength to make a copy. It also often takes out closed-captions sometimes so I can’t watch them. Cuz the signal runs from the vcr to the caption decoder and then to the tv, so it’s not strong enough always to make it.

If you copy a video, that is not legal, but if you record the same film from cable to watch later, that is legal. shrug.

A tangential question about anti-piracy laws:

While it is unquestionably illegal to reproduce, resell, rebroadcast etc. copyrighted materials without express permission from the author or assignee, is it illegal to discuss the methods thereof in an (arguably) academic forum? From a logical standpoint, I would have thought that a discussion of methods is not illegal, while overt encouragement of applying them is.

The original post wasn’t “How can I duplicate my videos?”, but more like “How does the safety mechanism work?” The responses seem to state how the mechanisms work, and not provide bypasses.

Has this freedom-of-speech thing ever been tested in the courts?

<Nota Bene, in case the FBI is reading this: This is a real, objective question on the substance of the law, it’s not my intention to start a discussion on whether or not piracy laws are good or not>

“Anything is peaceful from one thousand, three hundred and fifty-three feet.”

The operative word, I believe, is “arguably”.

Come on, people! I can understand that we are curious how the copy protection works, but does that justify the risk of cheating an honest performer out of his royalties?

I really think freedom of speech has gotten out of hand. In fact, I’m going to start a new forum about it.

OOPS – I had a bracketed Nota Bene at the end of my earlier post, apparently was mistaken for markup coding.

I wanted to clarify, just in case the FBI is reading, that my question was not intended to start a discussion on freedom of speech versus copyright protection, but rather was an objective question about the substance of the law.

“Anything is peaceful from one thousand, three hundred and fifty-three feet.”

Well, since I started this thread, let me explain:
I wasn’t looking for information on how to get around the protection. In my opinion, I tried it, and if it didn’t work, it didn’t work and big whoop - I go buy the movie if I care that much. I’m certainly not about to go to Radio Shack and try to buy parts for a Protection-Eraser 3000 or something. I was just curious mainly about why they only seemed to protect the first 2-4 minutes of film. It doesn’t seem enough to deter people who want a cheap copy of the film, so I thought maybe it was designed more to keep someone from cranking out 10,000 copies and selling them as bootlegs on the street corner. Illegal is illegal, I’m not arguing that. But the question as to why they do it this way doesn’t seem any more questionable than asking about drug enforcement. It doesn’t mean I want to smuggle drugs across the border. As for how to get around the protection? Couldn’t care less.
That said, I understand why you said what you said, Nickz - I just wanted to better explain my intentions.

“I guess it is possible for one person to make a difference, although most of the time they probably shouldn’t.”

Regarding that Disney tape from England, it’s not just the size you have to worry about. All of Europe uses the PAL standard for broadcasting, while the U.S. uses NTSC. PAL video tapes are unwatchable on NTSC VCRs and TVs even when they are the right size.

That’s the way that it is on this bitch of an earth."
– Pozzo, Waiting For Godot

Thanks, Greg. I dind’t know the technical terms, but I did know that UK tapes won’t work in US machines and vice versa* … but the techies in my office said they had equipment (since we do multi-country video production from time to time) to copy the UK tape onto a US tape. Only the Disney copy-protection wouldn’t let them.

BTW, the intent was for me to be able to use (by copying) the tape I had purchased, so there was no copyright violation. I wouldn’t wanna imply otherwise.

Well Jophiel, I think the majority of us give it a shot at least once.

There is a really big video chain in the US, Let me call them BB. They are huge and I got three videos from them the other day and all the labels were laser copies of the real ones. There were about 50 copies of one video. Do you think they have some arrangement to copy videos themselves?
Also, the reason why Macrovision may only be on the first couple minutes is cause it may cost less to do that. IF you push FF and see black& white bars on the top of the screen, its got Macrovision on it.

Gentle Readers - I was not seeking to cast aspersions on anyone’s character by covering Cecil’s (and The Reader’s) ass with boilerplate. The SDMB (and, by extension, The Reader) cannot afford to give the appearance of impropriety by allowing their guests to discuss methods whereby others may be defrauded of their property, intellectual or otherwise. This particular case may appear trivial, but I assure you it is not.

Most of us know the difference between right and wrong, and I think we can at least limit our discussion to how the protection devices work, not how they can be defeated (which is where I saw this thread headed).

As far as first amendment rights and the courts go, I’ll say two words: private enterprise. If you’re unsure of what that means, drop me a line or two.

For The Straight Dope

I understand your point Nickrz. I have a message board myself [US] and people think they can post anything. But they can’t. People write/call my ISP saying so and so was said and they better do something about it.

Americans may think they have the right to say anything they want on an unregulated Internet message board, but surprisingly they do not. Or so I learned.

I recall a post on my board was about someone having a conversation with a local in which they said they lost a little money dealing with [bleep]. Now bleep gave us a call saying he would sue for a million dollars over that little remark. Even though the remark was true and witnesses abound. So we had to take it off the board and write him an apology & give him time to write a public response on the board, which he never did.