Evil Corporations #3: Macrovision

I haven’t done an Evil Corporations story in over two years, and it’s definitely time. The focus: Macrovision.

From their About Us page on their website:

Macrovision helps solve the global need for content protection, DRM and software licensing solutions.

Now we all know that I’m no fan of DRM or Digital Rights Management, and right there in their company description Macrovision makes it a point to let you knwo that’s exactly what they’re about.

Macrovision’s claim to fame was protecting VHS tapes in the 80s – did you ever try and copy a videotape from a rental store, and got those rainbow lines at the top and bottom? That’s them.

Even though it’s legal for you, as a consumer in the United States, to make one copy for backup and archival purposes, they make sure you can’t.

The latest story hitting the web today, is a follow-up to one from June. In June, Macrovision sent a cease and desist letter to Lightning UK!, makers of DVD Decrypter. DVD Decrypter lets you strip the DRM off a DVD so you can archive to a hard drive or make a physical copy. Macrovision claimed the ability to strip the DRM violated their patents.

Well, the latest story has Macrovision claiming they’ve bought out Lightning UK!, and sending takedown notices to websites hosting DVD Decrypter. I’m sure they paid off the original developer thinking if you can’t beat ’em, buy ’em (ala Microsoft).

This is unfortunate for two reasons – one, reverse engineering should not be illegal, and in the U.S., under the DMCA, it now is. Two, if the developer had released this under a free software licenses, such as the GPL, the code would be in the wild. Now, due the evil greed of one corporation, we’re going to lose the ability to back up our DVDs. I know, as the father of 2 (almost three!) children, that I want to back up the movies they watch a lot and put them on a home theater PC. No more scratching and wrecking movies – which has happened with a few already.

But no, I’m no longer allowed to. And that’s why Macrovision is being added to my list of evil corporations.

Paul Cutler
Father. Husband. Vinyl Music Lover. Football fan. Python student. He / him.