Monthly Archive for June, 2010

Encoding Pioneer One in WebM and Theora

I recently watched the first episode of Pioneer One, an excellent Creative Commons BY-NC-SA-licensed series. It’s from VODO, an indie film distributor that really gets it (the whole “free distribution is good for you, not evil” thing). After suggesting that a WebM or Theora version should exist, the VODO people challenged me to make it. So I did. And here are the links:

The Theora/Vorbis version will work in Google Chrome/Chromium or Firefox while the WebM version works primarily with pre-release browsers. You may need to use this wrapper page to view the WebM version in-browser.

Transcoding steps

Since not many people are familiar with the process of transcoding (converting from one set of codecs to another), I thought it would be helpful to share the methods I used for converting Pioneer One into Theora/Vorbis and WebM. It’s really not as hard as it sounds and it’s gotten a lot easier recently with pretty graphical tools.
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What C-32 means for DVDs

After posting DVDs and TPMs: how often is CSS used?, I asked Tony Clement if he could clarify how Bill C-32 affects DVDs (for a background on DVDs and CSS, see DVDs and TPMs…). His office replied with the following:

  1. Do you know if CSS would be a TPM?
  2. Bill C-32 implements the international standards set out in the 1996 World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Internet treaties, which require protection of “effective technological measures” used by copyright owners to prevent unauthorized use of their work.

    Accordingly, whether CSS, or any technology, would be captured by the TPM provisions would depend on whether it meets the definition of TPM in the bill, specifically whether it effectively protects a work. It is worth noting that courts in other countries have already examined this question (including the US, which found that CSS was an effective TPM). It would be up to Canadian courts to interpret whether CSS is a protected TPM in Canada.

  3. Do you know if libdvdcss would be illegal under C-32?
  4. Under C-32 it would be illegal to sell or distribute devices that are designed primarily to circumvent a TPM. To determine if libdvdcss falls under this provision, a court would need to determine (i) that CSS is an effective TPM (as discussed in question 1) and (ii) whether libdvdcss is designed primarily to circumvent the CSS TPM.

Erik Waddell
Director of Communications
Office of the Honourable Tony Clement

While the response doesn’t clear up the issue definitively, I think it’s safe to say that Canadian courts would interpret the TPM provisions as the US courts have. This means that backing up or engaging in fair dealing would be prohibited for 98% of DVDs (see DVDs and TPMs… for how I arrived at this number) under Bill C-32.

I hope that the government will fix Bill C-32 before it is passed by tying the anti-circumvention laws directly to infringement (instead of having a blanket ban with a handful of exceptions like it does now) and removing the distribution restrictions on all circumvention devices as I recommended in my copyright consultation submission. With these changes, Bill C-32 would retain the fair dealing rights Canadians have today for engaging with digital content on DVDs and similarly-encumbered formats, yet it would still provide “adequate legal protection and effective legal remedies against the circumvention of effective technological measures” as required by the WIPO Copyright Treaty that the government wishes to ratify with the bill.

DVDs and TPMs: how often is CSS used?

On June 2, the Canadian government tabled Bill C-32, its third attempt to implement anti-circumvention laws and other changes to the Copyright Act of Canada. The proposed changes would significantly impact the way Canadians are allowed to interact with copyrighted works stored in digital form, such as movies stored on DVDs. Not much information is available on the DVD situation in particular so there is significant uncertainty as to whether C-32 prohibits DVD backups (as an example):

  • xentac: “with BillC32 can I buy DVDs and rip them…?”; Tony Clement: “So long as no TPM”
  • Drew Wilson: “If you have a home movie recorded on a DVD and you back that movie up…, you’ve broken the anti-circumvention law.”; anonymous commenter: “This isn’t correct. Home movies you burn onto a DVD-R/RW are not CSS encrypted, only commercial DVDs are.”

By “CSS”, the anonymous commenter means Content Scramble System, an optional method of obfuscating the data on DVDs (what some would call DRM). CSS seems to be a “technological protection measure” (TPM) according to C-32 (“any effective technology, device or component that, in the ordinary course of its operation, controls access to a work…”) so I will proceed under this assumption. Hopefully someone closer to the bill can comment on the validity of this assumption.

To provide some clarity to the issue of which DVDs are encumbered by CSS (and thus could not be legally backed up or used for fair dealing under C-32), I analyzed 66 DVDs in my household’s DVD collection to determine if they used CSS. Here are the results:
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