Dennis D. McDonald (ddmcd@outlook.com) is an independent consultant located in Alexandria Virginia. His services and capabilities are described here. Application areas include project, program, and data management; market assessment, digital strategy, and program planning; change and content management; social media; and, technology adoption. Follow him on Google+. He also publishes on CTOvision.com and aNewDomain.

War of the Worlds DVD is Copy Protected

By Dennis D. McDonald

I just received in the mail today from Amazon.com a copy of the new Special Collector’s Edition of the 1953 sci-fi classic film, War of the Worlds. This extravaganza of 1950’s ray guns, Martian fighting machines, and gorgeous Technicolor has been a favorite of mine for many years. It’s the only film I know, for example, that features the original jet powered Northrop Flying Wing in one of the military’s futile attacks on the Martians. And those manta ray shaped Martian machines with the flexible “cobra” weapons are just so cool!

But wait — there’s more. Turn the case over and there is a small symbol near the bottom of the page with a red and white circle with a line through it. What’s that? The words below the circle, barely legible to my aging eyes, spell out THIS DVD IS COPY PROTECTED.

Uh-oh.  What does that mean? Is it referring just to the nasty Macrovision stuff that will make it impossible for me to copy the movie onto my non-existent VCR? Or is it something more insidious, something more, say, Sony-like?

I Google around the web a bit. I can’t find any details, and the Paramount web site doesn’t seem to help. I hunt around for a Paramount email address for customer support and come up with an address for the “terms of use” for the web site. I email my questions to the listed email address:

Dear Paramount:

I recently purchased the new Special Collector’s edition of George Pal’s WAR OF THE WORLDS on DVD. This has been a longtime favorite of mine since childhood and I look forward eagerly to using all its features.

I noticed a small symbol on the back of the DVD case’s cover that says this DVD is “copy protected.” Can you provide me with information describing this copy protection technology?

I am trying to determine if it is safe to play this DVD on my Windows computers. I own Windows XP, Windows 2000, and Macintosh OSX machines and have been keeping track of the recent public relations problems that Sony has experienced since details of its music CD copy protection methods have become public.

For example, if I wish to play this DVD on my computer, will it automatically install any software, including copy protection software? If it does install software, including copy protection software, will this software interfere with other software, with the Windows operating system, or with other forms of DVD or music CD copy protection? Also, if software is installed, does Paramount provide an “uninstall” utility?

Sorry I have to ask these questions but I use these machines for work as well as entertainment and I cannot afford to disrupt my business.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Dennis D. McDonald

An email response comes back almost immediately:

Thank you for e-mailing termsofuse@pde.paramount.com.  Please be advised that this e-mail address is specifically for questions about our Terms of Use as detailed at http://www.paramount.com/studio/terms.htm

Due to the high volume of e-mail we receive, we can only respond to those inquiries.

Sigh. I can see it’s going to be one of those days, so I fire right back:

Can you please tell me whom I can ask this question by email?

Your Customer,

Dennis D. McDonald

They never responded to this email, so I called up the phone number given on the Paramount web site (they don’t list a Customer Service email address, which is interesting) and was immediately put through to the voicemail of the Vice President of Public Relations for Paramount’s Home Entertainment division.

After a quick Google search I found her email address and sent a more detailed followup:

This is a followup to the phone message I just left you.

I’m trying to find an email address for someone who can tell me details about the copy protection system used on the new War of the Worlds DVD. As you probably know, Sony BMG has run into a bad-publicity buzz saw with their use of “rootkit” based DRM that potentially damages Windows software and I wanted to make sure that there’s nothing about this War of the Worlds disc that will cause any problems should I attempt to play it using one of my Windows computers.

While I rarely play DVD’s on my computers, I can remember times in the past when a DVD would install its own software player and I wanted to make sure that was not the case with this particular DVD.

In less than a day (!) she responded to my email:

We have macrovision so it wouldn’t damage your computer. Thanks

This is good news. So while I’m no big fan of Macrovision, at least I can safely play this new DVD on my computers!

PS - here’s my review of this DVD.

 

 

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