One of the issues I have wrestled with ever since starting my video business in 1988 is the need to copy protect my work. When I was giving out VHS copies of my productions it was not as much of an issue, because making a copy from a VHS tape would result in a noticeable generation loss. When people asked why I put "copyright" on all my productions, I would tell them that I wanted to make sure that my work was "copied right." Then I would explain that I had a Beta SP master, which was the only viable source for high-quality copies.
Fast-forward 20 years, and we find ourselves in an all-digital world in which the consumer has access to the same technology that video professionals have. Our customers no longer need to come to us for DVD copies if there is someone (often a teenager) in their house who can easily dupe DVDs. That means that once we give out a DVD, there is no guarantee that we will ever see our customers again. It also means that if your work is based on volume sales-for instance, if you're doing stage events or graduations-your entire business model can be undermined by home copying. The good news is that there's help on the way. Welcome to the beginning of the new era of copy protection for event videographers.
As videographers we have two choices when it comes to protecting our work. One option is to use a third-party provider such as www.protecteddvd.com. ProtectedDVD will add copy protection to your DVD for $25, and copies from that point are relatively inexpensive. The other alternative-and this is the one I recommend-is to apply the protection ourselves with PTProtect, a new technology developed and marketed by Primera Technology, the company that brought us the popular Bravo line of automated DVD duplication and printing systems.
I've been using PTProtect on my productions since November 2008, and the best way to describe my overall impression is that I feel like a person who is experiencing freedom for the very first time. I am now free to give out DVDs without the fear of having someone make unauthorized copies. I realize that there are many videographers who don't care if their work is copied, because they have made their money in the production itself. But there are many of us who rely on the sale of DVD copies to make a living. Anyone who has taped dance recitals, concerts, plays, sporting events, school events, and other special events will welcome the benefits of PTProtect.
I am not a technical person, but I found PTProtect to be easy and intuitive to use. I tested PTProtect on the Bravo SE Disc Publisher (below). The setup of the printer was very simple. PTProtect is activated using a USB dongle with a number of "credits" on it. For it to work properly I had to download a newer version of the PTPublisher software (it requires v1.3.0 or higher).
When PTPublisher is launched, the PTProtect option will be enabled, showing the number of credits still available. The DVD must first be converted into an ISO image or already be on the hard drive in an ISO format. You can also protect a DVD by copying the AUDIO_TS and VIDEO_TS folders from the master DVD to your hard drive, or you can use your DVD publishing software to create an output format in AUDIO_TS and VIDEO_TS folders. It is then a simple matter of selecting the "Protect Video with PTProtect" check box.
How it Works
According to Primera, this is how PTProtect works:
PTProtect software is applied to the DVD image during authoring so that when content is burned to disc it is encapsulated with the PTProtect software. The encapsulated content on the DVD is then protected from access by common ripping programs. The content on the DVD is not modified in any way and, because the copy control encapsulation sits in areas of the discs not read by the DVD players, playback quality remains unaffected. PTProtect is a passive solution, which means it does not load any software program onto the PC for the protection to work. In essence, PTProtect copy-controlled discs are designed to provide effective ‘speed bump' protection from unauthorized casual copying.
PTProtect is designed to protect DVD-Video, and it also works with dual-layer recordable discs. In the future, there should also be a version of PTProtect for data DVDs. You must have a Primera duplicator to use PTProtect. The software is free, but you pay incrementally for the credits: 100 credits (good for protecting 100 discs) cost $225, 1,000 credits cost $1,000, and 5,000 credits cost $3,750.
I am realistic enough to understand that anyone with enough time and expertise could probably bypass the protection given by PTProtect. But I also know that most people wouldn't want to take the time. I do know that as the PTProtect software is improved, upgrades will be available so that we can keep one step ahead of those who would pirate our work.
To make sure that PTProtect actually did stop illegal duplication of my projects, I decided to try duplicating a DVD that had PTProtect applied to it. First, I tried copying the video and audio files to the hard drive on my computer. I was not able to do so. I also tried making copies using Nero, but again I failed. I then tried Miraizon Cinematize Pro, but I was not able to convert the files to an AVI file like I do with other DVDs when I need to re-author them. My attempts at making copies using my VinPower Duplication Tower (which burns the information to a hard drive) and my Disc Makers Elite Duplication Tower (copies from DVD to DVD) also failed. Finally, an attempt to copy the disc using a popular DVD ripping tool (used by pirates to make illegal copies of Hollywood DVD movies by breaking the CSS encryption applied at replication) also failed.
My conclusion: I can safely give out DVDs to clients without worrying about them trying to make their own copies. I realize that eventually someone will figure out a way to bypass PTProtect, but I hope by then there will be a downloadable upgrade on the PTProtect software that will stay one step ahead of those smart enough to figure out a workaround. I like to think of PTProtect as a deterrent that will stop the average person from making unauthorized copies of my DVDs and thus allow me to be the one that sells the extra copies. From that standpoint, PTProtect is a welcome tool for us videographers-particularly those of us who depend on volume sales-that will allow us to be more profitable in our businesses.
On a personal note, I have been using Primera's products for the last several years and have been impressed by the quality the company offers and the technical support that the company provides. I know that there will be other companies offering similar products in the near future, but I would encourage you to check out this reliable and easy-to-use anti-rip copy protection. I have already had several clients come back to me for DVD copies even though, when they received their original DVD, they assured me that they wouldn't need to purchase copies from me. I wonder what they had in mind.
Alan Naumann (alan at memoryvision.tv) has recently updated The Complete Course on Funeral Videography, an expanded version of his popular Business Everlasting training DVD. A featured speaker at WEVA Expo 2004–8 and a 2006 & 2007 EventDV 25 honoree, he is based in Minneapolis.