The Clicker: R.I.P. DVD Decrypter

Every Thursday Stephen Speicher contributes The Clicker, a weekly column on television and technology:


It happened on Monday. Quietly and with little fanfare, a fabulous product evaporated into the great digital ether. Choosing not to rage against the dying of the light, DVD Decrypter instead weighed its options and, like so many before it, chose to take up residence in the digital version of the Bermuda triangle, the Cease-and-Desist Zone. It's that magical place where both fledgling and fully-featured programs go to never be seen again.

The scene – as I imagine it – was straight from the movie Brazil: in the dead of night lawyers from "a certain company" cut holes in the floor of the apartment above the "offender's" flat. Quickly, these men in black repelled down ropes, tasered the unsuspecting software developer, and presented him with legally-binding contracts. In their ever-so-subtle way, they explained that the software developer had two options a) sign over his life's work now or b) fight the good fight, go broke, go to jail, and *then* sign over his life's work. Not surprisingly, DVD Decrypter's author chose option a.

For those unaware, DVD Decrypter was a DVD archiving program that had garnered the respect of novices and hardcore users alike. Simple to use yet full-featured, DVD Decrypter laid the groundwork for those among us who like to do such things as create our own media servers or watch our DVDs on our Smartphones, PDAs, etc. It was a great program whose uses were far greater than the assumed nefarious purpose of distributing DVDs over the Internet.

DVD Decrypter?s untimely death marks a sad time for fair-use advocates.

As more and more content is delivered digitally, the debate over what exactly is fair-use will only become more heated. We?ll have two options a) we can accept what the content owners tell us is right or b) we can rely on the programs, like DVD Decrypter, that are willing to push the envelope. It?s through these dedicated developers that content owners are kept in check.

As for passing of DVD Decrypter ? Here?s what I would suggest: Donate. If you?re anything like me, you?ve probably thought to yourself, ?I?ll do that someday.? However, you never quite got around to it. The author?s request was so subtle and so unassuming that it was easy to forget the countless number of times you used the program. Don?t get me wrong; donating will do nothing to change the outcome. Likewise, it will get you no support. Donating will get you no future versions. Donating will get no bugs fixed. Absolutely nothing tangible will come from a donation.

So why donate? That?s easy. DRM is, and will always be, a grey area. There will always be the inevitable pull between ?fair use? and content owner?s rights. We, as consumers, need to encourage people to enter the grey area, and when someone does step into the murky, uncharted waters we should reward them for doing so. All too often we expect these people to put their livelihoods on the line. We expect them to fight big corporations. If they do fight, we occasionally offer a paltry amount of money to help defray their legal costs. If they, on the other hand, choose to end their contribution at simply creating a great tool/program/etc., they?re forgotten. It?s easy to forget that, either way, their income has been ripped away from them. With the guarantee that nothing more will come from a donation, most people do the obvious; they stop donating.

If you?re a DVD Decrypter user, chances are you?ve already had some good times with the program. Furthermore, your good times will probably keep coming. After all, it?s a stable, useful program. Shouldn?t the author get to enjoy the fruits of his labor? Besides, maybe, just maybe, it might encourage another developer to enter a grey area.

Rest In Peace DVD Decrypter. We?ll miss you.

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