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 Someone tried to burn it?
A few weeks ago we got some coupons in the mail from Hollywood Video promoting their new Springville location, so today we decided to rent some movies at a price that I would consider fair. (No, I don't consider their nearly $5 regular fee fair.) One of the movies I rented was "About a Boy," a recent Hugh Grant romantic comedy. Upon arriving home, I discovered that our DVD player refused to play or even recognize the disc. Karen looked at it and noticed that it looked like it had been scratched and someone had tried to resurface it to repair the scratches. I've seen a few resurfaced discs and have never been impressed with the results, but this one was incredibly terrible. I was not even the least bit surprised that it wouldn't read. So I took the disc back to swap it for a good one. You won't even believe what the HV employee told me...

When I handed the disc back to the guy I mentioned that it looked like someone had tried to resurface the disc.

"No, what happened is that someone tried to burn it," he told me without bothering to even look at the disc. "Someone tried to burn it?" I ask in the most incredulous manner I can manage. "Yep, someone tried to burn it. You know, they have these new DVD burners now, and you can burn a DVD with it." I tried to give him my condescending you-don't-have-the-slightest-clue-what-you're-talking-about look, but he must have read it as the blank stare, I'm-an-idiot look. Either that or he thought he could bail himself out. "Yeah, DVD burners use a different laser, and stuff, and since the DVD is encrypted, the burner can't read it, and stuff." "Really?" I sneer. He's still not getting the clue. "Yeah, it's a real bummer, 'cause it ruins our disc and their disc and we don't have any idea who did it, and stuff." By now, he's finished with the disc exchange so I grab the new one and get out of there before I overcome my reservations and launch into a ten minute diatribe about his misconceptions. (Sorry to subject you to the rantings instead.) I can only hope that it wasn't Hollywood Video anti-copy propaganda that I was hearing. No company would use outright falsehoods to deter illegal copying, would they? Oh wait, the MPAA and RIAA do that every day. Just the same, I have a feeling that Hollywood Video wouldn't stoop that low since they deal so directly with the consumers and it's not really in their best interest to do so. I do have a DVD burner, and I can truthfully say that I have never copied a rented DVD, but as I like to make backup copies of my own, purchased DVDs, I have copied my own personal DVDs. It is true that the disc is usually encrypted, but the encryption used is so bad that it was broken years ago by a Norwegian teenager and is now easily circumvented. But even if it hadn't been broken, how would failing to read an encrypted disc destroy the disc? We're talking about encryption, not self-desctruct mechanisms, right? It is also true that a burner has a different laser, which is used for burning, not for reading. In other words, when reading the disc to be copied, the laser is exactly the same as a reader laser. What good would a DVD burner be if it destroyed originals? The higher powered laser used for burning is only activated when a blank disc is in the drive and the write process is started (or in the case of a re-writable disc, when a used disc is in the drive and the erase process is started). Even if the higher powered laser were activated by some bug in the DVD burner, I doubt if it would do any damage to the disc. Originals are not burned, they are pressed, or stamped. They use an entirely different material for their media substrate. The laser would probably just reflect right off the disc and not harm it at all. Now, let's assume for a moment that it actually is possible that a disc is destroyed when someone tries to copy it with a DVD burner. How could the video store have no idea who did it? It's no different than any other damaged disc or tape, right? If customer "A" brings back a disc with no complaints and then customer "B" rents it and returns it with complaints that it no longer plays, then the store knows that either "A" or "B" is the perpetrator. In most cases, "A" will have returned it either not realizing that it was damaged, or hoping that the store wouldn't notice and he'd get away with it. In the other case, where customer "B" damaged the disc, she takes it back hoping that since she reports it and claims innocence, customer "A" will be blamed. The point is, the store has a very good idea of who did it. The truth is, they know it's not worth their while to start pointing fingers at people, potentially angering customers. All they need to do is watch for people with a history of being customer "A" or "B" and cancel their memberships when it becomes apparent that they aren't responsible renters. Since we have been customer "B" twice now, and no questions were even asked, I assume that this is the current policy. So, I guess since stories have to have morals, we'll put this one in the "Don't believe everything people tell you" category. And by the way, the movie was pretty good. It was pretty funny, with your average number of PG-13 off-colour jokes, etc. (Yes, I did say "off-colour." The movie happens in England. Clever, don't you think?)

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