August 6th, 2014 Brian Herzog
A few weeks ago, I mentioned a reference question from a patron who couldn't play a library DVD in her laptop.
The problem seemed to be that it was a purple DVD-R DVD, rather than a regular silvery shiny one, and it wouldn't play in her DVD-RW drive.
I requested the same copy of the disc, so I could experiment and see if it would play for me. The item was Chapter Two, and it was indeed purple.
But more interesting was the note on the back:
Besides the "this disc is copy-protected" icon, the interesting part is the last line:
This disc is expected to play back in DVD video "play only" devices, and may not play back in other DVD devices, including recorders and PC drives.
I don't often read the fine print on DVD containers, but I have not seen this before.
Also, none of this would be surprising if it were the regular silver disc. The fact that it's the purple is what surprises me. After I posted this question, a reader (thanks Dot!) sent me a link explaining why DVD-Rs are purple - which makes it sound like whatever operation made the DVD the library purchased is based out of some guy's garage.
I'm sure that's not the case, and although I have not contacted the production company, my guess is that it's just a small-run video house that doesn't have the large expensive equipment. They probably produce DVDs using DVD-R disc and also put DRM on them to satisfy the studios, and then sell them retail through vendors that are also used by libraries. Probably all perfectly legal, but it's just unusual.
Anyway, since I had a copy of the DVD, I tried playing it in a variety of computers and with a variety of software - and for me, it played in every single case. Windows XP, Windows 7, and Windows 8, using Windows Media Player, VLC, and PowerDVD (obviously, Macs don't exist in my world).
As a result of this testing, it seems that the problem the patron was having is with her laptop. Another reader (thanks Plutia!) suggested it might be possible to change the settings for the laptop's DVD drive so that operates as a READ-ONLY device. I didn't try this, but if the patron continues to have trouble, I will suggest it.
July 20th, 2014 Brian Herzog
Here's something that was entirely new to me - I didn't have a very good answer at the time, and, really, I still don't.
A patron called with this complaint:
I checked out two DVDs from other libraries, and am having trouble with them. I only have a laptop at home for watching movies - no television with a regular DVD player - and these two DVDs won't play in it. Other library DVDs I've gotten in the past have worked okay, but I noticed these two are purple. Why won't they play?
Uh... I had no idea. I thought purple DVDs could mean either just purple-colored plastic as some marketing gimmick, or, a colored data side could mean a DVD-R. I asked her to verify that these were real library DVDs, with the library's stickers and everything else on them (as opposed to a copy someone just burned and kept the original for themselves [which happens]), and sure enough, they did.
So they were real DVDs that some library purchased, yet they wouldn't play in her laptop.
I did some quick web searching, and found that other people do indeed have trouble playing purple DVDs. Mostly it's people with PlayStations (for which some guy has a tape-based solution).
Since I struck out there, I thought I'd look up these DVDs in the catalog to see if I could learn anything - and surprisingly, I did. One record had this note:
"This disc is compatible with all DVD players authorized in the U.S. and Canada"--Container.
So much for that. However, the record for the other DVD included this note:
"This disc is expected to play back in DVD video "play only" devices, and may not play back in other DVD devices, including recorders and PC drives"--Container.
Ehh... so it's another misguided DRM "feature." Now my best guess is that these DVDs are encoded to only work on play-only DVD players, whereas this patron's laptop's DVD drive was a read/write drive. I love that media studios treat everyone like potential criminals.
Anyway, I'd never noticed these purple DVDs, but I put one on request for myself to test it in various laptops I have. But some cataloger somewhere must have known these are limited-use DVDs, since not all of our patrons will be able to use them. My vote is to never buy these again.
Has anyone else encountered these? Am I right in thinking this is a "security" "feature?" Does anyone know of a way for my patron - who only has her laptop and no other DVD player - to watch these movies at home? Thanks.