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Pointless user hostility- The FBI “Warning”

September 28th, 2010


Pogue responds to a reader asking the perennial question about the annoyance known as the ‘FBI Warning’.

Every stupid little uncivilized incursion we tolerate because we just assume an annoying thing has to be that way, we screw ourselves by inches. If we know the real deal, we can make informed choices.

I am not a lawyer. I have authored (programmed though it’s hardly really ‘programming’) dozens of commercial DVD titles you have seen on offer at Netflix, Amazon or your local (if it’s still in business) Blockbuster.

Things you should know:

  • The ‘warning’ is not imposed on DVD publishers by the FBI or any other Government Authority.
  • The ‘warning’ does not afford the rights holders for the content on the DVD any additional legal protection. Copyright law applies regardless of whether the warning is there or not.
  • Sometimes, the person who has presumed to ‘warn’ you doesn’t even own, or need to own, the rights to some or all of the content on the DVD you bought or rented.
  • Whether the ‘warning’ is there and whether you can skip it is entirely at the option of the publisher of the disk and the person who authored (programmed) the disk had to go to extra effort to include it and to make it hard to skip.

This means they decided, the studio or producer of the DVD, to treat you like a child and warn you first. To tell you, with the disabling of controls, that you must watch it, even if you paid for the DVD. To invoke the fear of some faceless authority figure as implicitly in control of whether you had to watch it. To cow you into submission to media-big-brother while hiding behind the illusion of some special government stamp of power.

What can you do about it? Complain. Ask for refunds. Bill for your wasted time. Stop buying more of them and tell them why.

Hell, maybe there’s even some fun to be had finding out whether they had permission to use the FBI logo.

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