Netflix’s DRM Turned Me Into a Pirate

June 25, 2008

Ok, so I was a pirate before I attempted to get Netflix Watch Instantly working, but the truth isn’t as controversial.  Here’s the story: I read on Lifehacker, via Joystiq, that it’s possible to play Netflix’s ‘Watch Instantly’ offering via an xbox 360 extender on my TV.  Awesome!  I no longer have to go download TV shows from less-than-reputable sources –  I can legitimately pay to watch these shows and support them.

So I sign up for a Netflix account, grab all the necessary software, and try to install Netflix’s plugin to allow me to watch the shows through my browser (which is required to get the xbox version working).  I’m on Firefox 3 and it tells me I need to be in Internet Explorer. Huh?  Well, ok I guess I can fire that up just for this… where’s that ie7 launcher again?  I fire up ie7 and install the plugin and try to watch an episode of 30 Rock, but instead of the hottie that is Tina Fey, I see this:

Ouch. Well, long story short – I spent a few minutes on phone support with Netflix and they basically told me I have to do two things:

  1. Downgrade my monitor connection to VGA. (I’m using DVI but my monitors don’t support HDCP)
  2. Search google to see if there are any homebrew fixes for my video card drivers.  The person said based on her experience, I would probably have to roll back my drivers even if I did switch to a VGA connection.

Wow.  And all I wanted to do was watch some damn TV shows.  I did some digging and found this article that matched the exact same problem I had:

Netflix’s software allows them to look at the video card, cables and the monitor that you are using and when they checked mine out, it was apparently a little too high def to pass their DRM filters.
Because my computer allows me to send an unrestricted HDTV feed to my monitor, Hollywood has decided to revoke my ability to stream 480 resolution video files from Netflix. In order to fix my problem, Netflix recommended that I downgrade to a lower res VGA setup.

As part of their agreement with Hollywood, Netflix uses a program called COPP (Certified Output Protection Protocal). COPP is made by Microsoft and the protocol restricts how you are able to transfer digital files off of your PC. When I ran COPP to identify the error on my machine, it gave me an ominous warning that “the exclusive semaphere is owned by another process.”

My Netflix technician told me that he had never heard of this particular error and thought that it was unique to my setup. When I consulted Microsoft, they suggested that I consult the creator of the program. Since Microsoft wrote the COPP software, I wasn’t sure who to turn to after that.

Did I follow these steps to possible success?  Did I do any more research, search google, or rollback my drivers?  Hell no.  I cancelled my new Netflix subscription and searched for a 30 rock torrent.  Ooooh, 500+ seeders on season 3, kick ass.