Like everyone, I do get a little egg on my face sometimes. One of those times was a few years ago, when a professor called me asking how one could download a YouTube video. I replied, “I’m not sure there’s a way to do that,” and his perturbed response was, “Of COURSE you can! There’s a Firefox plugin that does it, I just can’t remember the name of it!” Ouch!
Securing Your Video or Audio Media
Streaming Video Requires Capturing It
Another way to secure media is to use a streaming server, such that the media isn’t downloaded, only played in real time — in which case the media hoarder’s problem becomes how to capture the video instead of just downloading it. There are plenty of utilities for doing this, ranging from expensive solutions like Camtasia to freebie solutions like Apple QuickTime (on the Mac) and even a handful of browser plugins. Not to mention that computer video output could be routed through a DVD recorder, DVR, or some other recording device. In a pinch, a desperate media hoarder could simply resort to pointing a camera phone at the screen.
The shortest way I’ve heard this principle expressed is, once your media is on a screen you don’t control, you don’t control it anymore!
So, Then, How to Deal with the Problem?
Thus the issue becomes how to deal with this problem that has no rock-solid technical solution. One way is to not put media “out there” that you wouldn’t want shared under any circumstances. Another is to only share with individuals you trust; that becomes problematic, perhaps, when the people you are sharing with are a host of students. Not to say that students are necessarily untrustworthy, but after all, W&M wouldn’t need an Honor Code if everyone acted honorably all the time.
It does occur to me, though, that a statement like “By remaining in this course, you promise on your honor not to share electronic course materials with others” on the syllabus is probably at least as effective and comforting as a defeatable technical attempt at security-by-obscurity.