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Amazon Went a Little Nuts on Securing Its Video Platform

I am working my way up to launching an SF fan blog called, so lately I have been rewatching SF series like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and tweeting commentary on details like the uniforms or the many appearances of Janice Rand.

On Friday night I realized that it would really help if I took screenshots to go along with my tweets, and since I was watching on my Fire tablet I immediately started pressing the power and volume buttons (this is a standard screenshot trick for Android) while watching a video.

This is what I got as a screenshot.

No, I didn’t have the bad luck of catching an interstitial break; this was supposed to show a scene from a 4th season DS9 episode, but does not.

Amazon has rigged their video platform so that it will only return a black rectangle any time someone takes a screenshot.

In a time where the MPAA bribes movie theater employees to call the cops if they even glimpse a smartphone in a theater, Amazon is apparently not going to take any chances.

Never mind that I can find screenshots and clips online, or that there are many legal reasons to take a screenshot; Amazon made sure that there was no possible way that even a single frame of a single video can be pirated on its tablet.

And no, this was not a one-off fluke; here are a few more screenshots from DS9 and Downton Abbey. (This time I also caught the menus so you could tell I wasn’t making this up.)

Is this the most absurd anti-piracy policy, or what?

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Michael August 30, 2017 um 10:20 pm

What do they think you’re going to do, hit the screenshot button at a perfect 30 times a second for 45 mins and stitch together a soundless copy of the show to share in a torrent that no one would want to download?

Nate Hoffelder August 30, 2017 um 10:41 pm


Hussman August 31, 2017 um 8:14 am

Do you run swear trek on Twitter then?

Nate Hoffelder August 31, 2017 um 9:03 am

that’s someone else’s work.

Bob Tudley August 31, 2017 um 10:28 am

Swear Trek is getting pretty well known these days, with the twitter feed and tumblr getting a lot of celebrity and media attention. Not sure it’s the best idea to use that name for your site. Not from any kind of legalistic IP perspective, just that people are likely to confuse the two.

Nate Hoffelder August 31, 2017 um 12:27 pm

really? I knew about it, but I don’t think very much of it. What celebrity attention has it received?

P.S. This kind of feedback is half the reason I mentioned it, so I do appreciate you speaking up.

Marilynn Byerly August 31, 2017 um 11:44 am

I just finished reading this article on how little a copyrighted item can be used. It’s just as well you can’t catch a screen shot.

Nate Hoffelder August 31, 2017 um 12:45 pm

I’m not not sure that is relevant.

It has the subtext of commercial use while the Fire tablet is a consumer product. These are entirely different sets of starting conditions, and we know for certain that fair use applies in the latter.

Tarwin September 5, 2017 um 2:05 am

Also, there’s a big difference in the situations due to content. Reproducing a picture for any amount of time is reproducing the work in its entirety. A screenshot of a video is but a tiny fraction (even the seven seconds mentioned in the article would be less than one percent of a standard sitcom episode). And as stated there, quantity is one factor (plus all the other ones including criteria for fair use).

Rimon Kade August 31, 2017 um 2:38 pm

It’s not the Amazon Video app in general. I have versions of the app on a Moto G1 phone running Android 4.4, an R-Box Pro TV box running Android 6.1, and a Gen6 FireHD8 running a 1.02…Tablet…Fargo… version. I can do screen caps on the phone and the TV box, but not the Fire tablet.

, and I can do screen caps on the first two, but not the last.

Nate Hoffelder August 31, 2017 um 3:02 pm

Then it would have to be an OS level block, which is weird given that Amazon let you take scrensnaps of apps, the menus, and jut about anything else on the tablet – just not videos.

Tom S August 31, 2017 um 3:43 pm

This is more pervasive than you may imagine. I am guessing that where the video stream is encrypted, screenshot capture cannot work. For example, try Netfliix or Hulu (on Fire or iOS). You can take screenshots of YouTube video (or at least most of it). It’s a feature, and everyone does it.

Anthony Pero September 1, 2017 um 8:52 am

I was able to screenshot on both Amazon and Netflix on my Mac using both the built in OS command and a Chrome app.

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt September 3, 2017 um 9:53 pm

Time for a camera.

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