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Summary:

The good news: Movie studios recognize that strict DRM on DVDs helps make piracy and illegal downloading an attractive route for consumers s…

The good news: Movie studios recognize that strict DRM on DVDs helps make piracy and illegal downloading an attractive route for consumers so various schemes are now being rolled out to let users copy their DVDs onto multiple devices, including PCs and handheld devices. PC World takes a look at new offerings from Twentieth Century Fox and Warner Brothers that trial DVD copying on a limited basis. And, yes, this is a very limited launch; Fox’s new Fox Digital Copy technology is only being offered for the Live Free or Die Hard Collector’s Edition, while Warner’s system applies only to the upcoming release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

The bad news: The new systems don’t offer anywhere near the same flexibility as, say, copying a CD onto your computer or iPod. The FAQ for Fox Digital Copy lays out all of the requirements and restrictions, including the fact that files will only work on Windows PlaysForSure-enabled devices, i.e. no Video iPod or PSP, or even a Zune for that matter. (Here’s a list of all of video devices that are PlaysForSure). Also, users may have to connect to the internet to get a software update for the files to work on the computer. See the PC World review mentioned above for how it all worked in practice. Although not released yet, the Warner Brothers approach is expected to be similarly limiting.

For people who play by the rules the new offerings (and their future iterations) may make life easier. But people inclined to illegally download movies or who know how to rip a DVD onto their computer probably aren’t going to change their habits. Also, these systems face competition from technology like that offered by Sonic Solutions, which goes the other way, allowing users to burn a DVD from their downloaded films.

  1. This sentence:

    "The good news: Movie studios recognize that strict DRM on DVDs helps make piracy and illegal downloading an attractive route for consumers so various schemes are now being rolled out to let users copy their DVDs onto multiple devices, including PCs and handheld devices."

    makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. How does DRM on DVD's make piracy and illegal downloading attractive to consumers? You are joking right?

    Christopher Levy
    clevy@buydrm.com
    http://thedrmblog.com

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  2. Christopher –

    If we emphasize the word "strict" that was in the sentence that you quoted, does that help? DRM technology is neither good nor bad in itself, it is a tool; when that tool is used in a way that makes customers feel that they're being arbitrarily denied the ability to do something reasonable, it will make some of those customers look for other alternatives — legal or otherwise.

    Take the case outlined above: if I purchase a copy of "Live Free or Die Hard Collector’s Edition," is it unreasonable of me to want to watch it on my Zune if that's the portable video player that I own? Even if I own a PlaysForSure-approved Zen Vision and can enjoy Bruce Willis as I ride the subway home, will my Zen Vision support watching "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" when it comes out?

    With DRM used as it is at present, my choice of playback device (computer operating system, personal media player, even DVD player in some cases) eliminates the possibility of legal, authorized playback of certain content.

    When the customer's options are legally purchasing "Live Free or Die Hard" along with a new $399 Zen Vision to watch it on or illegally downloading a copy that they can watch on the PSP that they already own, I have to agree with Mr. Weisenthal that DRM can make piracy and illegal downloading attractive.

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