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.