How many times have you sat down to watch a freshly-purchased DVD and thought “if only I had a second copy I could put on my iPod?
” Well, me neither. Nevertheless, it would appear that there is
a market out there – at least according to Lionsgate Films.
The studio will be the first to incorporate iTunes Digital Copy on their DVD releases, starting with Rambo
and The Eye
. The idea is realised by storing a second low-resolution copy of the film on the DVD in a DRM-enclosed format which can only be unlocked via the entry of a printed code included with the disc. Once entered, the code unlocks the video for use in a single iTunes library – although it's apparently possible to re-load the film multiple times should you remove it from the library to save space.
The DRM included with the discs requires a working internet connection at the time of unlocking: when the code is entered it is transmitted to a central server which checks to see if that particular unique code has already been used. If so, you're out of luck.
In the US – which is where Lionsgate will be starting with the tech – it's already legal to make copies of products you legal own for 'fair use' reasons, which includes making a copy you can play on a portable device. With the software required to bypass the Content Scrambling System used to protect DVD videos readily available and packages which automate the process of creating iPod-friendly mobile copies of commercial DVDs being sold perfectly openly, I can't help but feel that iTunes Digital Copy is a technology that's missed the boat.
Here in the UK it's a different matter though: we have access to the same software as our cousins across the pond, but we have no 'fair use' exemption to the copyright laws. If we decrypt a commercial disc we legally own in order to create a duplicate copy – either to protect the original from damage, or to re-compress it so we can put it on a portable device – we're infringing copyright. While that doesn't stop everyone – or, as the case may be, anyone – it would be quite nice to be able to do the same thing without the nagging feeling we're 'stealing'.
Unfortunately, I don't have an iPod or a copy of iTunes installed – as a result, I guess I'll have to go without the wonder of a feature-length film on a 3” screen.
What do you think? Is Lionsgate desperately trying to keep DVD a viable sales channel when digital distribution of standard-definition content is looking more and more promising, or does the technology have real promise? Share your thoughts over in the forums