Lionsgate DVDs to include portable video

March 11, 2008 | 08:47

Tags: #dvd #ipod #itunes

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.
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