| Main |

First, a quick reminder: if you're interested in the TV industry's new enthusiasm for the Net as a distribution platform, please attend a free panel discussion that the Times is presenting Monday, Jan. 22, in Culver City. The panel consists of five executives from various parts of this emerging world, including the networks, production companies and online video outlets. For more details or to reserve a seat, visit the Zócalo site. When I say "reserve a seat," I mean that in the same way as most busy restaurants and airlines do. The event is overbooked, but if you show up a little early, you'll get in. And if you stay late, you'll get free food.

As I noted in my last post, a loose confederation of attackers have broken the main copy-protection technology protecting HD DVD discs. At last count, keys have been posted online that supposedly will unlock almost half of the discs in that format. Ummm, not good.

Hollywood has a number of options. First, it could revoke the software that's apparently being used to discover the keys to individual movies. That would slow down the arrival of new keys, but it might simply be a pause in the action; clever engineers will invariably figure out a way to find keys in the new version of the program(s). Second, Universal Studios -- the only major Hollywood studio that's backing the HD DVD format exclusively -- could embrace Blu-ray and its extra layers of security. That, I think, would be a death blow to HD DVD. Third, Hollywood could lose interest in packaged media entirely, shifting their focus to downloadable high-def movies with better security. The market isn't ready for this yet, I don't think, because it's too hard to get a DRM-wrapped movie from the Net to a TV set, but that problem will be solved eventually. Or fourth, the studios could ignore the hack and try to duplicate what they did with conventional DVDs, whose electronic locks also were broken early on: make the HD DVD value proposition attractive enough that most consumers won't bother looking for the bootlegged versions.

I wouldn't bet on option no. 4, but the studios would be wise to make the value proposition of high-def disks better. One important step would be to enable buyers to copy discs onto their computer hard drives, home servers and portable devices. Granted, that feature -- which is built into the AACS copy-protection scheme -- wouldn't eliminate the incentive to attack the copy protection. Muslix, the hacker behind BackupHDDVD says he/she started attacking the locks because his/her computer wouldn't play a new HD DVD disc, despite his/her new HD DVD player and HDTV monitor, because the PC's video card didn't meet the AACS requirements. But it would lower the righteous indignation/fair-use factor. That's important not in stopping hacks, but in reducing the number of people motivated to take advantage of them.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference :


The comments to this entry are closed.

Our Blogger
Times editorial writer Jon Healey pens opinion pieces about a variety of business issues, and blogs about technologies that are changing the entertainment industry's business model.

Search this blog

Subscribe to this Blog - What is RSS?

Now Playing

Where I've Been Lately