Qflix copy protection aims to enable DVD movie downloads

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Qflix copy protection aims to enable DVD movie downloads

Hollywood studios have approved a new DVD copy-protection technology called Qflix that they claim will remove a major obstacle consumers now face with burning movies they buy digitally over the Internet and burn onto a DVD that will play everywhere. If you recall, I wrote about this here and here

If you recall, I stated back in April - "If Hollywood makes it easy for users to download and play movies on their television, they could make a killing. Just look at what Apple iTunes did after everybody said that no one would pay for music in the "Napster age". Apple proved them wrong. Hollywood could do the same if they make the user experience as easy and simple as Apple did." Ironically, the example I gave - Apple iTunes - is now rumored will offer movie rental downloads. (with DRM embedded, but of course!)

Well, it looks like Hollywood is indeed planning on letting users download movies on the Internet, burn to a DVD, and play on a DVD player. The catch? Well, as I predicted, they plan to install DRM as part of this new Qflix system. Sonic Solutions Inc. today introduced the Qflix system for adding a standard digital lock to DVDs burned in a computer or a retail kiosk. Apparently, it's leveraging the existing “content scrambling system,” or CSS, which has already been cracked by "DVD Jon" Jon Johansen, as well as several pieces of software (DVD Decrypter, DVD Shrink, DVDFAB Decrypter, etc). However,  CSS comes standard on commercial DVDs and DVD players today already contain CSS decryption which allows for playback. Movie download services such as Movielink, CinemaNow and Amazon.com’s Unbox haven't used CSS because Hollywood fears widespread DVD burning could lead to piracy.

Some download services have experimented with proprietary protection algorithms, but this results in playback problems and usually can only be played on a PC and not a standard DVD player. Who wants to watch a movie only on their PC? With the new Qflix standard, consumers would be subject to restrictions placed by the movie service and studios. For instance, using the copy-protection technology in Microsoft's Windows Media player, a service could specify that a given movie can not be burned more than two times.

According to MSNBC:
Sonic has been working for three years to develop the technology and get studios to agree to amend the CSS license to allow a “download to burn” option."

The initial companies participating in Qflix include Verbatim Corp., which makes blank discs, the movie download service Movielink, video-on-demand provider Akimbo Systems Inc. and the Walgreen Co. chain of drug stores.

Studios must still figure out pricing schemes that appeal to consumers and protect its lucrative retail business. Some retailers, such as Wal-Mart, have talked about starting their own online downloading services or installing kiosks to burn DVDs in the store.

But here's the real catch. Consumers will need a new DVD burner that includes the latest software OR they will have to upgrade the firmware on their DVD player. Raise your hands if you know of someone who updates their DVD player firmware. I doubt mom and pop will do it. Certainly techies upgrade their DVD firmware. But do you honestly think techies are going to install a new firmware that ADDS additional CSS encryption technology? Often times the firmware upgrade fails and you're left with a dysfunctional DVD burner - it's a tricky operation - trust me, I'm bricked a few DVD burners. Anyway, according to MSNBC, Plextor, a Qflix partner, is expected to market Qflix-enabled DVD burners soon.

Of course, even with Qflix copy-protection, I wonder how long it will take before it is cracked. I'm betting less than a day. Place your bets!

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