When a good format “wins” for all the wrong reasons

Although I’m definitely in the group of people that sees Blu-ray as the undoubtedly superior technology of the two high density optical disc competitors, and should be happy that the tide seems to be turning toward Blu-ray “winning” the war before a shot is fired or product released, it seems the reason Paramount and Warner Bros “defected” to Blu-ray was because of the Digital Rights Management (DRM) supported in that format is much more restrictive than for HD DVD.

Both formats support Advanced Access Content System (AACS) as the primary DRM and Blu-ray has two additional DRM control agents included. However the point of difference, and the reason Bill Gates said Blu-ray was “anti consumer” is because HD DVD mandates that all discs support Managed Copy, while Blu-ray leaves the option to activate Managed Copy to individual disc authors and studios – meaning in practice that no Blu-ray disc will be allowed to be copied to a hard drive or sent around a home entertainment network. Managed Copy allows this extended use, although the amount permitted beyond a basic single copy to a hard drive, is still up to the content owner.

Blu-ray’s non-requirement for compulsory Managed Copy is why 20th Century Fox came exclusively to Blu-ray and apparently why Paramount, and then today Warner Bros, opted to support both formats, leaving only Universal Studios supporting only HD DVD (while other parts of the Universal group are already in the Blu-ray group).

Forrester Research are declaring Blu-ray the winner but that, given Forrester’s previous record that could be the best news Toshiba has heard recently! Even though Forrester Research are predicting it, Blu-ray does seem to have the momentum now, mostly because of the draconian DRM they’ve chosen to apply.

Which is sad. Blu-ray has a longer future than HD DVD and more interactive tools in the specification. However, even with the momentum, the DRM will probably cause both formats to be declared Dead On Arrival in the face of more flexible media delivery, with reasonable DRM, from suppliers like Apple. Sure Apple’s doing 320 x 240 now but it could do HD “any time” they decided to and had the product for.

The net result of restrictive DRM will be that more programming opportunities open for independent producers who bypass the studio and networks going straight to their customers with new distribution models and payment methods.

1 reply on “When a good format “wins” for all the wrong reasons”

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  1. my “website” above was a practice blog on dv. Though now extant, you may find some interest in their links.

    Otherwise, I like how you notice some of the political implications in the changing landscape of video and content distribution. For this reason, I thought the following article would interest you if you have not already read it.

    link: http://www.engadget.com/2006/04/20/the-clicker-the-part-of-blue-that-has-me-seeing-red/

    http://www.engadget.com/2006/04/20/the-clicker-the-part-of-blue-that-has-me-seeing-red/

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