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Mike Curtis on the format wars

Mike Curtis on the DVD format wars:

While the next gen high def DVD formats will allow for dynamic and active copy protection such as updatable blacklists that ban certain devices from working with the high def content, somebody somewhere will work their way around it and get bootlegs out there. But for most folks, it’s going to end up being a big pain – gotta buy a new player as well as a new TV, and then if your TV isn’t big enough, you can’t tell the difference. For legitimate users, however, this’ll just make things ugly. There has already been talk of HDMI to component adaptors that would tell the security stuff (the HDCP) that it was a “secure” device, and pass on the HD analog component output. Now after having bought your $1000 player, and a multi-hundred dollar adaptor to make your HDTV work with the player, imagine you pop in a new disc that suddenly disables your high def player. “Buh-whaaaaaaaa?” you ask, in John Stewart like fashion – “What the hell?” There’s retroactive, irreversible copy protection available. If the studios decide that your HDMI to component adaptor is a threat, in that somebody somewhere might use it to bootleg high def content, they can include UPDATED lists of “unacceptable” devices on their HD movies. When you pop it in your player, this list gets downloaded into your player’s permanent memory, FOREVER preventing it from working with ANY disk with your little converter box. Then let the class action lawsuits begin. The fix? A partial refund, but not a working player setup I’d bet, and that’d be many years later. Not a pretty scenario.

An extra little evil tidbit – since both HD DVD and Blu Ray are expected to have online capabilities for extra goodies, that also means they’ll have the opportunity to check to see if something’s been modified in a way Hollywood doesn’t like. Since updated blacklists can be accessed in many ways – shipped with the players, updated lists on movies themselves, and even uploaded when connecting via the Internet, it’ll be tough to keep a modified system “clean.” The really devious bit about this is that HOLLYWOOD, not the player manufacturer, holds the keys to your device’s ability to play back content. Conceivably, if a player got shipped with a vulnerability, the studios could chose to issue disks that would disable ALL of those players. That’s like Exxon reserving the right to disable your Honda if they don’t like the way you drive. Or some crazy nonsense like that. Never before have content CREATORS been given so much control over content PLAYBACK technology.

A lengthy article, but full of great current information.