June 15, 2024

Blu-Ray Tries to Out-DRM HD-DVD

Blu-Ray, one of the two competing next-gen DVD standards, has decided to up the ante by adopting even more fruitless anti-copying mechanism than the rival HD-DVD system. Blu-Ray will join HD-DVD in using the AACS technology (with its competition-limiting digital imprimatur). Blu-Ray will add two more technologies, called ROM-Mark and BD+.

ROM-Mark claims to put a hidden mark on all licensed discs. The mark will be detected by Blu-Ray players, which will refuse to play discs that don’t have it. But, somehow, it is supposed to be impossible for unlicensed disc makers to put marks on their discs. It’s not at all clear how this is supposed to work, but systems of this sort have always failed in the past, because it has always proved possible to make an exact copy of a licensed disc (including the mark).

BD+ will apparently allow the central Blu-Ray entity to update the anti-copying software in Blu-Ray players. This kind of updatability will inevitably add to the cost, complexity, and fragility of Blu-Ray players. Trying to do this raises some nasty technical issues that may not be solvable. I would like to find out more about how they think they can make this happen, especially for (say) cheap, portable players. (This technology was reportedly Fox’s reason for joining the Blu-Ray camp.)

As always, content will be copied regardless of what they try to do, and the main effect of these technologies will be to make player devices more expensive and less reliable, and to limit entry to the market for the devices. My guess is that some movie studio people actually believe these technologies will stop copying; and some know the technology won’t stop copying but want the power to limit entry.

Both groups must be happy to see the Blu-Ray and HD-DVD camps competing to make the most extravagant copy-prevention promises. To law-abiding consumers, each step in this bidding war means more expensive, less capable technologies.


  1. In response to the very first post: “What if the government passes a law which somehow shifts the liability for security holes from the software consumer to the producer…”

    We can tweak this great idea slightly to make it even more effective. How about a law that imposes writhing torturous death to the individual and his/her entire family (children included) who writes a line of code that does not follow security best practices?

  2. I was wondering, who exactly are they pleasing? The consumer or the bigwigs? The way I see it, they don’t care how much they sell, as along as their product is out and free of piracy. In a business standpoint, they are going to lose in the end. Think about it, would they rather sell 1,000,000 copies and have 200,000 pirated verions floating out there, or 500,000 locked down copies? eventually they will ask that question? I heard, it is not drm that
    is evil, but the greedy people who own the rights is the evil ones. They are right. Sure, I do not like DRM right now, but once they will let you copy for archival purposes (copy into anything) or in short, allow us consumers to exercise our LEGAL fair use rights (probably will not happen), then maybe, we can adapt to DRM. In short,
    When the greed goes away, we will come.
    But for right now, we must not adapt to the next generation dvd drives until the drm is more “loose”. we must not buy copy protected CDs, DVDs,
    and everything else alike because, the only we can fight this is with our own wallets. when you buy DRMed discs, you are only feeding their greed.
    Also, we must not buy the next generation consoles because that also infringe on our fair use rights.
    It is time. It is time to use OUR power to choose. It is time to use OUR power to say we will not be abused ANYMORE! It is time to use OUR power to tell them, you are lucky to have us as your consumers because without us, YOU ARE NOTHING!!

  3. Martin Topple says

    Sony and the other studios are running scared. With so much of what they produce these days being remakes anyway why would they be worrying about us copying dvd’s they are afterall copying other people movies ( eg: Italia job, just to name one). There is really little new coming from the studios now which is why so few go to the movies and dvds are released so soon after movie release. They cann’t sell the tickets so they MUST sell the dvd.
    What ever they do there will always be someone out their who will find a way to copy their products be they HD or other. If we are to have to plug our boxtop dvd player into the phone /internet line just so the Authorities , sorry dictators can control them what do we have them for. May as well just stick to on demand from our cable company and put up a middle finger to the studios and microsoft. And anyway there are more important issues. DVD playback on LINUX. Only turbolinux from japan??

  4. Add to this complexity, it seems that we will all have to buy new tv’s and monitors as well thanks to hdcp.

  5. How about making a two tray high definition recorder that will allow a first-generation copy to drive sales? Seems unlikely, but seems the only thing to make sense under these circumstances.

  6. I wonder how long before that central updating feature is used for the first HD-DVD virus. Will DVD players now be vulnerable to being 0wned?

  7. “which will refuse to play discs that don’t have it”

    So yet another barrier for me burning my own footage to disk to send to family members? Brilliant! One question — in what way does this not constitute anti-competetive business practices by taking advantage of a monopoly position?

  8. There is nothing more depressing that reading Freedom to Tinker… Keep up the good work!

  9. HD-DVD fired back with a statement:

    “The content protection of HD DVD provides an equivalent level of security as the system advocated by Fox for Blu-Ray,” the HD DVD consortium said in a statement. “We also believe the Blu-Ray disc format and proposed copy protection system may result in playability and reliability issues for the consumer.”

    I wonder what those playability and reliability issues might be?

  10. Wes Felter says

    BD+ may be similar to SPDC, which you can find some details about. SPDC contains some pretty clever techniques; too bad all that cleverness was wasted on something no user wants.

  11. Alexander Wehr says

    I like to keep up with the times, and put out money on the latest and greatest.

    Yet, I see these technologies going the same way as the failed formats of svhs and LD.

    What makes technology great in this age is it’s interoperability and added consumer utility.

    I just don’t see compelling evidence of this in either format, even in computer data storage applications.

    For video, today’s DVD technology, if properly mastered, works fine in providing clear resolution to my brand new apple HD monitor. There’s already been at least one revolution in the way DVD’s were mastered since they were introduced. Another would make them just as current.
    DVD offered substantial technological gains for the increased expense in terms of infrastructure adoption and media. No more tracking errors, gradual breakdown of media, eaten tapes. It offered features above and beyond simply better picture, including instant skipping, degreed fast forward, and interactive features.

    Sure, the disks for HD-DVD and Blu-ray are higher data capacity, but, with the write speeds of current DVD drives and ata hard drives as measuring posts for speed, i question the efficiency of such high capacity formats as removable media.
    The disks will also be expensive compared to plain hard disks, which are technologically mature, hermetically sealed, and can be just as serviceable as removable media with USB/firewire connectivity.

    So what does HD offer to consumers? Besides better picture, nothing really. Then there is the DRM detraction which will assuredly be public before the majority of the public is ready to adopt the new media.

    I do see one application of this technology which would be useful, though. The current design of next generation console games would benefit from the added space for accomodation of richer and more lifelike games, while still keeping the instant plug&play gratification of simply loading in the disk and blasting away your favorite enemies.

    the DVD audio vs. CD formats set an example. Most of the public sees the cd as “good enough”, and with all this “revocability” garbage just waiting to blow up in both the public and studio’s face, the future for this new format has yet more odds stacked against it.