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.