Managed Copy on the Way

The entertainment industry has always been dead set against home recording. However, in what potentially may be a major departure, the security specs for Blu-ray and HD DVD may soon be altered to allow legal copying under limited circumstances.

ArsTechnica picked up on a report quoting Dan Glickman, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, as saying managed-copy specs would be ready by year end, and got confirmation from the HD DVD Promotion Group. The feature would be incorporated into AACS, the digital rights management scheme for Blu-ray and HD DVD.

Ken Fisher of ArsTechnica speculated on what managed copy might mean to consumers. It all depends on how the studios decide to implement the feature: "For instance, a user might have the option of making one free backup or could be charged a nominal fee to create a version suitable for mobile usage. Studios could even permit multiple copies at discounted pricing, allowing consumers to make copies for friends and neighbors at a fraction of the original cost." Another likely use: home networking.

Managed copy is mandatory in HD DVD and optional in Blu-ray. That means the spec, when finalized, would work retroactively for all HD DVD discs in circulation. In Blu-ray the implementation would be more selective. In either case, whether (and how) the feature would actually be used would be decided by the studios on a title-by-title basis.

The unexpected news comes as hackers have been distributing AACS encryption keys. Are the studios merely bowing to reality? Or is this just the working out of a longterm plan to provide flexibility and lure consumers to the new formats? Whatever the reason, managed copy should give the struggling high-def disc formats a leg up against their biggest competitor--the existing standard-def DVD format.

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