Playstation 2 Lets Users Bypass DVD Copy-Protection Scheme

The cat has really gotten out of the bag with Sony's new Playstation 2. In mid-March, we reported that the machine can play Digital Versatile Discs from all regions, reinforcing one of the film industry's biggest fears: that the new format will circumvent carefully orchestrated release dates. Now it appears that the machine can do more.

At about the same time the region-code glitch was discovered, Japanese users began reporting that they could use the Playstation's analog RGB output to make videotape copies of DVD movies, thereby defeating the Macrovision encoding that prevents consumers from making clean dubs from DVDs. Much sleep will no doubt be lost in Hollywood over this latest revelation—the proliferation of clean, free copies is one of the entertainment industry's most persistent nightmares.

The news has been an embarrassment to Sony, according to Yoshiko Hara of the Electronic Engineering Times, which reported the "flaw" on March 24. The problem could prompt the development of new and more rigorous copy-protection technology, Hara speculates, mentioning that there is some question as to whether Sony's computer entertainment division has violated a DVD industry agreement by including the analog RGB interface on the Playstation 2. Some observers point out that the Playstation 2 may not be a standalone DVD player, but a personal computer. Computers are allowed RGB outputs, according to industry rules, but DVD players are not.

It is unclear whether Hollywood will attempt to take action against Sony over the issue. Sony spokesmen say the company did nothing wrong in designing the Playstation 2.