Macrovision, the company whose name became a synonym for copy-protection ofVHS movies, today announced a technology to thwart rippers of DVDs.
The technology, called RipGuard DVD, is the first product to be verifiedthrough a new program offered by THX, a San Rafael, California, provider ofquality assurance services for the entertainment industry.
“We have come up with a format-based technology that uses a unique digitalframework per title, and it stops these rippers cold,” Adam Gervin, senior marketingdirector for Macrovision’s Entertainment Technologies Group, toldTechNewsWorld.
97 Percent Effective
“We’ve done a lot of research on the market share of rippers,” he continued.”We think we’ve got more data than anyone else in the world on this. And weknow that RipGuard DVD is effective today against 97 percent of the rippersin use in the market.”
“Since studios are losing over a billion dollars a year as a result of theserippers, we believe that we can prevent 97 percent of that revenue lossthrough RipGuard DVD,” he added.
Efforts by TechNewsWorld to reach the Motion Picture Association of Americafor comment on RipGuard were unavailing.
Gervin explained that RipGuard causes ripper software to crash or stall,thus preventing it from copying the content of a DVD.
Similar schemes have been used for music CDs with mixed results. In somecases, protected CDs wouldn’t play in some CD players, which caused aconsumer uproar in Europe and slowed to a dribble the introduction ofprotected discs into the United States.
Acutely aware of past copy-protection debacles, Macrovision chose to have anindependent authority, THX, verify that RipGuard wouldn’t interfere with aDVD movie’s quality or performance.
Compelling Consumer Value
“We believe that the best way to fight piracy is to create compellingconsumer value,” Steve Weinstein, Macrovision executive vice president and general manager,said in a statement. “In developing RipGuard DVD, we turnedto THX as a noted industry expert to ensure that RipGuard DVD delivers theultimate consumer experience, while protecting the digital content of thevideo producers.”
In the same statement, Sheau Ng, chief technical officer of THX, noted, “THXDigital Works performed compatibility and performance quality testing ofRipGuard DVD titles, which revealed no degradation of the digital audio andvideo when compared with the original material.”
John Hallman, THX director of strategic planning, told TechNewsWorld thatRipGuard is the first product verified by the company’s lab. “We’ve beendoing this work internally for quite some time,” he explained.
“Making it aprogram made sense at this time based on the work with Macrovision. Weenvision that ‘THX Verified’ will be a program that we extend to a number ofdifferent areas, especially as it relates to the audio-video quality fromdigital cinema to the home theater,” Hallman said.
Mauling or Motivating Pirates?
Implementing a “lockdown” approach like RipGuard — in which all copying istaboo — could encourage DVD piracy by forcing consumers with legitimateneeds for DVD copies to meet those needs through pirate networks orillegal ripping tools.
“The movie industry is more interested in stoppingthe illegal copying of movies than they are interested in allowing legalcopying,” Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst of the Enderle Groupin San Jose, California, told TechNewsWorld. “As long as they stay that way,they’re going to fuel a market of folks [who] illegally copy movies.”
As long as a DVD plays normally, copy protection won’t be an issue for theaverage consumer, asserted Ted Schadler, a principal analyst at ForresterResearch in Boston.
“You’re never going to prevent hard core pirates from ripping,” he toldTechNewsWorld. “That’s just impossible. What you try to do is make it lessthan just a simple nuisance factor, because if it’s a nuisance factor, a lotof would-be honest people will steal it. It’s that ten dollar bill on thesidewalk. People are going to pick it up.”
Tougher Protection in Wings
RipGuard is just the start of tough protection for DVDs. With theintroduction of high-definition DVDs, copy-protection will get tougher yet, observed RossRubin, director for industry analysis for the NPD Group in Port Washington,New York.
“One of the key features of the next generation of DVDs is very strongencryption,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Blu-ray, for example, uses very, verystrong encryption with a code that changes for every six minutes of video.Even if someone were able to crack one of the codes, it would only unlock asmall part of the film.”
“High definition is really the battleground,” he said, “because, even thoughthe standard definition market will be larger for several years, the highdefinition DVDs come very close to, if not equaling, the film experience. Soin a sense, Hollywood is risking putting its crown jewels out there, so theywant to ensure that those assets are protected.”