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High Definition DVD’s: Will Anyone Care?

The announcement of a release date for the first Blu-Ray DVD’s brought about a mixed response. Beside my disdain for two competing versions of high definition playback devices, my next thought runs to the usability of either format.

With the MPAA insisting on what can only be described as draconian copy protection measures, the question that comes up is whether even the most hard core videophile types will be interested. There is no doubt that there is a huge demand for high definition content. But people will be expecting it to work as it currently does for analog. And therein lies the problem.

Their latest target is the “analog hole”. This just refers to the fact that if a high definition signal is output as an analog signal (not high def), then it is very easy to copy because all their digital copy protections won’t be used. Their solution is to allow the analog output to only carry downconverted content from the disc, losing as much as 75% of the native 1920×1080 output. Beside being a bad idea in general, this disenfranchises any customer who purchased a high definition set prior to the time when HDMI and DVI inputs were used.

Another of the ridiculous things they are pushing is the broadcast flag. This would be to stop you from doing what you like with digital content, and in many cases are already doing. Record it? Flag could prevent that. Broadcast to another device on your home? Not with the flag, and even if possible, only if all your hardware supports the broadcast flag as well.

In short, the MPAA is trying to follow the ineffectual path that the RIAA has blazed. Offer consumers content, but only in a highly restrictive way that does not even allow them to do what they historically could. Bad business, cumbersome technologically and probably impossible for the typical user to understand. All they are doing is killing what could be a hugely lucrative business opportunity. While I am dying to get more high def content, I have no desire to put up with this garbage. Check out this Variety article where the MPAA got a grilling from the very people who will depend on this technology for their business. Maybe someone will fix this in time, but I am afraid that it will draw out the broad acceptance of high definition video, possibly for years.

Posted by Jeff

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