DRM (Digital Rights Management) is intended to protect media from being played in an unauthorized manner. However, more often than not, it fails to serve the purpose. Many people in the content industry are fully aware that it is not possible to stop media piracy. They view DRM as a method to slow down the pirates. The panel discussion on anti-piracy measures at the HPA 2011 Tech Retreat compared this to using a key to lock a car, even though a thief with proper equipment could still steal it.

High definition content is valued by the content owners, resulting in extra efforts being taken to protect them from being pirated. For example, while standard definition Netflix streams play on a variety of platforms, high definition streams require more secure systems with protection across all stages of playback. Similarly, not much effort has been taken to stop the usage of open source DVD decrypters / decoders, which mean that the consumer doesn’t need to invest in a licensed player to play back DVDs. Open source software like VLC can play back protected DVDs without any issues.

Blu-rays, on the other hand, with their high definition content, are yet to be hacked enough to be played back with full experience using open source tools. There is a constant tussle going on between the decryption tool makers (who enable the Blu-ray disc content to become unprotected) and the Blu-ray publishers who don’t want this to happen (and try to find new ways to encrypt their Blu-rays without breaking player compatibility in the field). The net result is that almost every new Blu-ray fails to play back on a player if it doesn’t have the latest firmware updates. This is obviously a drawback for consumers who just want to put the disc in the tray and enjoy the movie.

In today’s piece, we will be concentrating exclusively on Blu-rays. A look at the market trends seems to indicate that online streaming services like Netflix and Hulu are overtaking conventional media distribution channels such as DVDs and Blu-rays. However, this doesn’t mean that optical media will die out anytime soon. Currently, a large number of consumers don’t have reliable enough Internet access to guarantee a good experience with premium streaming services. Market research indicates that Blu-ray sales have indeed shown an annual increase. This growth can be attributed to the low cost of Blu-ray players (some could be found for as low as $49 last November) and the rising number of $5 Blu-rays available in the bargain bins of various big box retailers. Blu-ray rentals from companies such as Redbox have also shown an increase in popularity.

The BDA sees Blu-ray shipments growing for the foreseeable future. However, they have also realized that the future of the Blu-ray industry lies in eventually adapting to the cloud / Internet infrastructure. The UltraViolet initiative is geared towards this. We will look at this in detail later in the piece.

The rise of VoD services will definitely threaten Blu-ray, particularly because of the ease of use associated with them. In almost all cases, one can start watching a movie on Netflix or Vudu with a few clicks. Compare this with current Blu-rays where users have to put up with a number of trailers and copyright messages before the movie starts playing. It is no wonder that consumers with high speed Internet often prefer services like Vudu over Blu-rays. Given this situation, Blu-rays continue to come with pesky DRM mechanisms. The latest in this lineup is Cinavia. Before going into its details, we will have a brief overview of all the DRM mechanisms involved in Blu-rays.

DRM Measures in Blu-rays
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  • Valis - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    DAT SCMS, DRM, SWG, Blu-Ray... The list goes on and on. Sony, hope it dies a slow an agonizing death. Will never buy a Sony product again, for as long as I live.
  • jharper12 - Thursday, March 29, 2012 - link

    My freshman year of college I downloaded music and movies. I went to a well regarded university with Tech in its name. That year, every person on campus had watched LOTR weeks before it came out. I was a pirate, for one year.

    I have always worked hard though, and after that first year I didn't have time to consume massive amounts of media. Convenience started to matter, and services started to pop up that legally offered a means to consume media for a reasonable fee. My pirating days were over, not long after they began.

    Here's what bothers me. I have two HP LP2465 monitors hooked up to a nice home built computer. What do they lack? HDCP. I purchased AnyDVD HD for the sole purpose of playing my legally acquired Bluray collection on my computer. Someone should go to jail for that, and it shouldn't be me. Next up? I encountered that lovely little DRM issue with Silverlight while trying to watch movies on my paid subscription for Netflix. I have to run extra cabling to my Bluray players, so they can update to play discs that I bought... legally. I have to update, right as I'm excited to watch. The last time I didn't have to worry about DRM? My freshman year of college. Take note content industry, you didn't slow me down or even inconvenience me for that brief sliver of time in which I stole from you. No, only now, as a paying customer, do you make my life miserable. Thanks for that.
  • GoodToGo - Saturday, March 31, 2012 - link

    I just wanted to say what an amazing read this was.

    *Tips hat*
  • PeTroL42 - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - link

    The majority of my friends aren't geeks like I am so most of them have no clue as to what DRM even is. While DRM is a major headache for a person like me where I'd like to have all my content in a central location, DRM isn't a major headache for the average consumer who just wants to buy a BD at Best Buy and play the movie when they get home and most of the time this works out for the average consumer who buys everything legitimately. Of course there are headaches for the average consumer such as firmware updates but c'mon, issues like these aren't common for the average consumer. One other thing unrelated to DRM, some of my friends LOVE to show off their massive BD collection.

    Also, the scenario where a consumer unknowingly buys a pirated BD is pretty ridiculous unless you regularly buy your BDs on the streets of Downtown LA or China.

    I understand why the Studios are taking measures like using Cinavia to protect their content.

    I'm not being an apologist for the studios but movies cost A LOT of money to produce. Just ask any independent film maker. I feel anybody who reads this article and then goes and spends 50 to 100 million dollars to produce a movie, I'd bet you'd want to get the maximum profits out of that movie which includes the sale of BDs.

    Also, low budget movies don't rake in a lot of profit. That's why low budget movies like Blair Witch Project or My Fat Greek Wedding garner a lot of attention when they make lots of money at the box office. This isn't common.

    There's no doubt that piracy hurts everyone except the people who pirate the material and the people who buy the pirated material or get it free if its made available such as when Napster was around. Take PC Games for instance. The PC Game piracy is so bad that the Publishers are currently using some draconian methods to combat it. This ONLY hurts the legitimate purchasers of the game. Back in the day, (like 1998) I'd buy a game, bring it home, install it, the game would ask me for the serial # on the Jewel Case, I'd enter it, wait a few more minutes and then I'm playing. Now, you usually have to be connected online to even play single player games. Now Big Brother knows when and how long I've been playing their game.

    I'm for the argument that if the Music industry had embraced technological advances such as MP3s instead of trying to combat it, they'd probably be in a better position than they are today but there's no doubt that piracy hit the music industry hard.

    The reason for this long post is this. I was just thinking the other day that there isn't a legitimate way to purchase movies in file format so I could put it on my NAS and play it through my Western Digital set top box. The only options for a person like me is to either download the content through P2P or RIP a DVD or BD myself and encode it into a format that my WD set top box could read which I am not admitting to. Because of the DMCA, ripping movies is illegal. And why was the DMCA written into law? Because of rampant piracy. CDs aren't encrypted so the DMCA doesn't apply to CDs so legitimate purchasers are allowed under law to RIP it to MP3 and play it on any device they choose. CDs don't have encryption because they were created in the early 80s and MP3s weren't even invented back then.

    If the average consumer has access to free stuff and they know how to use it, then they'll use it but if that access gets cut off and it becomes too difficult for the average consumer to figure out, then they'll eventually buy the stuff they want. If Napster and Kazaa and all those other easy file sharing programs were still around today, I'd bet Katy Perry wouldn't be selling the same amount of downloads from iTunes or Amazon.

    This sounds selfish of me but If piracy wasn't so rampant now and people would actually pay for the content they want, then there probably wouldn't be a bill written into law such as the DMCA and then I'd be free to RIP any movie that I legitimately purchased and enjoy it today on any device I please or I could've been buying movies in MP4 or some other format that my set top box could read. Thanks Pirates! (and I'm not talking about Pittsburgh)
  • DVDRanger1 - Saturday, September 22, 2012 - link

    The developers of the DVD-Ranger software have the first future-proof solution for Cinavia free DVD and Blu-ray

    Santa Ponsa (Spain), 09/21/2012 – Many DVD and Blu-ray users know this problem: the DVD or Blu-ray playback stops suddenly with a cryptic error message or remains frozen or silent. This is caused by the relatively new copy protection system Cinavia.

    Shortly after the Cinavia solution of DVDFab has been once again made useless by the Cinavia producer, DVD-Ranger Software offers help. The developers of DVD-Ranger have eliminated the Cinavia’s signal during the development of other software by accident. The Cinavia’s signal has been changed so that it has become unreadable. They have not fought against the Cinavia’s system directly; it is more likely triggered by a design error of Cinavia itself.

    Pixbyte has chosen the release date for the DVD-Ranger 5 with Cinavia module to be 10/31/2012 (Halloween). At the moment, the solution is being tested by well known people in the world of copying. Approx. 55% of all reported Blu-ray Region A/B disks and DVDs have been successfully tested so far. It will be also tested on PS3, various Blu-ray players and PowerDVD.

    Pixbyte is known by the DVD neXt COPY Software and DVD-Ranger products line. Pixbyte has been present for about 10 years on the backup and copy software market.

    Price and availability: DVD-Ranger 5 is currently available as pre-order at a price of $69.99. The final release price will be approx. $89.99. The Cinavia module will cost approx. $39.99 (included in pre-order).

    About Pixbyte:
    Pixbyte is a trusted and respected researcher and developer of CD/DVD and BD recording and conversion technology. Its products are sold worldwide and are utilized by end-users and companies. The products are designed to provide speed and quality of copy operations and are developed continually in accordance with technological progress.
  • Cypher1994 - Saturday, August 17, 2013 - link

    I like your Stanley Kubrick reference.
  • ceceliagibson - Thursday, September 5, 2013 - link

    Hi very useful info about cinavia errors, this will protect playstation devices against playing un authorized movies.
  • Carole Harris - Monday, March 14, 2016 - link

    Here is a bit more information on Cinavia, pertaining to what it is and how it functions: http://cinavia-removal.webs.com/

    But please, ignore the webmaster's link at the bottom of the article, as DVDFab can be used to remove Cinavia without question.
  • DVDRanger - Saturday, October 12, 2013 - link

    Cinavia has been broken by a software company. I suggest to search for DVD-Ranger and CinEx to forget Cinavia forever.
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