Digital Copy Contentious at Digital Hollywood Cofab1 Nov, 2007 By: Chris Tribbey
Whether recent moves by studios to offer downloadable copies on DVDs will have any affect on piracy was a source of debate among digital rights management (DRM) experts at Digital Hollywood in Hollywood on Oct. 31.
Warner Home Video and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment are the first two studios to address consumers' desires for digital downloads by including downloadable copies of films on DVDs of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Live Free or Die Hard.
“When people can't easily acquire what they want by legitimate means, they will use illegitimate means to get it,” said Doug Warner, VP of business development for Hewlett-Packard's digital entertainment services. “Our goal is to help [content owners] figure out how to get fair value for their content.”
The studios' move to include downloads of the discs is “making buying easier than stealing” for would-be pirates, according to Jay Samit, strategic advisor for Navio and a former executive for Sony Corp.
“In this case it's a bold move of saying, ‘Hey, you want it in that form, here it is.' Does it make piracy easier? Absolutely not,” he said.
Fox demonstrated how one would download their movie from the DVD to their computer, and then transfer one copy to a portable device. Only two copies are allowed.
If or when someone does break the rules set out by studios for use of digital downloads included on DVDs, the question arises as to whether it will be an open-and-shut win for studios in the courtroom.
“The copyright law gives a multifactor, case-by-case test of [fair use],” said Neil Netanel, a law professor at UCLA. “It's quite difficult to predict in advance, even more so in the digital world. “Fair use is a moving target.”
Stacey Byrnes, SVP of intellectual property counsel for NBC Universal, said: “Nobody wants to lock up the content and not let people have what they want. I would think that [Warner and Fox] have addressed DRM concerns. To make additional copies would violate their DRM.”
Fox and Warner are giving consumers what they want and still protecting their content from abuse, most agreed.
“I think in 2007, copy-protection technologies are more blunt than we like when it comes to fair use,” said Michael Ayers, senior attorney for Toshiba America Information Systems Inc. “[However] there needs to be some sense of security for the content owner.”
He added that the improved encryption used on Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD could allow for easier managed copying opportunities for consumers.
Navio's Samit noted that because of stricter DRM and more aggressive litigation by content holders, estimated losses to piracy are half of what they were five years ago.
Yet HP's Doug Warner, who said HP worked with Warner Bros. to deliver a digital edition of Superman Returns at Wal-Mart, said studios shouldn't expect a positive impact on sales if digital editions are included.
“Basically what we found is no, it won't prevent piracy. If you prevent a value add-on, they'll use it, if you don't, they won't,” he said. “It has to have some intrinsic value.”
Yet his colleague at Hewlett-Packard, digital entertainment services representative Bradford C. Auerbach, praised the studios.
“This is in alignment with consumers' expectations, that once they own it, they can do what they want with it,” he said.