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Are DVDs Software Or Films? 387

Posted by timothy
from the dvds-are-plastic-and-metal-discs dept.
NewsWatcher writes: "In Australia a court case with international ramifications will decide if DVDs are software or films. If they are designated as software, rental prices will go through the roof, if they are films their distribution cannot be limited under copyright laws. This article explains the ins and outs ." Unrelated incident -- FatRatBastard writes: "C|Net News is reporting that the new Warner Bros Powerpuff Girls DVD is infected with the FunLove virus. Note this only effects those who install the supplemental Windows software that comes on the DVD. The article claims that "The virus only affects PCs that load the disc, not DVD players" so I'm not sure if the DVD auto installs software if loaded on a Win PC, or if infection only happens if the user chooses to install the supplemental software."
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Are DVDs Software Or Films?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 01, 2001 @02:24PM (#2508040)
    Is a tape music or software?
    Is a floppy disk music or software?

    The media that something resides on does not change the identity of what it is. Therefore a DVD-based movie is still a movie.
  • ... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by questionlp (58365) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @02:27PM (#2508051) Homepage
    I personally think that the DVD Videos themselves should be considered as films/video whereas DVD-ROM only discs should be software.

    As far as DVD-Video discs with DVD-ROM content should be placed in whatever group the disc was primarily made for. Like the "Powerpuff Girls" DVD should be considered "film", although it's just a short-length cartoon with some "software" data on it since it's primary purpose isn't "software" related.

    Just my opinion...
  • by rkischuk (463111) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @02:34PM (#2508110)
    ...is to see what happens when it's run on the XBox. I never really thought about that, but do you really want a console that is highly susceptible to virii?
  • by Reality Master 101 (179095) <RealityMaster101@@@gmail...com> on Thursday November 01, 2001 @02:36PM (#2508118) Homepage Journal

    Something I've been wondering. How is the interactive part of a DVD programmed? Is there some sort of specialized Flash-style DVD language? Is there a spec for it somewhere? How is it encoded? How would you do something for your own custom DVDs?

  • DVD is software (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Alan Cox (27532) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @02:57PM (#2508267) Homepage
    DVD's contain very simple programs in a virtual machine that handle a lot of the viewing control settings. If they are software however then the film industry still loses.

    Under EU law I have a right to make backups of software.
  • by GreyPoopon (411036) <gpoopon@RABBITgmail.com minus herbivore> on Thursday November 01, 2001 @03:09PM (#2508348)
    The media that something resides on does not change the identity of what it is.

    I was thinking exactly the same thing. But I think Warner may have the world "by the balls" here. The DVD format does not stipulate what the contents are, but Warner could certainly include some computer software on every DVD title they sell. That would make the contents at least partly software, even if they couldn't be accessed by a home theater DVD player. I'm not sure how we could get around this, except to have video stores refuse to purchase DVD's with software on them, and for consumers to refuse to rent DVD's that have software on them. However, I don't think people will be consistent enough in this approach for it to have any real effect.

    I definitely feel that the argument that a DVD is "software" because the DVD player buffers a few frames in memory is way off, and I hereby condemn any court that decides in favor of Warner based on this argument as a bunch of extreme idiots, and certainly not bright enough to be deciding law for their country.

  • by sterno (16320) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @03:32PM (#2508551) Homepage
    The law is a place for things that make sense, but the law is intentionally a very slow moving cumbersome beast. Of course when there's a major shift in any realm governed by laws the law takes a while to catch up. Unfortunately this process of catching up can involve short term idiocy while the ramifications of the laws are truely understood. This process is further muddled because there are power structures built around the old way of doing things which are now at risk.

    Right now what we see is that lawmakers are trying to maintain those power structures. The reasons for this are numerous but I think that in the long run as the negative impact of artificially sustaining these structures will become clear.

    For example we talk here about whether this is software or a movie. Well it is software, but then every form of media is getting to be software of a sort. Identifying these things as software is fine, but the problem here is the notion that somehow being software changes the nature of the beast. It's the problem that somehow first sale doctrine is slowly getting corrupted by EULA's.

    The concept of licensing of intellectual property was originally intended for dealing with small scope releases. You'd license information to a subsidiary or a contractor and because of the nature of the information it made sense to have broad restrictions on what they could do with that information. But when we are talking about mass commercial sales, a EULA makes no sense at all. Why should I be unable to sell my used copy of Microsoft Windows but be able to sell my used copy of a VNV Nation album? The purpose of EULA's was to limit the distribution and use of proprietary information but if things are being distributed on a broad scale, it doesn't make any sense (except for those wishing to usurp copyright law).

  • by morcheeba (260908) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @03:37PM (#2508594) Journal
    I wonder how the MPAA will defend their use of region coding? When's the last time that you bought a piece of software that was linked to the theatrical release of a movie. I can just see it... Microsoft won't release Office 2004 until after "Back to the Future IV" has shown in theaters in your area.

    If they dropped region coding (which they won't do), do you think that rental stores will just buy (probably cheaper) grey market videos?

    The way this used to work in the days of VHS was that they would sell only one version of the tapes... For the first few months it would be priced at the rental-store-price of $100-$300, and then after that it would drop to the consumer-price of $20-$30. Now, I guess they're getting greedy and want to sell to consumers as soon as possible.
  • by graveyhead (210996) <fletch@fletcht[ ]ics.net ['ron' in gap]> on Thursday November 01, 2001 @03:47PM (#2508633)

    This will probably get lost in all the noise, but here we go anyway.

    Imagine for a second a world where DVDs had never been invented. In such a world, any interactive content would have to be packaged separately, say in a bundled CD-ROM like you get in kids cereal boxes these days. This presents a clear physical separation of the interactive content from the product. In this case the "software" component is just a freebie extra that *happens* to come with the video (or cereal).

    Now back to the real world where we DVDs have been invented. The physical separation of software and product (in this case video content) becomes a *logical* separation. Instead of a VHS cassette box and a bundled CD-ROM, we now have the abstract separation of MPEG files and executable binaries. The interactive content is still just a freebie extra that *happens* to come with the purchase or rental of the DVD. In this case, we must consider the DVD to a film, and have all the copyright privilidges and restricitons of said media.

    But wait, there's more. The above case only works if one cannot interact directly with the movie as it is being played. Suppose someone devises a method for actually interacting with a running movie. Remember "Clue", the movie with several different endings? Suppose someone had devised a method that, through user choices made during the playback of the movie, different storylines would appear. In this case, the DVD must be considered "software" because playback somehow contains binary instructions for choosing a movie path.

    Therefore, I advocate a classification system where discs are labled as "software" or "film". It may be slightly convoluted, but it seems to me that this is the only way to be fair...

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @03:56PM (#2508697)
    All they have to do to show DVD's are film and not software is to load in a full-frame DVD - usually they start with the warning "This FILM has been formatted to fit your screen".

    If the DVD itself says it's a film, how can they say otherwise? This sounds like an argument even someone with no technical expertise can disagree with.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 01, 2001 @04:08PM (#2508802)
    What? I write audio CDs on the $1 variety, and they play fine in my consumer electronics (ie. my old cd player). Perhaps I'm misunderstanding what you're talking about, but it comes as news to me that there are CD-Rs designed specifically for audio.


    He's talking about the fact the consumer electronics (i.e. shelf system audio) CD writers/copiers can only write to "Music" CD-Rs. I believe a slice of the profits from the extra cost is distributed through the RIAA, but I'm not sure. This, as you've no doubt noticed, doesn't affect you if you use your computer to burn CDs. And as far as playing burned CDs, it makes no difference with what it was made.

  • by markrages (310959) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @05:09PM (#2509241) Homepage
    Is PostScript considered media or software?

    Wouldn't the same arguments apply? In fact, PS is a programming language. Don Lancaster [tinaja.com]: "an unappreciated yet superb general purpose computing language"

    Regards, Mark

  • by Tenebrious1 (530949) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @05:32PM (#2509379) Homepage
    Think of your favorite games that have FMV sequences. The actual game engine, software, controls the FMV "movie". But the entire CD is considered software.

    Take Microsoft's Encarta on DVD. I'm sure MS isn't going to say that's a "movie" no matter how many videos it contains.

    A "movie" DVD, on the other hand, contains a relatively small "software" portion and a comparatively larger "movie" portion (plural if you consider the outtakes, trailers, interviews). So what's the difference? The actual sizes of the "software" and "movie"???

    It's absurd to consider a DVD anything BUT software.
  • by Jerf (17166) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @06:02PM (#2509531) Journal

    (From my weblog:) I would like to propose an interesting spin on this story: Should Warner Brothers win, then the following syllogism will hold:

    1. All movies are expressions that in America would be protected under the First Amendment.
    2. All movies are software (since all movies can be put on DVD).
    3. There exists at least one movie.
    4. Therefore, there exists software that in America would be protected under the First Amendment.
    Once a single piece of software is over that line, it's going to be very, very hard to draw a line that includes movies (movies, of all things!), yet excludes other things.

    This story hails from Australia, not the USA, but it would still probably have some interesting ramifications, even in Australia.

    Note that in particular, DeCSS, a DVD decryption program, is trying to claim software-as-expression as a defense in the USA. Warner, a member of the RIAA [riaa.org], has gone on record now, at least in Australia, as claiming that DVD movies are an instance of a thing that is both software and an expression protectable under the First Amendment.

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