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Are DVDs Software Or Films? 387

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.
    • by ConceptJunkie ( 24823 ) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @02:37PM (#2508130) Homepage Journal
      You're going about this all wrong, AC. You're applying logic to the question. Stop it. Hasn't legal precedent WRT intellectual property taught you that logic is not required or even desired when rendering decisions?

      DVD's will be defined as whatever will end up making the MPAA/RIAA/Bill Gates/the Illuminati/the Stonecutters/Ted Turner the most money.

    • by Merk ( 25521 ) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @02:42PM (#2508175) Homepage

      Of course we know that. The problem is that "the Law" is not a place for "things that make sense". Consider writeable CDs. Some are dirt cheap, $1 each or so. Others are $10 or more. The difference, a few bits on the CD itself? The $10 kind are the only kind that work in consumer electronics and are designed for copying music. This makes two CDs that are physically essentially identical into two different products that are taxed and priced differently.

      The problem is what to do about mixed media. A DVD that contains "pc-friendly" (ha) software is a movie with software on it. What about music CDs that have some fun "interact with the band" software goodies on them? It might be sold in a music store next to music cds, but is it "music", is it more "music" than "software"? Finally, what if one of these cds was originally intended as a mainly music item, but the software happens to be so cool that people buy it just for the software and ignore the music entirely.

      • Exactly. And should it be determined that being classified as software is more financially beneficial to the copyright owners, then all audio CDs will start shipping with a copy of FunLove, too.
      • Consider writeable CDs. Some are dirt cheap, $1 each or so. Others are $10 or more. The difference, a few bits on the CD itself? The $10 kind are the only kind that work in consumer electronics and are designed for copying music. This makes two CDs that are physically essentially identical into two different products that are taxed and priced differently.

        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.

        As far as your points about "music" CDs with "software" on them, these are good questions. I think that in most cases there is an obvious intent to the disc, either as a "music" vehicle, or as a "software" vehicle, and that this governs how it should be designated. If there's a band that releases a "music" cd that starts selling mad copies because of its software, I would just be amused at how shitty this band is, rather than revamping my definition of what a "music" cd is.
        • by Anonymous Coward
          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.

        • There are CD-Rs that a few bits are added to that will allow them to be recorded on consumer CD burners such as those by Philips, Pioneer, etc. Those type are much more expensive than average CD-Rs that cannot be written to by those devices.

          If you don't have one of those standalone burners and just want to burn CDs on your computer, the special "auido" CD-Rs are not neccessary. However, some of the really cheap CD-Rs can have problems playing on regular CD players though YMMV.
      • 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).

    • 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.

    • In the UK at present, it is not uncommon for film distributors to charge different amounts for the non-theatric hire (film clubs, schools, oil rigs etc) of a film based on the physical medium. A 35mm print of a film might cost £250 for a single screening, compared to £80-100 for a 16mm print and £50-80 for a VHS or DVD print. They're all still films, but the different media command different prices. Interestingly, a rental agreement for a film in one format does not permit exhibition in a different format - often different formats are distributed by different companies.

      However, that is not the issue behind this Australian case, where (cheaper) retail prints are being used in place of (more expensive) rental prints. The price does not reflect the 'value' of the physical print or of the film therein (although for VHS, the recording quality of rental prints is generally better than that of retail), but rather the rights which are permitted to the owner of the print.

      IMHO, Warner is entirely justified in attempting to stamp out unlicensed rental of retail prints, just as it already makes non-theatric hire licenses available at a lower price than that of theatric hire licenses (as would be required of a cinema or other commercial exhibitor). I say again, the cost of a print (for sale or rent) depends on the exhibition rights which are given to its owner.
      • "IMHO, Warner is entirely justified in attempting to stamp out unlicensed rental of retail prints, just as it already makes non-theatric hire licenses available at a lower price than that of theatric hire licenses (as would be required of a cinema or other commercial exhibitor). I say again, the cost of a print (for sale or rent) depends on the exhibition rights which are given to its owner."

        Do you not believe in "First Sale Doctrine"? This is the part of the law that allows you to do things like sell (or rent) your purchase. A victory by Warner in this case is a loss for the people side of the equation. Right now (in the U.S. anyway) if you want to start renting out your VHS and DVD collections (it is illegal to rent CDs - the people lost in that lawsuit,) there is no law that says you can't. After obtaining the proper business permits, you're in business. Nor are you required to purchase any special versions of the material or pay any further royalties to the producers of that material. If Warner wins in this case that could change. You could lose your rights to sell or rent your property.
  • ... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by questionlp ( 58365 )
    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 TheDick ( 453572 ) <> on Thursday November 01, 2001 @02:28PM (#2508065) Homepage
    If the CONTENT is a MOVIE, then it is a film. Its all bits one way or the other, but its the INTENDED USAGE of those bits that counts.

    Im going home to watch Redhat 7.2 now, Don't post any spoilers.

  • Its like a CD. If its nothing but music, its a music CD. If it has computer (non-music) data, its software.

    If its something I can use in my DVD player (attached to the TV, not computer), and get the full potential of the DVD, its a film. If there's extra stuff only my computer DVD-ROM can read, its software.

    Over simplified? Probably.
    • Re:Both (Score:2, Redundant)

      by BitwizeGHC ( 145393 )
      Most DVD's have software in them to drive the DVD player/computer display menus, etc. So even a film only DVD with no DVD addons but "special features" has a software component.

      Tough call.
      • I would argue that it depends.

        If the DVD contains a film as its primary content, then it is a film. If the DVD contains a crapload of software (like Debian), then it is software. This would mean that it depends mainly on the packaging, and it does. The problem there is that it opens all sorts of abuses and allows for fairly arbitrary classification (sell a Disney title as software - it becomes software). You could curb that somewhat by declaring that DVDs that play in a DVD player are films.

    • Actually, you made it more complicated and confusing...

      Last time I checked, software is a word which generally refers to a collection of instructions which is executed on a hardware or software device.

      IE, If a DVD movie includes a game you can play on your TV, it's software. If a DVD just consists of encoded pixels for a movie, it's data.

      Lets not make this more complicated than it really is or redefine things which have been properly defined for the past 50 years.
  • by Alrocket ( 191107 ) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @02:30PM (#2508079) Homepage
    I'm wondering what the wholesale vs retail prices are for videos, is the gap as wide?

    From article:

    Warner simultaneously releases DVDs to the retail and rental market. They are color coded - silver for retail at
    a wholesale price of $24, and blue for rental, wholesaling at $55.

    When Warner threatened to sue video shops caught renting the retail-designated DVD, the association -
    representing 55 per cent of Australian video shops - took the offensive. It argues that under the Copyright Act,
    Warner cannot restrict the rental of DVD movies.
    • by Blackwulf ( 34848 ) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @02:34PM (#2508107) Homepage
      Actually, yes. I used to work at a Blockbuster Video, and it was like this.

      Remember how you'd see Videos for RENTAL only? That's because the wholesale price is something insane, like $99.99. Then, after the studio believed that the rentals were sagging, they'd lower the price to $19.99 or whatever, and then Blockbuster would be able to take the rentals and "PVT" them (sell them at a used price).

      If you accidentally destroyed a rented video, you had to fork over the $100 to buy it. (We had a customer who left the video on top of his car, and then he drove over it when he was returning it. Oops.)

      The insane part was that there were some people that would actually pay the $100 to own the video when it came out for rentals.
      • by markmoss ( 301064 ) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @02:49PM (#2508214)
        Blackwulf, if I understand your post, the movie company first sell the videos for (say) $100. Of course, hardly anyone except a video store could afford that. Then after a few months when sales fell off, they drop the price to (say) $20. This is a bit different from selling DVDS for two different prices _at the same time_.

        It's not that you can't sell to different customers at different prices at the same time, but whether you should be able to get the courts to help you make sure your intended high-price customers don't go shopping in the low price section...

  • by WillSeattle ( 239206 ) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @02:31PM (#2508082) Homepage
    Some DVDs are film only. Some are software only. Some are films with minor menu software. Some are films with game software.

    It depends.

    But the thing that's disturbing is that the Powerpuff Girls have a virus. It must be the work of that villain MoJo JoJo! Quick, call the mayor's secretary, she'll know what to do!

  • 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?
    • Unless the X-Box's OS is stored on the console's hard drive, it shouldn't be a problem. Anyway, I doubt that the X-Box is designed to run things like the PC-Friendly software on DVD discs.

      You might be able to create something to hose the X-Box to some extent, but it would have to be specifically designed for the console and it's unlikely something like that could sneak into a DVD production master.
  • 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?

    • by Dimensio ( 311070 ) <darkstar.iglou@com> on Thursday November 01, 2001 @02:41PM (#2508166)
      There is a DVD "spec" for programming and formatting special features such as menu interaction and other things, but it's an incredibly broad spec, so much so that some players can't play certain movies that use an obscure feature never in use when the player was designed.

      There's also the issue of how far a "spec" can be stretched for cute or interesting effects beyond the scope intended from the original design. Ghostbusters (and some later discs) offered MST3K-style silhouettes of the people as they offered commentary on the movie by hiding it in the subtitle track -- though some players (very few) had problems playing it because of the tricks used.

      I don't know about the encoding or programming or how easy it is for home use, though it apparently isn't too difficult to hack together a simple menu system considering the "features" sometimes found on bootleg DVDs.
  • Films definently. (Score:3, Redundant)

    by HarrisonSilp ( 527951 ) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @02:36PM (#2508122) Homepage
    Jesus, I'm not installing my DVD am I? I'm watching it, like a VHS cassette or anything else, the only difference in this case is that VHS isn't used (to my limited knowledge of these things) as a media for storing binary data while a DVD is.

    It seems from the article that the case Warner Home Video is presenting is that a DVD is computer software with a movie hidden somwhere inside, which is totally bogus.

    When I go out to purchase a DVD, I'm thinking, "Wow, Fight Club is going to look awesome on my friends big screen;" not, "Wow, I can't wait to go home and enjoy my Fight Club-related software and included movie!" The mere fact that they market these as things that you *WATCH* with extra features should totally nullify their whole argument. I might be able to understand it if they called it "Interactive software, *now with a free movie!*," but they don't, because nobody wants that crap, they want a movie, if they didn't they wouldn't have purchased it. Get off your high-horse Warner and stop gouging rental outlets.

    • VHS isn't used (to my limited knowledge of these things) as a media for storing binary data

      Actually, the Alesis ADAT uses VHS (OK, SVHS) tapes to store digital audio, which is a form of binary data.

      - Sam

  • Currently, there is just the video data on the DVDs. Now, they will start putting small amounts of software to make sure it is classified as software.

    • Um, dude, there already is software of the computer sort on DVDs. Has been since the early days. That's what's infected on that Powerpuff Girls DVD, in fact--the interactivity software.

      The earliest DVD that I know of to have software on it as well as media was the Bubblegum Crisis 3-disc set, which included its own Shockwave DVD player so you could watch the disc on your computer even if you didn't have a player program. Then came discs like The Matrix [], which had an app called "PC Friendly" on them. PC Friendly, in addition to containing its own player for the DVD, would allow you to access the "special interactive features"--in the case of The Matrix, that would be things like the "I Know Kung Fu" fight scene collection, the interactive trivia game, the text articles, and of course the weblink.

      These days, the helper app of choice is the Interactual Player, which is included on titles like The Mummy Returns, Star Wars Episode One (it is this software, by the way, that controls whether you can access the DVD-exclusive trailers on their website), and just about anything else that touts interactive features. (Notable exceptions including the Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within DVD, which uses a Quicktime program, and the forthcoming Shrek DVD, which the Bits [] says will be interactive without having to install anything, though it doesn't say how.) Interactual will also play the interactive content from PC Friendly-enabled discs.

      You'll always know when you have a software-enabled disc--because when you put it in the drive, it'll either try to install the program, or else launch it if it's installed already--probably interfering with your DVD player software, which will also be trying to launch. For this reason, I went into the Windows registry and disabled the CD autorun function (and thanks for making it so easy for me, Microsoft! (That was sarcasm)).

      Anyway, like I said, the interactivity software is what's infected on the Powerpuff DVD. If you didn't install it and have autorun off, it should be safe to play the movie content--but I wouldn't take chances anyway.
      • Anyway, like I said, the interactivity software is what's infected on the Powerpuff DVD. If you didn't install it and have autorun off, it should be safe to play the movie content-

        The first "PC Friendly" DVD I put in my PC caused fatal exceptions and forced me to reboot. I thereafter disabled autorun. I have never seen such an untested load of shit software package (except for the Windows NT Option Pack). "PC Hostile" is more like it. If the features are that much work to access, I don't want 'em.

  • Win-Win situation (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Scenario 1: it's considered software, and rental prices go through the roof. The MPAA would freak if this happened.. people would pirate movies more than ever if this happened. MPAA gets screwed.

    Scenario 2: it's considered a movie, and they are forced to remove Region Encoding... this allows a huge class-action lawsuit involving anyone who's ever bought a region restricted DVD (read everyone in the world). MPAA gets screwed.
  • by glassware ( 195317 ) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @02:40PM (#2508155) Homepage Journal
    I'm sure I'm not the first person to wonder about it, but DVDs have been getting increasingly software-like in their admonishments to users.

    It used to be that a few seconds at the front of every videotape said "Copying is prohibited, etc, etc," and you'd just fast forward through it. Nowadays all my DVDs have thirty second clips of FBI warnings, and they include codes that prevent my DVD player from fast forwarding. The DVD, literally, takes precedence over what I click on my remote control.

    Although we all understand the UCITA has turned into a frightful mess, it seems like there does need to be a standard set of laws for software and content. When I buy a CD, most of the time I know what I'm getting and I know how to use it. When I buy a DVD, I don't know if they've somehow inserted idiotic menus and ads that I will be forced to watch.

    • You won't be forced to watch anything if you play DVDs with a computer running Linux. In fact most Linux DVD players aren't even capable of playing the stupid FBI and Interpol warnings. That's part of what the Free in Free Software means: your software isn't supposed to force you to do anything.

      A laptop computer, if you have one, makes a fine DVD player. The best solution is to just not watch DVDs altogether. Usually the money from your DVD purchase is being used to prosecute some innocent people somewhere, or bribe national legislatures.

    • I just had the most horrible vision of the RIAA reading your post and realizing that they could put a 30 second track at the beginning of every cd, of a stern sounding voice *reminding* you that you can't copy the cd in it's entirety or any of it's contents. A little code like on dvd to make sure you can't skip through the track (or worse, to play it at the beginning of EVERY track)...
  • Why would rental prices go thru the roof if DVDs were found to be software rather then film?

    There was a rental store near my parents house that rented computer games and they were the same as renting say a super nintendo game or whatever.

    • I will charitably assume that you found the articles /.ed... Warner Brothers is trying to sell DVD's under a two tier pricing scheme, like $24 (Australian???) for home use, but $55 for rental disks. So they are trying to sue rental operators that rent the "home" disks. Aussie law says that they can't do that for film, but can for movies. If they have to pay that much more for the disks, they will have to increase the rental rates...
  • by steddyj ( 449015 )
    Is there something that I'm not understanding here?

    If the DVD contains a Movie stored in a digital format, created for the primary purpose of viewing said movie, it is a FILM. NOTE: Primary purpose means that it it also includes with the movie some software such as screensavers themed to the movie, but is marketed as a video, its primary purpose is to view the movie.

    If the DVD was create to store data which will install applications onto a computer or simalar device, its SOFTWARE.

    Why is this so hard to understand???

    • What about The Matrix DVD's "White Rabbit" mode? If you activate that feature, you watch the film as normal but once in a while a white rabbit icon will appear on the screen. If you click your remote, you see a making-of clip for that scene, and then you are returned to the movie.

      It's an interactive game, though admittedly a lame one.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    They're making the wrong categorization. They should be asking "is it an application, or is it content?" Everything that's not hardware is software; but some are applications (software that can be used to create content, or other software) and some is content (software that can't be used to create other content, or other software).

    Of course, this means that video games are content, not software, too. But that's a much more reasonable distinction to make, anyway. After all, what is a video game but an interactive movie?
  • by Bonker ( 243350 ) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @02:45PM (#2508198)
    Mojo: Hahaha! Now the powerpuff girls cannot sell their DVD because the software contained inside it is infected with the virus I infected the software contained inside the DVD with. Now the Powerpuff girls' goody-goody reputation will be tarnished because nobody would beleive that the goody-goody Powerpuff Girls would do something that would tarnish their reputation like distributing a DVD that was infected with a virus!

    Blossom: Not so fast, Mojo! The DVD runs just fine under linux if you use DeCSS!
  • by tmark ( 230091 ) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @02:49PM (#2508217)
    The presumption that forcing rental places to pay the full $55 will make rental prices go through the roof is, as presented, flawed. It assumes that the added cost of the DVDs will be such that the rental companies MUST charge significantly more to make up the difference. I expect that the cost of media is actually very small relative to the overhead of paying rent and staffing the store, so even a doubling of media price should not mean a doubling of rental prices. It assumes that rental places are forced to use the cheaper, non-rental DVDs because otherwise they would not make any money at all - i.e., that the margins on the rental business are razor sharp and depend critically on the price of the DVD. But a possibility is that these rental places are just looking to save every buck they can, and that they would still make a comfortable (albeit smaller) margin renting out $55 CDs.

    Ultimately the price of rentals will NOT be determined solely by the cost of the media to the renting company. It will be determined by the market forces of supply and demand. The price will largely be determined by what price consumers are willing to pay. Given that DVDs are relatively inexpensive now (5-6 times the price of a 2-day rental in Canada), I think it is clear that the maximum price for (say) a 2-day DVD rental is clearly bounded and not much more than what those prices are now, and hence it seems unlikely DVD rental prices would ever go "through the roof".
  • by M_Talon ( 135587 ) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @02:51PM (#2508229) Homepage
    If it was software, then it falls under the whole licensing rigamarole that most software does. However, they use the same type of legal warnings that VHS movies use. Plus, it's basically the same content. Yeah, it's got some flashy menus and such, but as many have said before if you classify this as software then CDs become software too. The content's the same, it's the media it's on that's different.

    This is YADL (yet another dumb lawsuit) perpetrated by a company who wants to improve its bottom line. Should be interesting to see if the Aussies have more sense in their digital media policies than we do. It sickens me when a company tries to muck with laws in the digital era just because the lawmakers are ignorant about new technology. "Oh, it's the same movie, just on a different media, but let's call it software so we can charge more". Disgusting.
    • by nharmon ( 97591 ) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @03:20PM (#2508427)
      Where do you draw the line? What about choose-your-own adventure DVDs??? Are they computer games, thus software??? And what about computer games which tell a story, and even look and feel like a movie... Are they videos???

      The differences have become so disfigured that it comes down to applying the same rules for all forms of intellectual property. Everything from painting, to source code...

      After all, isn't it our argument that source code is free speech anyway?
      • I would say that it's in the marketing. DVD movies are presented and marketed in a similar fashion to VHS movies. Thus the expectation is created that they would be treated identical. Computer games and software are marketed differently, thus fall under different expectations. What Warner apparently wants here is to market their DVDs like movies, but have them called software in order to avoid problems with existing copyright laws on movies. That reeks of a double standard.

        You have a very valid point about entertainment blurring. As more companies seek to blend interactive capabilities with a cinematic experience, the line between strict movies and strict software gets blurry. The problem is there are different standards for both, so how do you come to a compromise? The desires of the industry must be tempered with the rights of the consumers, both business and home.
  • by uqbar ( 102695 ) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @02:52PM (#2508237)
    I don't think consumers need to fear this one much. While either film distributors or video stores will see their margins affected, it all balances out in the end.

    Should the courts decide that DVDs *are* films, we'll probably just see more DVD's come out in an expensive version targeted at video stores a few weeks before the consumer market priced DVD's come out. Motivated video stores will get the releases early on (most have special agreements with the film distributors already anyhow). Those stores that wait will not see as many rentals since demand is highest at initial release, but they will save one the cost of the DVD.
    • Some of what you say is already starting to happen. I (and most retail experts) expect the studios to contrinue to milk a movie's release to maximize profits. Here's what will happen:

      1. Movie released in theaters followed immediatly by second run.
      2. Pay per view starts. Movies is released to DVD rentals with movie only option. Rental stores pay premium for "early release" on DVD.
      3. Pay Cable channel release with "retail" DVD sold. Retails DVD prices run about 66-75% of rental store rate adn come with the "bells and whistles".
      4. general release to network television.

      That's it folks. The movie distributors pigeonhole DVDs into their cash formula and continue to slowly squeeze rental outlets allowing only the biggest and niche stores to survive. Eventually "digital" movies are streamed to end users at the same time as PPV. In fact, it will likely replace PPV as soon as "digital Cable" actually works.
  • If you have been watching PowerPuff Girls videos on your server...please go to the front of the line. That goes beyong geekdom....into a whole new realm.
  • by zentigger ( 203922 ) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @02:57PM (#2508268) Homepage
    wouldn't this mean that Warner Bros is guilty of terrorism under the new patriot act? If so wouldn't that mean that the US military should head in and start bombing the snot out of them?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This is about how the Aussies categorize their products (and, I would guess from the story, there's some price control laws in effect), not Hollywood.

    Real simple: if they change the prices, just rent tapes.

  • Funnily enough the Campaign for Digital Rights was having a discussion about whether CDs can be treated as software( -October/000872.html)

    This has large implications for backing music up and/or created mp3s as software is treated very differently to music under UK law, such ""Back up copies.

    50A.=97(1) It is not an infringement of copyright for a lawful user of a copy of a computer program to make any back up copy of it which it is necessary for him to have for the purposes of his lawful use.

    So it's nice to see Warner Home video arguing our case.

  • DVDs are hardware. The content on DVDs can either be software or film. That's up to whoever made the DVD.

    An MPEG file isn't software. An EXE isn't film (although it could contain a film). I don't see the problem in making the determination.
    • I don't see the problem in making the determination.

      I think the problem is due to the fact that you can't simply "rent" the content (i.e. the film) without also "renting" out everything else on the physical DVD. You have to look at it as one single unit.

      So, in terms of one single unit what does the average "movie" DVD most resemble? Software or a movie. Common sense would think movie, but legally that may not be correct (for good or bad reasons)
      • Even legally, if the DVD manufacturer makes a movie DVD, and decides to throw some software on it, then it's their problem if it gets rented out to millions of people and everybody gets the software.

        I'm pretty sure the publishers have heard of Blockbuster long before they made the DVDs
  • OTOH, if a DVD is software, and not a motion picture, I can publicly display it and charge for admission. There is no right to public display for software.
  • Other than what's purported by the Rental stores and the price affect they claim, is it necesarily bad that DVD is classed as software? IE, as a consumer do you have any less rights vis-a-vis accessability/backups/etc. on DVD's that you own if it is classed as Software rather than a Film?

    How is copyright law and consumer rights different between software and film?

  • From reading through the DMCA, there were countless places where they purposely made a distinction between digital content and software. Basically, they can do things with content (like keep you from making a backup) that they cannot do with software.

    Anyone want to correct me?
  • 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."

    Nothing will get installed automatically if you choose to set a system up the way it should be -- I.E. Nothing without the user telling it to do so.

    That's one of the biggest dangers (and most easily prevented) of Microsoft operating systems.

    In an effort to make systems more automated so Joe-Shitwits can use them, systems have become so powerful they have the power to destroy themselves like the mindless machines they are.

    I leave Autoinsert Notification on, but I turn off the ability for disks to autorun software. Thankfully, other operating systems aren't nearly as obnoxious about this as Windows is. (Though, I'm not sure how the Mac handles it...)
  • It would be a bad thing for DVDs if they are found to be software. Raising the price of their rental will change their course to be a marginalized technology such as laser disc. If a consumer has the choice between the VHS version for even half the cost, I think most will go back to VHS.

    Do I think they may be software? Well, a lot of DVDs do have those crappy games and such attached to them. But even some music CDs have this. It's a tough call.
  • A DVD movie is a stream of bits that is processed by hardware and converted into something humans use.

    A software title is a stream of bits that is processed by hardware and converted into something humans use.

    Content is basically another form of software.

    Not to say that I approve of adding more restrictions, just because you can call it software... I don't approve of any restrictions, period.

    But it's important to realize that bits are bits, and no matter what sort of content those bits make up, they're essentially alike.
  • That means that DVD players are encryption technology, and you need a munitions license to export them!

    "Here, you two morons fight it out. Let us know if you need more ammo."

  • If Warner thinks a DVD is software, why do they get so mad when I want to make a backup copy of one? Oh, that's right, they want it both ways.

    If Warner wins on this they should be required to replace any scratched, lost, or otherwise unplayable DVD for the cost of the media only. ($1). BY LAW.

  • by debrain ( 29228 )
    Does this mean people at Warner Bros can be jailed for years under the new terrorism act?
  • 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 ) <[ten.scinorthctelf] [ta] [hctelf]> 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...

  • "Software"....

    Now, any decent dyed-in-the-wool geek can agree that a piece of "software" is an instruction-set that executes on a turing machine. Eventually, whether the turing machine is represented in a combination of hardware (x86 machine code anyone?) or in a collection of software (I love my Perl), the result is the same: Both are software.

    Now, for the second case, it's interesting to look at the "collection of software" or interpretter or virtual machine (take your pick by all means). Now this "collection of software" is obviously software (reflexive identity). So it _is_ possible to have software that is used to execute software (my Perl programs are _too_ software d@mnit).

    So, when I examine the byte-structure of my *.pl files... I notice to my horror that they contain all these non-zero data between 0 and 255.

    Horrifyingly enough, so do all my *.mp3 files and even the data blocks on my DVD's.

    Does that mean they're software?

    Does that mean that my Perl programs are content?


    Simply put: The distinction between content and software has not been drawn cohesively on a technological basis.

    Does that mean that laws cannot be crafted that distinguish between the categories of products?


    One approach would be to categorize the product based on an intended use, my laserdisk version of Dragon's Lair is decidedly a software product, I still enjoy playing it; however, my laserdisks of the original Star Wars trilogy are decidedly not softare. Similarly, I don't anticipate that any movies I buy would be well-categorized as software due to usage.

    Basically, the problem is that a cohesive, medium-orthoganal, and useful treatment of copyright materials has not been crafted by any government in a manner more consistent with usage and ethical principles than with public and lobbyist pressures.

  • Sometimes questions are so easy to answer that you wonder how the hell someone asks them.

    What is software? Its information. What is a film on a CD? Information again. This confuses people.

    What sort of information is software? It consists of two essential properties: instructions and data. The instructions tell a computer what to do with the data.

    A movie, quite in contrast, consists only of data. Where are the computer-understandable instructions in that stream of data that is on a DVD?

    That stream of data would crash your computer in seconds if you try to use it as instructions (side-question: would that make Windows sort of a movie?) Software on a DVD doesn't transform the movie into software for exactly the same reason that staying in a garage doesn't make you a car.
  • 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.
  • Here's why.

    These exact same bastards are claiming that software isn't protected speech in the DeCSS case.

    If software isn't protected speech, and DVDs are software, then DVDs are not protected speech.

    That means the government can start censoring all kinds of movies, and music and assrape the entire entertainment industry.

    Then, they can see how it feels to have the First Amendment rights that they value trampled a little bit.

    In fact, I might start just such a crusade just to be a prick.

    It makes me wonder if people who open their mouths and start spouting bullshit that that they think will help their position of the moment ever think back to what they said yesterday. I wonder whether or not they think about any sort of a larger picture, or whether they are even capable of understanding things in a larger context. Did you ever read that "mappers" and "packers" paper? They must be a bunch of packers to start doing something this stupid in the face of the DeCSS thing.
  • If you can have a Virus on a DVD, surely it must be software?

    Besides, as the DVD prices in Austrialia are cheap, and no-one rents DVD's anyway ($3 for two nights when you can buy it for $9) it mustn't be that important, unless it's the Tax (ie. EU's Computer tax is alot lower then on Films)

    And besides, there's always DivX....
  • Neither. They are plastic.
  • Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

    I seriously doubt TW has considered the implications of its success if it gets DVD videos considered to be software.

    They will then be Microsoft's competition.


    In light of the recent possibility of Microsoft getting off "scott-free" with or without the 3 person panel, this is going to be a battle of the titans, to put it mildly.

    *IF* that turns out to be the case, I honestly don't know if I/we should be scared shitless or sit back and enjoy the show.

  • DVD is Software (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bwt ( 68845 ) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @04:39PM (#2509025) Homepage
    The definition of software under the copyright act is basically any instructions that make a machine produce a desire result. There are US legal precedents that imply that HTML qualifies.

    Unlike a music CD, a DVD has navigation commands that were rich enough to implement the old game Dragonslayer. This includes chapter markup, paging, etc... The MPEG-2 and AC-3 compression is essentially instruction for how to reproduce the raw video and sound. Even the CSS encryption TPM is a software mechanism. During the preliminary injuction hearing in the DeCSS DMCA case Kaplan asked the MPAA guy something like "What is this key thing? is it hardware, is it software?" and the reply was "it is software".

    I think it is very clear that DVD's are more than simple content. They are meant to be read only by a particular computer program.

    The implication is that 17 USC 117 applies which gives "owners" of software certain additional rights - ability to "adapt" for use in a machine and ability to archive. If a DVD is software, it also refutes judge Kaplan's reverse engineering analysis (he found the DMCA RE clauses only apply to software works and wrongly assumed that a DVD wasn't one).
  • Both ! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ( 40893 ) <> on Thursday November 01, 2001 @04:54PM (#2509145) Homepage
    A movie is software, so a DVD indeed is software, and so are a VHS tape and a vinyl record : although analogical, they still contain instructions that are interpreted by a device, so they qualify as software.
  • 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 [], 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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