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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 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.
  • Re:Windows Autorun (Score:4, Informative)

    by Dimensio ( 311070 ) <> on Thursday November 01, 2001 @02:36PM (#2508119)
    The company is replacing all infected DVDs. The problem is getting word out to consumers about the recall. The problem is also moron consumers who read the headline "DVD infected with virus" and suddenly panic and flood customer support lines with concerns over what an infected DVD might do to their standalone Toshiba or Sony player.

    I won't get into the problem that allows a DVD to be mastered and pressed with an virus in the supplimental software.
  • by Dimensio ( 311070 ) <> 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.
  • 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 Robotech_Master ( 14247 ) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @02:57PM (#2508273) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 01, 2001 @02:58PM (#2508277)
    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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 01, 2001 @02:58PM (#2508280)
    > Why would rental prices go thru the roof if DVDs were found to be software rather then film?

    According to the article, the for-rental disks have *much* higher prices than the for-retail disks. A rental shop could buy the less expensive disks and rent them w/o violating anyone's EULA. Not the case if the material on the DVD is redesignated as software. Now, if you violate the EULA by renting a for-retail disk, Warner et al can sue you for violations.

    The increased wholesale price of these new EULA-attached for-rental DVDs would mean rental shops would (1) have to count on being able to rent a given movie for a longer-than-current timeperiod in order to recover the higher cost of the dvd, or (2) increase the rental rate to recover that cost in the same timeperiod. They're more likely to increase the rental rate.
  • by Lysander Luddite ( 64349 ) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @03:23PM (#2508452)
    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.
  • by peter_gzowski ( 465076 ) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @03:30PM (#2508529) Homepage
    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 Kelvin Zero ( 122055 ) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @04:10PM (#2508817)
    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 superflex ( 318432 ) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @04:16PM (#2508860) Homepage
    "First, I don't know where you've been buying your CD-Rs, but you are getting ripped off. It's been years since I've paid more than $.30 each."

    sigh... sorry, don't mean to be a dick... but...there are other countries besides the U.S. that use the dollar as the unit of currency.

    in fairness, the poster you're replying to should have specified US$, CAN$, NZ$, etc... but i digress.

    secondly, was the poster you responded to referring to playing CDs burned in a CDR on a PC, or was he referring to the fact that stereo component recorders like the Sony RCD-W1 [] require the special "Audio CD-R"s. Yes, I know, the market penetration of these things relative to PC burners is miniscule, but still, you've gotta ask yourself, "Why do these stereo component burners require special discs, when I know that plain old Data CD-Rs will do the job?" Secondly, ask yourself, "Why do these special discs that get used in these idiot-proof player/burners cost so much more? Is the company trying to take advantage of ignorant consumers that don't know any better, or are technophobic?"

    Ah, the sweet sweet machinations of modern corporations. :)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 01, 2001 @04:35PM (#2509006)
    Not true at all. Libraries pay a premium for studier versions ("Library Binding") of books so they don't fall apart after a year of circulation. It doesn't cost them any extra to get books for loan versus individual use.

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