The digital content wars proceed on several levels, including legal, psychological, and technological. Here are two new tools for the guardians of the gates via Business 2.0:
- pirating a new movie is a lot simpler than you might think. It usually works like this: Bad guys videotape flicks just as they come out, then press the recordings onto DVDs and sell them on the black market. These videos, often made with the complicity of somebody at a theater, have sound recorded directly from the projection booth, and a rock-solid image made from a tripod-mounted camera.
It’s a low-tech crime, but Cinea has come up with a high-tech defense. The startup’s Cam Jam technology modifies the projected image so that it can be watched but not videotaped. I haven’t seen it in action, but Cinea CEO Rob Schumann tells me it exploits the differences between the way human brains process moving images and the way cameras record them. It’s the same principle that causes videotaped television to show rolling black bars, but Cam Jam does it on purpose and to a much greater effect — it’s supposed to render tapes unwatchable. Cinea recently received a $2 million grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology to explore the technology, which is being built to accommodate the upcoming spread of digital movie projectors.
Another startup, Flexplay, is working to make DVD and game discs into self-destructing performance pieces: Flexplay technology creates DVDs that expire a few days after they’re exposed to air. Once removed from the packaging, the film protecting the data on the disc starts to react with the air and eventually becomes opaque to a DVD’s pickup laser. MGM used it as a marketing gimmick for part of its Die Another Day campaign, but it could also be used to make discs that could be “rented” but not resold. (It reminds me of William Gibson’s 1992 poem “Agrippa,” which was first released on a floppy disc and which, once read, erased itself.)
The Cinea anti-videotaping tool sounds helpful and could plug one hole in the pirating dike, and the Flexplay approach makes sense for rentals (that won’t have to be returned!). I would hope that these self-destructing “rental” DVDs would be priced lower than DVDs that do have to be returned, since the cost of processing returns is presumably built into the rental price.