Researchers in Los Angeles are developing a new form of piracy protection for DVDs that could make common practices like loaning a movie to a friend impossible.
University of California at Los Angeles engineering professor Rajit Gadh is leading research to turn radio frequency identification, or RFID, tags into an extremely restrictive form of digital rights management to protect DVD movies.
RFID tags have been called "wireless bar codes" -- though they hold more data -- and are commonly used for things like ID badges or keeping track of inventory in a retail store or hospital.
Though RFID tags are usually read by a wireless data reader, the proposed DVD-protection scheme would make no use of RFID's wireless capabilities.
Rather, the researchers are interested in the ability to write data to the tags, which can't be done on a DVD once it's been burned.
Here's how the system might work:
At the store, someone buying a new DVD would have to provide a password or some kind of biometric data, like a fingerprint or iris scan, which would be added to the DVD's RFID tag.
Then, when the DVD was popped into a specially equipped DVD player, the viewer would be required to re-enter his or her password or fingerprint. The system would require consumers to buy new DVD players with RFID readers.
Gadh said he could not reveal specifically how the system would work, as it is still in the research stage. A prototype will be available by the end of the summer, he said, and at that point, it will be shopped around to movie studios and technology companies.
"I don't know quite what is going to work in the real world," Gadh said.
Most DVDs are already encrypted with the Content-Scrambling System. The encryption has been broken, however, and programs to descramble DVDs can be found all over the internet.
DVDs are also "region coded" so that discs sold in the United States, for instance, cannot be played in the United Kingdom. The region coding gives the movie studios control over where and when films are released on DVD.
Ed Felten, a computer science professor at Princeton University, called the proposal the "limit of restrictiveness."
"I think people would find it creepy to give their fingerprint every time they wanted to play a DVD," Felten said. "It's hard to think that would be acceptable to customers."
He said it seems unlikely that people would buy new DVD players with RFID readers in order to purchase DVDs that are less functional.
Hollywood would definitelly like the concept but the possibility to work in the market is quite weak..