A recent reissue of the blockbuster Terminator 2 contains a DVD-ROM version of the movie with a new anti-piracy technique: 5-day viewing licenses issued over the Internet.
The new digital rights management (DRM) system also looks up a PC's Internet address--if the computer has a non-U.S. number, playback of the DVD-ROM will be prevented.
The Web-checking system means that even if the DVD-ROM is copied, only one PC at a time around the world can play it back--bad news for DVD pirates located in Asia and elsewhere.
And anyone thinking of copying the movie file from the DVD-ROM onto a hard drive and sharing it online can forget it: The file is only playable from a valid DVD-ROM disc--again, only after online verification.
Digital Envoy, a provider of rights management technology, and SyncCast, which specializes in media streaming, worked together to create the digital rights management (DRM) system.
The system works with the DRM technology integrated into Microsoft Windows Media 9 Series and has been included in the DVD-ROM bundled with the Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Extreme Edition) disc set, shipped in North America in early June for US$29.98.
The set contains a standard DVD, but the DVD-ROM has a high-definition version that provides three times more video detail, SyncCast spokesman said. The movie file is encoded in WM9 format, required for the DRM operation of Windows Media Player 9.
The PC playing the DVD-ROM must be connected to the Internet, so as to obtain a license. Content owners can decide which type of license to issue; 1 time play, unlimited play, expires after 30 days, and so on, said Nichols.
"In the case of T2, Artisan (the studio releasing the DVD) decided to issue licenses that have to be renewed every 5 days. You can get as many 5 day licenses as you want but each license is only good for 5 days," he said.
This allows, say, a notebook user to view the movie for 5 days while on the road and disconnected from the Web.
While Nichols did not reveal fully how the DRM works, it is understood that it requires the online verification of details such as the user's IP address and the unique IDs of the disc, movie file and computer playing the file.
"If the user's IP and address is in the region designated by the content owner and they have a valid disc they are issued a license. Users who we determine are outside of the designated region are provided an email address to contact the licensor to request a license directly from them," said Nichols.
"Once they prove they have a valid disc, we issue a license to the user's computer. The user can play the file on any drive connected to his computer that has the license. If the user tries to play the content on a different computer, it won't work. If the user attempts to pass the content off to a friend, it won't work," he said.
The same DRM system can also be used to protect movie streams or downloaded movie files. Despite the checks, no user information is sent to SyncCast or Microsoft without the user's permission, he added.