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Californian boffins plot piracy-proof DVD players

(RFIDs + biometrics) - privacy = Hollywood * $$$

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Piracy was abolished back in the 21st Century, my children, when the world's DVD players learned to rat on their owners.

That, at least, is one possible outcome of a University of California, Los Angeles campus research project to equip DVDs with RFID tags that prevent purchases lending discs to chums.

According to a Wired News report, researchers led by engineering professor Rajit Gadh have devised a scheme in which buyers provide biometric data at the point of purchase, that information is encoded on the DVD's RFID tag, which is then locked to prevent the data being changed. Pop the DVD in a player not registered to the user, and the disc won't play.

We've heard of this kind of thing before, and while it makes for a fun research project, it's value in the real world is thankfully highly limited. The only winner is Hollywood, and it would have to persuade not only player makers but also disc makers, disc retailers and, ultimately, consumers to support the scheme.

You can count consumers out immediately, but retailers aren't going to be happy about installing yet more kit that they'll (a) have to pay for and (b) teach typical retail operatives how to use. And all it takes is for one player maker to refuse to install an RFID reader in their DVD device, and the plan becomes redundant.

You could argue that a future disc standard could mandate the use of RFID technology. But the DVD standard mandates region control, but there are still plenty of players out there, many of them from well-known names, that allow you to play discs bought anywhere in the world.

Back to the drawing board, guys... ®

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