Electro-optic film set to foil DVD shoplifters
Discs unplayable until purchased
For once here comes a digital protection technology designed to stop shoplifters rather than prevent consumers copying content. US-based Kestrel Wireless this week announced a plan to make DVDs, Blu-ray Discs and HD DVDs unplayable until they've been purchased.
It's a simple scheme: each disc is coated with an electro-optic film that's initally opaque but turns transparent in response to an electrical pulse transmitted by a Kestrel radio unit after it has authorised the process by checking an RFID chip embedded in the disc.
This takes place at the point of sale (POS), after the purchase and only when the disc has been authorised, via Kestrel's network, by the vendor.
Kestrel and RFID-making Philips spin-off NXP are pitching the process primarily at optical media, but they believe it can also be applied to any consumer electronics product with a display or anything else that, if obscured, renders the device unuseable. And if they can't be used, the partners reckon, thieves won't want to nick 'em.
The cynic will suggest the shoplifters will turn to mugging instead, but there other, more realistic flaws in the scheme. To implement, it will require the participation of the retailers, who will have to install potentially expensive POS upgrades. And they'll all have to get with the programme, or the studios will need to press two sets of discs for each title, one with the technology for retailers who support it, and another without the coating for retailers who don't. Not a move they'll be keen to make when they're already having to deal with two separate HD disc formats.
And there are privacy concerns. Will consumers accept the notion that the studios will know exactly which disc they own - just link the purchase data to the unique identity code embedded in each RFID chip?
"Can you say, DIVX" .....
pffff, I use H264 :c)
Seems like Michael completely missed the point.
Who shoplifts DVDs anyway?
Whoever thought of this ingenious idea is missing one subtle, but nonetheless rather important, little pointette: nobody actually shoplifts DVDs!
In record stores, there are the usual passive RF devices on each of the cases. In supermarkets, which carry a smaller range, the cases are empty and an assistant, bringing the disc, is summoned when the barcode is scanned.
The only thing I can see this being any use in defeating is when people walk into a store with a laptop PC, open a DVD case, rip off the movie and leave with only a copy on their HDD ..... but that's just so obvious, I can't believe anybody actually does it. And it won't prevent store staff from secretly making copies in the stockroom, seeing as they already have access to the machinery for making the discs watchable.
If the activation device embedded in the disc fails (and it sounds like an overly-complicated scheme; we all know that complication is the horse on which failure rides into town), then the purchaser is denied the use of the disc they have bought and paid for. This is going to increase the cost to retailers (who, under the Sale of Goods Act 1979, will be held responsible for replacing defective DVDs and will then have to try to recover the cost from the distributor). If the machine at the till which triggers the on-disc activation device fails, then the shop will be unable to sell any DVDs from that till. The result will be chaos. The combination of these two failure modes is likely to end up costing more than the shoplifting it was designed to prevent -- particularly since it won't even stop the little scrotes from nicking the discs, if all they want is just to annoy people.
Why can't the DVD industry learn from the printed media industry? Almost every bookshop and newsagent has a photocopier; yet you never see anyone using it to rip off newspapers, magazines or the latest "Harry Potter" novel. I hope I don't need to point out -why- this is the case.
Reducing the price of DVD's and CD's so that there is no point (or profit) in stealing/pirating. Get rid of all copy protection so consumers don't have compatibility issues with their legitimately purchased products, and most importantly, how about making movies that are worth buying copies. Just because a movie cost $300 million to make, doesn't mean it's any good.
Defeatable != Useless
"There is nothing here to stop people from playing with one of these DVDs with varying pulses of electricity until they learn what will safely render the layer transparent. Then the hackers can just post the voltage on the Doom 9 forum. What a waste of money to develope, as well as outfitting retailers to support this."
There is nothing to stop someone from jimmying the lock on your car door either, or from busting in the window for that matter. So, do you leave your doors unlocked all the time?
The idea that something is pointless merely because there are ways around it, is just naive. The point isn't to make it impossible to steal (which I would say is ultimately impossible, anyway). The point is to make it harder for Billy the mischeivous schoolboy to score a quick five-finger-discount.
If you make it harder to steal, you decrease theft.
I wonder if these people
have ever bought something that needed to be activated before use by the geniuses that man checkouts (that's tills to those that speak English English).
Thanks, but no thanks, it's bad enough trying to get out of the store (shop) without being pestered to sign up for 20 magazine subscriptions and an extended warranty on my new Milkyway (Mars Bar).
Ever tried to return a DVD? And what do you think the reaction will be when you go to a store and say they forgot to activate my DVD? Maybe I'm a pessimist, but it seems to me that putting the activation process in the hands of people that can't count high enough to give proper change is a touch on the risky side.