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A German company has introduced a disposable DVD that can be viewed for 48 hours, then thrown away. The DVDs will sell for just €3.99 ($6.44 /£3.20).

So, it's about the same price as a new video rental in Europe - and it used to be about the same price as in the US, before the Mighty Dollar shrank into the Pygmy Dollar. But there are no late fees and no need to pop the disk in the post or return to the store. This opens up DVD distribution possibilities for new premium-priced movie releases - in petrol stations, convenience stores, coffee shops and the like, as well as online retailers - as there is no longer the need to book the DVDs back in. That's the idea. Will it work?

DVD-D Germany Ltd's 'Einmal' (German for 'once') - discs incorporate a self-destruct chemical coating to render them unreadable after a pre-set time. The process begins as soon as the discs are removed from vacuum-sealed packaging. After 48 hours (or longer, depending on the price) the DVD gives a 'No disc' error when put into a DVD player or PC. There appears to be no DRM (digital rights management), so you could copy the disks, if you're quick enough.

Self-destruct DVDs are not a new idea. In 2003 Flexplay, an Atlanta, Georgia technology company, introduced disposable DVDs using its own self-destruct technology, dubbed ED-D. This was met with fierce criticism from environmental groups, who slammed the notion of throwaway DVDs.

But Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Flexplay's content partner at the time, had a recycling program in place when it launched the initial test. Polycarbonate, Flexplay argues, is a fully recyclable plastic and the proprietary chemical and technology used in the limited play DVD conforms to US Environmental Protection Agency standards.

Flexplay stills offers disposable DVDs in the US - new releases include Beowulf - but its products seem pretty low-profile. We could find no evidence of time-limited DVDs for sale today on Amazon.com, for example. Point us in the right direction, if you can see them.

DVD-D Germany Ltd has high hopes for its home country market. Disposable DVDs have already been successfully introduced in France, Italy and Scandinavia, it says. Others believe the concept is dead in the water, as on-demand online rentals will kill movie DVDs, of whatever hue, soon enough.

Always the promo market, we suppose. But self-destructing giveaways will never generate big bucks, even in this supposed new world of 'Free'. ®

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