Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/04/02/dvdpay/
UK operation patents DVD lockdown
Premium content ransomed without use of special kit
Liquid11, better known for phone-number aggregation service SwitchboardFree, has got a patent on a DVD lockdown technology that enables pay-to-play without mucking about with proprietary hardware or risking internet sharing of security codes.
The premise is a DVD with some free content, and some that is only unlocked once a call has been made to a premium-rate line or credit-card-payment system. The company suggests that the disk could be given away with a newspaper, with free content acting as a teaser to draw in revenue for the paid stuff. It's a fine idea if it can be done technically, which is where Liquid11's patent comes in to play.
When the user attempts to play back the additional content they are asked to call a number, which can be a premium-rate line and is unique to that DVD title. The caller is then given a unique number based on their phone number, which is picked up on the caller-ID (the company has registered as a telco, so they get caller ID even when it's blocked). The code is then entered into the DVD player, along with the phone number, and the premium content unlocked.
The good point is the lack of specialist kit - normal DVD player, disk and phone, along with the fact that sharing an unlock code means also sharing a phone number. In the US the company has been using credit-card numbers instead, making it very unlikely anyone going to share their unlock code with the world.
The real question is if punters actually want DVDs with additional, premium, content on them. The company has, for the last 18 months, been supplying the technology to purveyors of porn titles where the access to premium content has apparently gone down well, but whether the rest of the world is ready to pay is another matter entirely.
Technically the solution is one of the more elegant attempts to improve the DVD business. It won't stop every attempt to access the content, but it will stop the majority. But despite that, it's still trying to solve a problem that hardly exists. ®