The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Friday, May 16, 2003

DISPOSABLE DVD
heading for self-destruction
When software solutions fail, it's time to target the hardware. And physical DVDs/CDs are, essentially, hardware media--it's the content on them (music, movies, programs) that's the software. To combat piracy and duplication, it makes more sense to build in a physical roadblock right onto the discs, rather than monkey around with encryption and other crackable safeguards.

This is what Disney has in mind as it gears up to release self-destructing DVDs in retail stores. These products have a limited shelf life, due to a chemical process on the disk surface that, when exposed to oxygen (i.e., as soon as the case is cracked open), causes that surface to "rust", and thus becom unplayable after a couple of days. (This technique was foretold months ago, as part of a James Bond media promotion.)

This makes a lot of sense for the industry. They can sell these discs for deep discounts; I doubt they'll cost more than 5-7 bucks. As the article points out, this targets the video-rental market, which is important because consumers are already in the habit of content rental. What's more, the added benefit of not having to return the discs should be enticing (I hate to think of how many of these spent things will start filling up garbage landfills, though).

Granted, the viewing window these things give you still provides plenty of time for someone to rip a copy off, but it will put a dent in the file-swapping world.

Will these catch on? I dunno. People still like the idea of "owning" their media. For instance, looking at Disney's core audience, think of how many families buy childrens' videos for the purposes of playing the things hundreds of times for the little ragamuffins. Having to buy a fresh copy over and over again would get old pretty quick (and in fact, would probably spur people who never considered ripping a disc to do just that, for personal use). Also, consider that video-on-demand does the same thing but makes it even easier by never having to go to a store and deal with a physical disc; this destructible media could just take the average consumer one step closer to adopting VOD.

Ultimately, I don't see this format being a permanent or long-term solution; digital files will become the norm. But it'll be interesting to see what becomes of this.