The Best Blu-ray Disc Players: From Blu-Plate to Blu-Chip

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Legal Digital Copying Catches On

Want to make a legal portable version of your favorite flicks? Just look for the Digital Copy logo on your DVD or Blu-ray Disc.

Digital Copy started in late 2007. Twentieth Century Fox and Warner Bros., recognizing the value of embracing the digital revolution, each decided to offer an option for consumers to access a digital, portable version of a movie that's stored on the same DVD they've purchased to play in the living room. If consumers are given a fairly simple way to make legal copies of movies, the studios reasoned, they won't turn to the same kind of rampant, illicit copying and file sharing that has slaughtered the music industry.

Fast-forward to 2009. Managed Copy, a similar concept that would function within Blu-ray's copy-protection scheme, is mired in development hell; the AACS (Advanced Access Content System) that encompasses it remains in Rev .921 while the organization that manages AACS tries to get everyone to agree to the final specs. Meanwhile, Digital Copy is going gangbusters, thanks to grassroots industry organization and a multitude of studios jumping aboard.

Late last year Digital Copy got a boost in the form of a common logo across participating studios, including Disney, Fox, Lionsgate, Paramount, Sony, Universal, and Warner. The advantage to Digital Copy is that you don't have to download anything; the transfer speed is limited only by your DVD-ROM drive's ability to read the bits and transfer them to your PC or handheld device.

Over 50 titles have shipped with a Digital Copy version on the disc. Typically the Digital Copy version is stored on an extra disc in a multidisc set, though sometimes it may fit on the same DVD with other content. Blu-ray Digital Copy editions are appearing, too, but to use them you must have a PC with a Blu-ray Disc drive.

Fox's implementation of Digital Copy is compatible with both PC and Mac computers and assorted mobile devices. Fox's version works with the increasingly uncommon Windows PlaysForSure, and the practically ubiquitous Apple iTunes.

How does it work? If you use iTunes, for example, you just insert the disc into your computer and enter a code that comes with the disc into iTunes, and automatically the movie copies to iTunes in a matter of minutes. From there, you can watch the movie on your PC or Mac via iTunes, or transfer the copy to an Apple TV, iPhone, or iPod. The one drawback: Each DVD will transfer its iTunes Digital Copy to only one iTunes library.

Sony, meanwhile, is trying to figure out how to make a variation of Digital Copy work with its PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable products (already the company has announced plans to offer a full PS3 game on the same disc as a movie; the first such title is due out later this year).

Sources say that, for Fox, the vast majority of movie transactions in iTunes are Digital Copy authentications, not actual electronic sales. Digital Copy usage makes sense, and we expect to see more studios take advantage of the capability on both new releases and catalog titles. And as the selection broadens, we anticipate that more consumers will take advantage--after all, no one enjoys paying twice for the same content in different forms.

--Melissa J.Perenson

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