- The Washington Times - Friday, September 5, 2008

Some people want to watch their movies on the go [-] on their laptops, their iPods and their iPhones [-] without hauling around boxes of DVDs. Studios have just the solution for this slice of consumers“digital copy.”

Warner Bros. has followed suit, selling its own films with digital copies enclosed.

”It’s an effort to make it easier for consumers to have the type of functionality and portability that they’ve shown us they want,” says Home Entertainment, citing the proliferation of portable video players.

How does digital copy work? Quite easily - anyone who has transferred songs from a CD to a portable music device (such as an Zune) will be familiar with the process. DVDs with digital copy are sold as two-disc special editions. On the first disc is the feature and any extras. The second disc is the digital copy. Transferring the movie from the digital-copy disc to one’s computer is as easy as 1, 2, 3.

I mean that literally: The instructions included with the digital copy of Fox’s “Street Kings” are just three steps long. If you choose to use iTunes, the program will walk you through the process, downloading the movie from the iTunes Store’s server. You also can transfer a film directly from the DVD to your computer. This takes less time, but the resulting file is playable only on Windows devices. (Don’t worry; you can do both.)

The uploaded content looks as good as anything I have seen on a laptop or a portable device, but that quality comes at a price: hard drive space. (Fox’s “Street Kings,” for example, eats up 1.18 gigabytes of memory, roughly one-seventh of the space on my iPhone, and that doesn’t even include the special features, none of which makes the transfer.)

Consumer frustration is the main reason studios are working on making DVDs uploadable. Having grown used to taking their entire CD library on business trips - or for a jog, on the daily commute or wherever else you see those ubiquitous white earbuds - customers started to ask why they couldn’t do the same with their DVD collections.

”The studios have always included copy protection on their DVDs, and music [CDs] never [have], for whatever reason,” says Motion Picture Association of America. DVDs are encrypted with a Content Scramble System, a code that makes the process of copying DVDs more difficult.

CSS was intended to crack down on piracy, but it has had annoying secondary effects for legitimate customers. One example: CSS barred up-converting DVD players - machines that simulate a high-definition picture from standard-definition DVDs - from working through anything other than a HDMI input. If you have an older model of HDTV, you are out of luck on the up-conversion front. CSS also made putting DVDs on a hard drive difficult - although, as a quick Google search shows, not impossible.

Digital copy is a far easier way to get movies onto your computer, but there’s a catch: The industry considers this a whole new format, as different from DVD as DVD was from VHS tapes. If you want legal digital copies of DVDs you already own to show up one day on your hard drive, you might have to reach into your wallet yet again.

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