So you bought a movie on DVD and want to create an extra copy -- but you worry, since the movie company shows an FBI warning against unauthorized reproduction as the DVD starts.
Your dilemma soon might end. Film companies are mulling ways to sanction limited home copying, says the head of content protection software maker Macrovision. (NASDAQ:MVSN)
After a long tug-of-war over what piracy is and how to fight it, entertainment firms are looking to strike some compromise with consumers. One option is technology that lets a certain number of electronic or physical copies be made for convenience, but restricts wider uses.
"A lot of the studios actually are considering whether we should have a legal rip, if you will, of a DVD," said Macrovision MVSN Chief Executive Fred Amoroso. "Some of the types of (enabling) technologies are being considered for release. My guess would be within the next 12 months."
Seeking Middle Ground
Ways to get around outright DVD copy protections have proliferated for years -- as has debate over the legality of home copying. Studies show many people do copy movies and other content. But digital rights management -- security techniques that govern what users can and can't do with content -- is evolving.
Macrovision, which counts major film studios among its customers, has been trying to build flexibility into its software and hardware systems used to protect content.
Amoroso says the firm is investing in "technologies that are starting to bridge the 'no, never, thou shalt not copy' to those that are enabling your ability to download, try and buy and make legal copies in both electronic and physical environments."
A key challenge is to get people to accept digital rights management, or DRM. The concept remains controversial. Some detractors refer to DRM as digital restrictions management.
People should be allowed to make one or two copies for home use, says Alison Casey, an analyst at the U.K.-based consulting firm Understanding & Solutions.
"There has to be the flexibility in copy protection or DRM to say, 'Well, you know, this is permissible,'" Casey said. Her firm recently did a Macrovision-sponsored study on home copying.
The study found that convenience is the main reason people make copies. Of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers surveyed, 28% said they'd copied DVDs, VHS tapes or PC games titles in the last six months -- mostly movies on DVD.
"The majority of people are doing it for their own use. There was no doubt about that," Casey said. "They want to get a copy for the kids to watch in the den or whatever. I think that's legitimate, I think the industry would recognize that as being legitimate."
On average, those who duplicated DVDs made just one copy, but did so for 14 titles over the time span. More than 80% were at least in part copying legitimate DVD titles they owned, but 29% were duplicating borrowed titles, and 20% made copies from rented DVDs.
A quarter of DVD duplicators said they copied because the cost of DVDs was too high, and Casey says a significant minority reported sharing with more than five people. "That's where you start thinking, 'This is impacting revenues,'" Casey said.
Many Download Free Content
The study concluded that protecting DVD revenue through appropriate pricing, improved retailer relations and copy protection/DRM is important amid the transition to new formats and platforms.
Digital delivery of home entertainment is still in its early days. But the more it catches on, the more important it becomes for content owners to guard revenue. In the study, 24% of respondents said they'd downloaded PC games, movies, TV programs or special interest content to their PC or cell phone. Almost all of that was free content, and 40% made physical copies.
As one approach to deterring piracy, the film industry has stepped up efforts to provide alternatives. For instance, it's making more content available electronically for viewing or purchase.
"Most of the work is being done by the member studios," said Dean Garfield, chief strategic officer for the Motion Picture Association of America. They're "making their content available in a wide range of alternatives, whether you want peer-to-peer or subscription or streaming, whether through their own sites like ABC.com or Disney, or partnering with third parties like BitTorrent.com."
Garfield says there are a lot of tests under way as studios evolve with the changing marketplace.
The industry benefits from lessons learned by the music industry, Casey says. But instead of taking copy protection off -- as the music industry's tried -- Casey says the film industry should look at "paid-for models at a really good price, broadening out the kind of services that we started to see from people like Apple AAPL iTunes ... ."