Court Ruling Could Crimp Security Features In Next-Gen DVDs - InformationWeek

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Court Ruling Could Crimp Security Features In Next-Gen DVDs

A surprise ruling in the civil suit over the technology used to secure DVDs could have a chilling effect on already overdue moves to update current and next-generation DVDs with new managed-copy features.

SAN JOSE, Calif. — A surprise ruling in the civil suit over the technology used to secure DVDs could have a chilling effect on already overdue moves to update current and next-generation DVDs with new managed copy features.

A judge ruled Thursday (March 29) that startup Kaleidescape Inc. did not breech its contract with the DVD Copy Control Association (DVD CCA) over its use of the consortium's Content Scramble System (CSS). The judge said due to poor wording in the documents a key portion of the CSS spec was not part of the license.

In the wake of the ruling, skittish studio execs could delay the rollout of final security specs for high definition DVDs, already a year overdue. Those specs include a new capability for letting consumers make copies of movies on a controlled basis. Discussions for adding similar features to existing DVDs may also get shoved to the back burner.

The final spec for the Advanced Access Content System (AACS) is due out for final member review in 60 days and expected to appear in products before the end of the year, a schedule that could slip with the Kaleidescape ruling.

"There will absolutely be increased scrutiny of the AACS documents after this court decision, but I really hope and trust that doesn't delay our release," said Michael Ayers, a senior attorney with Toshiba America Information Systems who also manages the group that licenses AACS.

"The AACS group will have to take at what we are doing and make sure we don't set ourselves up for a similar problem" as the DVD CCA faces, Ayers said.

Unlike the DVD CCA, the AACS group will provide tests and tests centers for licensees to test their high def DVD systems. However, they will be limited in scope and will not be available until sometime after the final AACS spec is released.

"There are several elements of compliance. The tests look at a basic part of compliance, but they are not a guarantee of compliance," said Ayers.

In testimony at the non-jury trial, DVD CCA members revealed that since 2005 they have held two votes on a comprehensive amendment to their spec which would have added managed copy features. Both times the vote failed.

"The economics of the managed copy model are still being greatly debated," said Alfred Perry, a vice president of business and legal affairs for Paramount Pictures and a board member of the DVD CCA since July 2004.

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