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Blu-Ray and HD-DVD camps clash over security features

The consortiums backing rival next-generation DVD formats Blu-Ray and HD-DVD have moved to taking pot-shots at each other over security features - despite the fact that both systems are adopting near-identical technologies.

The consortiums backing rival next-generation DVD formats Blu-Ray and HD-DVD have moved to taking pot-shots at each other over security features - despite the fact that both systems are adopting near-identical technologies.

The argument kicked off when the Blu-Ray Disc Association - an organisation which led by companies including Sony, which will use Blu-Ray in the PlayStation 3 - announced that it's to use a range of measures to prevent piracy of BD-ROM discs.

Among those measures is something called the Advanced Access Content System (AACS), which is also being used by HD-DVD and provides a content management system that apparently "enables new consumer usage models around network functionality and internet connectivity".

On top of that, Blu-Ray has a new step called the "ROM Mark", a hidden watermark on Blu-Ray discs which can only be mastered by licensed content creators and therefore cannot - in theory - be duplicated by pirates, and a system called BD+ which allows content providers to update their encryption dynamically to deal with hacks to players, thus avoiding the scenario with DVD where encrypted content could be ripped easily once the encryption had been broken once.

Movie studio 20th Century Fox announced its support for the Blu-Ray format in the wake of the announcements about security - causing consternation at the rival HD-DVD camp, led by Toshiba, which quickly issued a statement on the matter.

"The content protection of HD DVD provides an equivalent level of security as the system advocated by Fox for Blu-Ray," the HD DVD consortium said in a statement. "We also believe the Blu-Ray disc format and proposed copy protection system may result in playability and reliability issues for the consumer."

"HD DVD provides robust, renewable and standardised content protection coupled with proven reliability, cost effectiveness and flexibility which is why many major film studios have announced support for the HD DVD format," the statement concluded.

With efforts at mediation between the two camps seemingly now completely dead in the water, it looks inevitable that both Blu-Ray and HD DVD are going to hit the market in the near future - leading to a kind of standard battle last seen when VHS and Betamax faced off.

However, a number of outside factors make this show-down more complex - notably the fact that Sony's PlayStation 3 will sport a Blu-Ray drive, essentially guaranteeing an early installed base of millions of players for that format.

There's also a question mark over how many consumers, many of whom have only recently acquired DVD players and replaced their VHS collections with DVDs, are going to be interested in moving to yet another new format - although the companies involved are hoping that the adoption of HDTV, which isn't supported by the existing DVD standard, will help to speed up the process.

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Rob Fahey avatar

Rob Fahey

Contributing Editor

Rob Fahey is a former editor of GamesIndustry.biz who spent several years living in Japan and probably still has a mint condition Dreamcast Samba de Amigo set.

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