Hollywood embraces the “digital copy”

In what seems to be a belated recognition that DVD owners want to store movies on PCs and stream them around the home, two Hollywood studios are about to release discs that include a “digital copy”.

Hollywood embraces the

Twentieth Century Fox will be the first, with disc two of the Live Free or Die Hard special edition containing two extra copies of the movie – one for the PC and one for portable devices. Warner will follow suit with the December release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Neither studio will charge more for the privilege, save the $5 premiums they routinely add to special edition packs, but they have applied a hefty dose of Windows Media DRM. That means that the portable copy will only play on PlaysForSure devices – which excludes iPods and Zunes – while the PC version is Windows only.

Fox’s Digital Copy files are encoded at 1.6Mb/sec for the PC version and 768Kb/sec for portability. That corresponds to a 1.5GB and 1GB file size respectively. Warner has opted for a slightly lower bitrate and consequently smaller file sizes.

Previous studio initiatives to provide movie fans with free, legitimate copies have involved including a unique code with a DVD that gives access to a download. But this takes time, which prompted Warners to try this different approach.

“It’s because of the superior consumer experience; you don’t have to wait for the bits to be downloaded,” says Jim Wuthrich, senior vice president of Electronic Sell-through. “The transfer time is dependent only on how fast your DVD-ROM drive is. It’s not tied to your broadband speed.”

Whether that is enough to persuade people to give up BitTorrent and DVD ripping software is debatable, not least because both provide access to full resolution and DRM-free copies. And as the recent Radiohead experience shows, “piracy” is a habit that is hard to break.

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