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Disney Encrypting Screener DVDs to Prevent Piracy 262

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the this-dvd-will-self-destruct-in-five-seconds dept.
Sascha J. writes "Disney is continuing their war against piracy. To their Oscar reviewers they now send out special encrypted DVDs, which can be played only on a DVD player of the "Cinea" series. From the article: "The DVD players are encoded with recipients' names, and screeners sent to those people are specifically encrypted so they can be seen only on those particular DVD players." Yet, Disney is alone on this. Sony and Universal Pictures said they won't follow that step."
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Disney Encrypting Screener DVDs to Prevent Piracy

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  • by FauxReal (653820) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @04:33AM (#13870069) Homepage
    So what keeps people from recording the output and distributing that?
    • So what keeps people from recording the output and distributing that?

      Nothing, but there are a few deterrents:

      -A small reduction in quality (Boo hoo)
      -The time it takes to play the whole thing, then recompress it. (Of course, you could just do the first while you're watching it, and the second overnight.)
      -Much higher chance of having interrupts, skips, etc. (Blah)
      -You lose the DVD menus! (This would actually matter.)

      Basically, the same reason people choose to disable the copy-protection on those new CDs t
      • Since we're talking about screeners, are there even menus on these DVDs?
        • by MMMDI (815272) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @05:40AM (#13870260) Homepage
          I can't answer for Disney or Sony, but I get a good deal of screener DVDs for review purposes. I get about 10-12 per month from the many labels of EI Cinema (Seduction Cinema, Shock-O-Rama, Video Outlaw, etc.), as well as 2-3 here and there from Lions Gate.

          With those companies as the basis for my statements, the screeners for direct-to-video films and about-to-hit-DVD films are fully-featured with all of the bonus materials and menus that you'd get if you purchased the DVD. Some things may change when the DVD hits stores (bonus features added, changed menus, things of that nature), but generally, they're the same thing you'd purchase from your retailer of choice.

          Screener copies of movies that are currently in theaters or are about to hit theaters are bare-bones. You get the typical piracy warning before jumping to a very simple menu (with nothing more than "Play Movie" as an option), or it goes straight from the warning into the movie.
      • waht about (Score:3, Informative)

        i haven't read all of TFA, but i would assume that the deterrents also included some type of watermark of the recipient's name in the output stream, something that would stay there even with the digital-to-analog conversion and would be awfully difficult to remove.

        So when disney finds these on the net, its a simple matter of decoding and looking up the watermark to find out who to nail...whereas before they had no idea who released it onto the net.
        • Re:waht about (Score:2, Informative)

          by m4dm4n (888871)
          Watermarks for screeners have been around for a few years AFAIK. The difference now is that its even harder for a copy to make it onto the internet, and also a hell of a lot harder for the recipient to claim the DVD screener was just "stolen".
          • Re:waht about (Score:3, Insightful)

            by bhtooefr (649901)
            What is the quality of the watermark?

            Is it a durable watermark? I'm thinking that a lossy compression scheme could damage it very badly.
            • At which point they lose the benefit of a nice crisp DVD quality rip.

              Some digital watermarking technologies can withstand quite large degredations in quality, and by the time you're sure it is gone, you end up with a rip that is not much better than a dodgy in cinema recording.
            • Re:waht about (Score:4, Insightful)

              by maxwell demon (590494) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @06:11AM (#13870331) Journal
              What about inserting/deleting single frames at well-known (to Disney, of course not to the receiver) positions before/after cuts? There's no way the person copying it could know if the cut should have been one frame earlier or later. Moreover this is likely to be relatively robust to recompression (yes, there may be some dropped frames, but unless it's a very bad quality recording, the probability that more than one or two are exactly at movie cuts should be very low.
              Now you may claim that it's possible to randomly cut frames at any cut on recompression. But that assumes the one copying it knows or at least suspects that information may be coded in this way (I'm sure Disney will never say in which way they watermark those movies).
              I'm sure there are other simple ways to robustly hide data in a movie which one finds with very little thinking. If several of them are used, I'm sure almost anyone wanting to remove the watermark will miss at least one of them, unless he is very well informed about the watermarking used.
              Of course with enough knowledge of the type of watermarking, one can destroy any watermark (simply overwrite it with a different one).
      • You don't lose the DVD menus; they don't exist on screeners designed for reviews before a picture has made it to the cinema.
      • by squoozer (730327) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @06:22AM (#13870350)

        You state that losing the menus is the most important failing of recoridng from the output. While I admit that it may be considered a failing for some personally I quite like it when the menus are stipped off. It makes a DVD simplicity itself. You put the disk in teh drive... that's it. The film just plays. It's really quite relaxing in fact.

      • by leuk_he (194174)
        Loosing the menu, and especailly all the trailers are the reason i do not use disk i bought from disney, but i make a "movie only" rip from the disk.

        My 3 year old son(target group of disney?) can just pop-in the dvd into the player and watch it.

        I bet the screener disks are already cleaned of all the trailers.
      • by Rogerborg (306625) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @09:02AM (#13870889) Homepage
        Remember, Disney led the charge on non-skippable trailers on DVDs. They are basically pure evil in Corporate form.
    • by Technician (215283) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @04:58AM (#13870148)
      So what keeps people from recording the output and distributing that?

      I presume the output from the beast contains your machine identity. A pirate copy would have a tracable name, address, phone number, etc. The studio would know which player and which disk was compromised. Think it as a personalized version of the movie with the screener brown dots. The dots would not just be print copy number. It would be everything that says arrest John Doe at 1212 Main street for making this pirate copy.
      • A diff on the raw video data should be able to give you a good enough reference to find the difference (pun intended) in the copy protection scheme.
      • compress to mpeg4 and those dots are unreadable.

        people give the studios too much credit.

        most "releases" on the web are 640X480 for high end, 320X240 typical and compressed so hard that those "dots" are removed or obscured heavily to the point of uselessness.

        Now changing some scenes around slightly, that can be detected no matter what compression used (unless you compress so that it's not viewable anymore) and that can give you a decent number of identifiers to positively identify 20-50 discreet copies that
    • by rishistar (662278) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @06:07AM (#13870323) Homepage

      You miss the point - these screener DVDS are *very* limited in number - they are DVDs sent off to the people who vote in the Oscars. Each of these is then watermarked with the name of the person who recieves the DVD for reviewing. Then if copies do surface then Disney can analyse the footage, say - it is you who has copied it! and maybe sue the dude to whom the DVD was provided to and at least not give them anymore.

      Disney have now gone a step further by saying it will only play on one range of DVD players. This is probably because the last time they caught someone for bottlegging stuff, the actor Carmine Caridi [imdb.com] had 'lent' the DVDs to a friend who he thought was just a film buff.

      Looking it up on the web the whole story has a tragic end [afterdawn.com] for the pirate involved.

      So, yeah they can be copied and distributed. But it makes it too traceable, too much hassle and a recipient has too much to loose, to make the whole thing worthwhile.

    • You miss the point.

      Disney knows that this doesn't stop things from ULTIMATELY being leaked, but it does slow down releases. Most leaks, I assume, since I'm guilty of EXACTLY this, come from people like me. I have a family member who is a reviewer. Every year around this time EVERY movie worth ANY Oscar consideration (and quite a few that aren't) get dropped on my family member's desk in a nice studio-copy DVD. Some silver pressed, early store copies - some DVD-Rs, but still from the studio.

      I watch t

  • My thought (Score:5, Funny)

    by cuerty (671497) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @04:33AM (#13870071)
    Making movies almost imposible or very hard to view for reviewers it's the best marketing choice.

    Yeah, take this as irony.
    • Re:My thought (Score:5, Informative)

      by Pieroxy (222434) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @04:57AM (#13870145) Homepage
      These are screeners DVD, not for 'average joe'. I see no issue in this move, which actually makes a lot of sense. This is B2B, not B2C as when they release the real DVD.
      • Re:My thought (Score:2, Insightful)

        by -brazil- (111867)
        The issue is that the recipients of these DVDs are reviewers from which you want positive reviews of your movie. Making them jump through hoops for that doesn't sound like a very smart move.

        OTOH, it's apparently exactly these screeners that are a common source of high-quality pre-cinematic-release-bootlegs, which must be by far the most painful (for the makers) kind, so it's understandavle that they'd risk a backlash from the reviewers to prevent them.
  • No more.... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    pirated copies of bambie :(
  • Disney? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @04:34AM (#13870073)
    Because Pirates just can't resist a 0-day release of Cinderella.
  • geez, come on... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by clambake (37702) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @04:35AM (#13870080) Homepage
    Just put a big, slightly visible watermark across the entire screen of the name of the guy you sent the DVD to. Like, just a 4% opaque "EBERT AND ROPER" diaganal across the screen. Then when it's turned to video, it'll either have to be blurred out, and thur ruin the film, or you've caught the guy whol let it out of his hands... How hard is it people!?
    • Re:geez, come on... (Score:5, Informative)

      by sacbhale (216624) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @04:45AM (#13870112)
      Thats not a big problem at all...u just need 2 or 3 different sourses...combine the feeds using a noise canceling averaging algorithm and u can easliy remove the markings and get a clean print.

      another option is to use the same amount of opaqueness and put a block covering up the text making it just a rectangular block. No need for 2 feeds in this one...just a good algo...

      Besides people really dont mind having blocked out patches on video so much...
      a lot of people download even telesync versions of movies which are missing parts of the screen...
      • But in this scenario it means you've got to have two or three different screeners who are all prepared to give up their copy of the film in order for you to combine them for the explicit act of movie piracy.

        Maybe I've too much faith in human nature (a rarity) but I can't see that happening.

        And even if it does happen, it's still tripled the initial workload in that you have to obtain three copies instead of just one. That's a fairly good deterrent to the average work-shy pirater, I'd think...
    • by Mr_Tulip (639140)
      2 problems with this:
      1)The DVD could have been intercepted in the production stage, so the recipients name is purely accidental/random.
      2)The DVD could be intercepted at the delivery stage, which may at least tell you which postal office is ripping off the studio.

      While having a dedicated DVD player solves these problems to some extent, it is only a matter of time before someone manages to crack the encryption or get hold of an original Cinea model to do the ripping.

    • It's really a question of how much it will annoy the reviewers.
      It may deter or even prevent copying when done right, but it may also put the reviewer in a bad enough mood to unconsciencky rate your movie just a little lower than normal.
    • If you want to place a watermark over the whole movie, you have to reencode the whole movie, which is a slow process - much slower than encrypting it, which can be done on the fly while you're burning the DVD. Each individual reviewer's copy would take hours to make instead of minutes.
    • Logo removal has come a long way. If you track objects as they fall under the opaque area, you can find when they are opaque and when they are not. You can calculate what area of the screen is opaque and you can adjust for it. A quick Google search turned up LogoAway and DeLogo.

      Watermarks are more of a problem. I don't think I'd let a screener DVD out my door without comparing it to another screener DVD for watermarks. The biggest problem is that you aren't supposed to know if a watermark is even there
    • by haggais (624063) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @06:02AM (#13870311)

      Actually, the wonders of modern technology suggest a rather simpler solution. Digital watermarking [wikipedia.org] of video streams is a fairly well-developed field, with several companies offering working products. The "invisible" watermark is some extra bits of "payload" added by some transformation of the images -- nothing which perceptibly degrades image quality -- and can be recovered again by some simple transformation of the data.

      Algorithms exist which embed this information "visually", in the sense that it is distirbuted across the whole or much of the image, and it survives "classic" image processing such as resizing, lossy compression, and recolouration of the image (not to any degree, of course, but you'd be ruining the movie before you got rid of the watermark), rather than just being a few specific bits which can be deleted or edited. Some of these techniques are also intended to be tamper-proof, in the sense that without the watermark-creator's key it is very hard to know how to remove or alter the watermark.

      Such a watermark would seem to be much better than a glaring visual signal, for tracking down the originator of a leaked copy. It wouldn't stop viewers enjoying their leaked copies, but the leaker could be held accountable.

    • Re:geez, come on... (Score:3, Informative)

      by ultranova (717540)

      Just put a big, slightly visible watermark across the entire screen of the name of the guy you sent the DVD to. Like, just a 4% opaque "EBERT AND ROPER" diaganal across the screen.

      For each color channel, the watermarked value is given by:

      Watermarked_value = Original_value * 0.96 + Watermark * 0.04

      which means that

      Original_value = Watermarked_value / 0.96 - Watermark * 0.04

      where Original_value is the numerical value of the channel before watermarking, Watermarked_value is the numerical value of th

  • Idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by smallguy78 (775828) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @04:36AM (#13870086) Homepage
    Here's a novel idea, instead of fannying about trying to stop people copying your films (which people always will), you join the 21st century and make your films distributed on an internet download site, with a reduction of $2 on the cinema price.

    It's a barmy idea that Apple and Napster tried, but it might just work!
    • Re:Idea (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bgog (564818) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @06:11AM (#13870332) Journal
      Dude, they arn't talking about regular DVDs. They are talking about 'Screeners' These are DVDs of the movies that are nomiated for an Oscar. The members of the acadamy then watch them and vote. Most of the movies have NOT been released on DVD yet.

      The trouble they have with these is that people leak them. When their movie is released on the internet 2 months before the DVD is available to buy it can really hurt them. So they have been playing with stuff like digital watermards and stuff JUST for the screeners.

      Now I'm with most slashdotters when it comes to fair-use. I don't want my damn DVDs encrypted or copy protected. Not because I want to steal them but because I may want to back them up or put them on my computer. Anyway I'm with the studio's when it comes to the screeners. They have sent pre-release versions of thier product to a limited set of reviewers and they don't deserve to have their movies released prematurely onto the internets.
      • Re:Idea (Score:2, Funny)

        by GbrDead (702506)
        ... the internets.
        Oh, did EU already split off?
      • The trouble they have with these is that people leak them. When their movie is released on the internet 2 months before the DVD is available to buy it can really hurt them.

        So release the DVD already. I own over 150 DVDs. I also have a number of downloaded illegal movies. All the downloaded movies I have are of movies (either old or new, mostly old) that the studios will not let me buy. I have money, I'm willing to buy their product, but they won't sell.

        They try and hold out on the DVD release until the
  • by Brent Spiner (919505) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @04:38AM (#13870088) Homepage
    Sony and Universal Pictures said they won't follow that step
    No, I hear that Sony and Universal are making the reviewers watch the movies from jail, and letting them out when the movie is officially released.
  • Missing something (Score:4, Interesting)

    by barcodez (580516) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @04:38AM (#13870089)
    Somewhere in this system there must exist a "plain text" version of the video stream otherwise the video could not be displayed, I'm guessing this is between the DVD player and the TV, so all one would need to do is intercept this transmission and high quality copies can be made.
    • To avoid this, the industry has invented (and is moving to) HDMI as the interface between DVD player and TV.
      It seems it is mandatory for HDTV capable players (and receivers).
    • Re:Missing something (Score:3, Informative)

      by LordSnooty (853791)
      Yeah, a "plain text" version with a huge digital watermark across the screen. That's the problem.
    • by -brazil- (111867)
      You guess wrong - at least where the next generation of hardware is concerned. The data between your HDTV and the player will be encrypted, and the player will refuse to work (or only output a low-res version of the movie) when connected to a display that does not authenticate itself. A player that does not do this will be made illegal (won't be allowed to use some of the patented key technolgies). Same with the HDDVD/BlueRay format war: the technological merits are irrelevant, it's all about which fromat c
    • Re:Missing something (Score:2, Informative)

      by hattig (47930)
      A high quality copy that includes the watermark* information of the leaker, who will then never get another screener in their life. Which would suck if their job was reviewing movies.

      It means that any incentive to leak the screener will disappear because they will be caught by the embedded watermark (presumably added by the special DVD player? Or maybe that is to stop them using the 'my son's friend's dog's niece did it, not me!' excuse).

      I'm actually not against this to be honest. Disney want to stop pre-re
  • Not serious... (Score:2, Insightful)

    They don't think this measure will have any effect do they? Really? I have a MUCH better suggestion. Don't send them out. It is a win/win situation. No-one gives them bad reviews and they strike a blow against piracy! /cough/ Spend more time thinking about how to make a movie I want to buy, then make it a reasonable price...
    • afaict screeners go to two main places.

      1: ratings bodies. This one is basically not optional for the producers, if industry led ratings schemes fail lots of countries would probablly replace them with government control and the industry really don't wan't that.

      2: judges for major awards series (e.g. oscars). Here its a case of not wanting to get left out because the competition had thier films in the judges hands earlier.
      • 1: ratings bodies. This one is basically not optional for the producers, if industry led ratings schemes fail lots of countries would probablly replace them with government control and the industry really don't wan't that.

        A government-appointed body like the BBFC [bbfc.co.uk] for example? It seems to work OK this side of the pond.
  • by jimsteri (888700) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @04:39AM (#13870092)
    I would believe they would make more profit if they used the money they use for developing copy protection for actually creating better content. These protections never work anyway..
    • Disney are typical of a big organisation, easier to buy up products than develop them. Hence all the characters they have bought and rebranded.
    • I would believe they would make more profit if they used the money they use for developing copy protection for actually creating better content.
      They discovered that creating crap content is the best copy protection system ever.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ..they send special gold-lined dvd players encrusted with diamonds.
    Sometimes they even send a dvd movie to view.
  • Better idea! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Carraway (794372) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @04:41AM (#13870101)
    I have a better idea. Instead of encrypting their DVDs, just mail them out along with a little note saying that the last guy to be caught pirating screeners died in police custody [bbc.co.uk]. I think pirates will get the hint.
  • by rolfwind (528248) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @04:42AM (#13870102)
    Is it me or does it seem that the more 'piracy' is fought, the crappier the content gets. I know correlation doesn't signify causation, but I can't help but wonder if this is also a new innovative feature to fight 'piracy?'

    If so, congrats Disney. In which case from my own experience, it must be working. You don't pirate what you don't want.
  • The Alphas get the golden chains given for them as a gift.
    The Betas buy the silver chains at Saks.
    The Gammas can pay for Wal-Mart chains to appear like a Beta
    The Deltas can't afford their freedom.
    The Epsilons can't afford their slavery.

    I'm glad I'm not an Alpha, their too stuck up.
  • by The Wooden Badger (540258) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @04:47AM (#13870118) Homepage Journal
    This is really funny. Disney is basically saying that the academy is the biggest problem in the whole movie copying/pirating thing. Can this be seen as anything but a cheap shot at the Academy? Sure they're thwarting piracy. How easy is it to get your hands on one of these bad boys to begin with? If I put my mind to it I think I could figure out who one person is who would actually get one of these DVDs and that's because my brother taught the guy golf lessons a few years back. (I got to see Titanic on VHS when it was still in the theaters and I'm glad I didn't have to pay to see that steaming pile.) The odds of actually knowing who would have one of these and actually be able to get your hands on it is just about impossible. All I can figure is that there is either A. an extremely unlikely chance of stealing a delivery of a DVD and pirating it, or B. the people that are intended to receive them are considered by Disney to be entirely untrustworthy. Disney has to send them or risk not getting any awards, so instead they blow a load of money to make themselves look like a bunch of paranoid idiots. I think I'll go out on a limb and say that Disney isn't going to earn any more awards for future movies. I guess on the bright side Disney isn't really trying to win any awards for the movies they put out lately.
    • If I put my mind to it I think I could figure out who one person is who would actually get one of these DVDs and that's because my brother taught the guy golf lessons a few years back. ...

      The odds of actually knowing who would have one of these and actually be able to get your hands on it is just about impossible.

      Haven't you just about disproved your own existence?
    • "This is really funny. Disney is basically saying that the academy is the biggest problem in the whole movie copying/pirating thing."

      Stick around and read more Slashdot coverage of movie piracy, and with each article you'll see at least one nitwit post something to the effect of "If the movie industry wants to stop piracy, they should stop the leaks, rather than busting the poor teenagers who use BitTorrent bork bork bork!". In other words, you'll find plenty of Slashdotters who really do think that, y

      • The crux of my going out on a limb is that Disney has labelled the reviewers as the problem. If they are the problem, they don't like getting tagged, and income eliminated. If they aren't the problem, they don't like getting tagged with the ones that are. It is akin to career suicide to say a reviewer is a problem and put tech into play that attempts to eliminate that problem. If reviewers aren't going to like being labelled, justly or unjustly, there will be bias. If a biased reviewer looks at 5 movie
  • by Centurix (249778) <centurix&gmail,com> on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @05:09AM (#13870184) Homepage
    If they're going to this much length to protect their content, they should just get a bunch of armed security guards to personally deliver the DVD within a sealed DVD player chained to his arm. Train the security guard on how to plug the thing directly into a TV.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    They should just forget about those pesky reviewers copying their films and simply send out the reviews of the movies to the papers.

    Oh wait Columbia Pictures tried that... I wonder how Mr. Dave Manning is getting along!
  • Weak rings (Score:3, Interesting)

    by VincenzoRomano (881055) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @05:16AM (#13870201) Homepage Journal
    There can be a number of weak rings in the chain.
    Somewhere into the DVD player the content gets unencrypted: there you can copy it with, at worst, some soldering skills.
    Somewhere the content is completely clear text before being encrypted: someone working there could access and copy it.
    Movie and music companies can loose more money because of product quality than piracy. And becuase of high investments in screener encryption!
  • by Anonymous Cowpat (788193) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @05:38AM (#13870249) Journal
    as a reviewer for BAFTA about this time last year.
    I'm not impressed.
    Ours is actually connected with a composite video lead rather than scart and every few minutes black bands begin to appear across the picture, which I assume is some sort of an anti-copying measure but also somewhat ruins the film.
    The machine was difficult to set up, requiring registration, which is a pain, especialyl when you have to call a call-centre which is only open during US West Coast office hours. (which isn't really anyone's fault). The biggest issue, however, is the fact that, to my knowledge, he hasn't actually recieved any films which need to be watched using it.
    As an ordinary DVD player it's worse than the first one that we ever had - it takes a good 30 seconds to start up and then obeys all the 'do-not-skip' tags, which isn't too bad for screeners because they generally go straight to the film, but with ordinary DVDs it's a torturous wait every time you want to watch it, at least you could fast forward with VHS.

    Basically, the machines are a pain for everyone and it was a really bad idea on the part of Disney.
    • What you're seeing is your basic Macrovision protection. Macrovision fools with the automatic gain, and different televisions respond in different ways. While most televisions experience an "ebb and tide" of fading, some televisions respond by only showing distortions at the high and low ends -- e.g. your black bars every few minutes.

      The NTSC video standard (the broadcast standard used in North America and Japan) is defined with a 525-line vertical resolution. However, only 480 of those lines are used

  • Which self-respecting pirate wants to watch saccharine Disney material anyway? If they fsck up the Narnia books the same way as they usually do with existing literature, I shall not be happy.
    • Disney includes Miramax and Dimension so this may well include movies released under that label.
    • Disney has made a huge number of block buster movies. Just because you (and I) think that they lack any artistic merit doesn't mean that there isn't vast bucks to be made by pirating them. I'm not sure that Disney is that bothered about the pirates who just copy for their own personal use. It's the high quality copies that turn up at our local flea market that really hurt their profits.
  • Screenings (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pev (2186) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @06:51AM (#13870425) Homepage
    So, they can't deliver screenings on DVD securely any more without resorting to draconian measures. So what? Why can't they just go back to the days when you had a company rep with the film showing it in a private theatre to a collected audience. It was social, people could actually _talk_ to each other about it and they could have the rep answer viewers questions and no hope of the screeners geting duplicated bar shaky-hand-cam action. I would theorise that this is because they save a bit of cash by doing it via mail with a DVD instead. But they claim their losing millions due to the pirated pre-release getting out?! Do the math!

    ~Pev
  • How I read this title - "Disney is continuing their war against privacy."

    Disney and other publishers continue in their attempts to control our freedoms, not to protect the producers, but their own profit.

  • I want to know what is economically gained by this? Screeners are sent to select people, and these select people are taking advantage of lack of supervision to leak their copies. Wouldn't it be much cheaper and simpler to fly them in and give them all the access they need to the films without giving them a copy rather than going through this massive infrastructure expense. Think about it... a few plane tickets once a year, or paying to produce limited number of cinea machines with virtually no economics o
  • Oh, spare me! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mhollis (727905) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @08:41AM (#13870756) Journal

    I have worked in television for over 20 years and during part of that time worked in a facility that duplicated screeners.

    I think everyone needs to realize that the production of these illegally pirated films from screeners is an inside job. Unless Disney wants to set up and maintain a secure duplication facility somewhere, staffed only by trusted individuals who are constantly monitored for theft, there will always be those who "make a few copies for their friends."

    Disney isn't about to do this because Disney is in the filmmaking and entertainment business, not the mass duplication and standards-conversion business. And it is from those facilities that the content leaks out. Try as they might, unless they spend a whole lot of money that, on its face does not please their shareholders, they're pretty much stuck with these inside jobs.

    As to the high-quality bootleg copies, that tends to be the result of running an "extra" master of the film transfer and is either an organized crime issue or "yet another inside job."

  • ...I was sent a Cinea player by a film studio 12 months ago for the same purpose. It's standard practice for the screeners to have some distinguishing mark to prevent copying - I've seen one off DVD-Rs being sent with unique serial numbers, watermarks and the like, and the Cinea system. Of course, one might also view it as extended bribary, given that the Cinea DVD player they supply does function as a normal player (although you do have to register it first...)
  • This distribution method is for distributing unpublished films to reviewers and contest judges; it is not for the mass distribution of the films.

    The studios have a strong desire incentive to get the reviewers and judges to watch the film and form a favorable opinion of it. I believe that the studios need to ask themselves the question "Will a reviewer or judge be prejudiced in their opinion of the film if they are required to install and use a special video player to watch the film?" I believe that the sa
  • This will really help to prevent that one single copy of a movie that needs to be made for the bittorrent/emule/whatever crowd.

    Yes, one single copy. I guess thats too hard to understand. They can add all the protection mechanisms they want, once a single copy is made somehow (and there are people that LIVE just for removing those mechanisms) it will be out on the net and that is that.

    It's only 2005 though, can't expect them to give up their analog mindset just yet.

     
  • How about this: Don't send the movies to screeners. If they want to see it, let them go to the theater like everyone else has to.
  • by Quizo69 (659678) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @10:20AM (#13871510) Homepage
    I have just directed my first short film and it is now in post production. I plan to release it online next year for free, once it has completed the festival circuit.

    However, that said, the concern I have is early, unfinished copies of the film getting out, or rushes, or other intermediate stuff that would diminish the enjoyment of the final product by being released early.

    So I have an elegant an unobtrusive solution to track the few copies that people are working with as a matter of necessity:

    My watermark is done per copy so it is unique, and involves changing three to four pixels only on one frame of the film in minor ways so they are not easily visible to the human eye when watching. Shift the colour of some pixels by only a couple of points, such that they are damn close to the real thing, but obvious if you know which frame to check and where, when blown up to 500% or so of original size.

    Then simply keep a database of the "security dots" and where they are in each copy, eg:

    45332 700 431 0 0 8

    The above is frame 45332, X position 700, Y position 431, and the colour in RGB format. Three or four of those and a list of who has that copy, and I'm 100% able to figure out who leaked without degrading the picture in any visible way.

    It isn't intrusive like CAP codes, and keeps everyone involved in working on the project from leaking copies as they know it can be traced back to them.

    Why can't Hollywood studios do it the same way?
  • N+1 Algorithm (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Myria (562655) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @11:49AM (#13872300)
    Watermarks are generally useless when considering the N+1 algorithm. If you suspect a watermark, get a second person to leak it. Do a binary comparison between the two. Wherever they differ, change those bytes to a value that is neither one nor the other. Get a third leaker. If any new locations show up, repeat and get a fourth leaker. Otherwise, you're done.

    "N+1" refers to how you are defeating a cross-tagging system against N people by having N+1 collaborate. For simple per-person tagging, N=1, so you need 2 people to collaborate to remove the tag. The third person is only there to prove that there are no more tags.

    There are two ways you can try to defeat this. One is to make N quite large, for example by putting tags that identify pairs of viewers, triples of viewers, etc. that would catch people collaborating.

    The other way is to make the tag part of the encoding process, such that (almost) the whole disk changes for each viewer. The problem with this is that MPEG2 encoding takes many hours, and would have to be done for each viewer individually. Also, it would need to be sophisticated, as it would have to survive recompression. The pirates would be able to spot this, however, and do a frame-by-frame (+/- a few frames to thwart frame addition/deletion) comparison and randomize or average anything that changes.

    Personally, if I were a recipient of such screeners *and* I wanted to pirate them, I would give the disk to someone and stage a break-in of my house.

    Melissa

I wish you humans would leave me alone.

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