Finally, Technology for Legally Burning Copy-Protected Content

How It Works

To burn your own movies at home, you'll need the right equipment: a new, Qflix-capable DVD burner and Qflix media. Four major drive manufacturers--Philips & Lite-On Digital Solutions, Pioneer, Plextor, and Toshiba Samsung Storage Technology--have announced support for Qflix, as have two heavyweight media manufacturers, Ritek and Verbatim. (Dell has said, too, that it plans to offer drives with Qflix once they're available.)

Sonic provides PC software to manage Qflix content libraries. Called Roxio Venue, the software will be bundled with Qflix drives, and will also be distributed by services that use Qflix, such as the Akimbo and Movielink download services.

Taylor says he expects vendors will charge about $16 for PC viewing rights and DVD burning (the rules involved--for example, the number of copies you can burn--will be the decision of the copyright holder). A typical movie could take an hour or two to download, depending on your connection. Once the download finishes, the title will appear in your Qflix library, and will be available for you to watch on your PC or burn to DVD. The Venue software even has the ability to print labels; the movie or TV download will include artwork, so you can print your own DVD case inserts.

While you may balk at the idea of buying a new DVD burner, you may have no choice, depending on the drive you have today and how things play out.

"The approach of CSS requires a new type of disc that is pre-keyed with a portion of CSS keys, and that disc requires new burners," explains Taylor. "It is technically possible to upgrade existing drives, though; we think it's technically possible to upgrade more than half of the drives out there.

"The trick is getting drive manufacturers to invest in a firmware upgrade for a drive they've already sold. We're working with drive manufacturers to explore this now. We're looking into the possibility of paid upgrades, where a consumer might pay $5 or $10 to get an upgrade."

Qflix discs should be readable by any set-top DVD player: Taylor expects Qflix discs to have around 99 percent compatibility with existing players. Some issues remain with DVD recorders, he says, "because they're smarter about looking at DVDs and figuring out what they are. With improvements to the media, we can achieve improved compatibility, though. We want to try to maximize the disc's reflectivity: The better you can get the reflectivity, the more it looks like a DVD-ROM to the player."

When is Qflix supposed to appear? Drive manufacturers say to look for consumer PC drives with Qflix around the end of the first quarter, or into the second quarter, of 2008. Since the Qflix format is also backed by the DVD Forum, the standards body that oversees the DVD specification, devices and media will be distinguishable from non-Qflix products by their new DVD Download logo, a mutation of the ubiquitous and familiar DVD logo.

Taylor expects trial launches of manufacture-on-demand and retail burning services to occur by the end of this year. Look for Qflix and on-demand activity to heat up in the first half of 2008.

I, for one, will be looking for Qflix. Not only am I intrigued by the possibility of downloading a movie and being able to burn it to disc legitimately, but I'm also personally jazzed by the idea of niche content having a DVD outlet.

Here's why: I'm a gymnastics junkie. Gymnastics gets nowhere near the TV coverage accorded to football or baseball--beyond the Olympics, it's nearly nil. Aside from broadcast TV, coverage is largely limited to video streaming via the Internet, either on NCAA collegiate gymnastics Web sites, on the official USA Gymnastics site, or on the World Championship Sports Network at WCSN.com.

I'd find it pretty cool to be able to log in to WCSN, queue up the 2007 Stuttgart World Championships coverage, and download that coverage to own and watch over and over again at my leisure on my PC or on my TV via a DVD player. My gymnastics enthusiasm, your arachnid enthusiasm--the point is, Qflix on-demand technology has the potential to unleash a lot of specialty content.

I look forward to seeing that potential realized.

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