Ah, the Oscars... nattily dressed stars promenading down the red carpet, elaborate stage numbers, long-winded acceptance speeches, and leaked reviewer copies of movies that are not yet out on DVD. In the past, the Motion Picture Association of America has taken steps such as refusing to provide DVDs of nominated movies to the voters, instead distributing the movies on videocassette. That didn't help, as someone was busted last year making copies of those videotapes he had received from a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Disney thinks it has found a solution to the problem of leaked movies: additional encryption on the DVDs. Beginning this year, the studio will use copy protection technology from Cinea, a unit of Dolby Laboratories in order to stem the trickle of leaks. Cinea's solution uses the combination of the S-View DVD player (that's right—screeners will be getting new DVD players in the mail) and an additional layer of encryption which includes a code unique to each screener. Once the S-View is installed, screens need to register the player with Cinea, and then they will be able to play the specially encrypted DVDs on that player, and that player only.
Other studios may follow Disney's lead down the line, at least until one of the next-generation video formats with their more robust encryption schemes becomes mainstream. Until then, Disney Chairman Dick Cook says that Cinea's solution provides the highest-level of security next to having a having a squadron of armed guards stand watch over the screeners to ensure that they don't do anything inappropriate with the movies.
This process offers maximum protection for our films, while allowing key members of the Academy, BAFTA, and a few other select organizations the opportunity to view these contenders in the comfort of their own homes. Of equal importance, it protects legitimate recipients of these screeners against interception and theft of the DVDs.
Naturally, the studios would have us believe that piracy from screener copies is a dire threat to their business model. While the occasional leak of a screener copy on to BitTorrent and Usenet has made big news in the past, the movie industry has much bigger problems than pre-Oscar film escapes. Box office receipts are down for a number of reasons, first and foremost because the movies just aren't that good. Having screener copies of Chicken Little locked down will close down one obvious avenue for unauthorized distribution. But I'll bet copies will still be available for five bucks in southeast Asia come Oscar time.
Apocalypto released by VideoDVD is the first DVDSCREENER so far to be protected with Cinea. In the words of VideoDVD, "GET THIS MOTHERFUCKING PROTECTION OFF OUR MOTHERFUCKING RELEASES".