Managed Copy Is Around the Corner

One of the lauded features of the AACS copy protection scheme used on Blu-ray discs is the capability it offers to allow disc-owners to make a full-resolution copy of the content for use beyond their Blu-ray player…for playback on mobile devices, tablets, and more. Scheduled to debut at some distant, undetermined point in the future (see this 2007 Ars Technica article for an optimistic view of timely implementation), this has been one of the cornerstones of Blu-ray versatility and an oft-forgotten ‘selling point’ for the technology.

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With the awkward name of ‘Managed Copy’, this feature has been long viewed as a way for content owners to capture more eyeballs, provide extra value and utility to consumers and perhaps even weaken the incentive for casual piracy. According to this ZDNET posting and other similar articles, many, if not most, ‘pirates’ aren’t looking to sell their prize, but rather unlock their disc-based content.

The debut date hasn’t yet been named, but the AACS Licensing Authority has begun to get content providers and authoring vendors up to speed on the protocols and procedures of Managed Copy with the idea of implementing the feature in 1Q’12. We’ve seen a number of invitations come out for informational webinars and notifications of upcoming training sessions, so it seems like the AACSLA is getting serious even though many pieces of the puzzle such as player capability have yet to be solved.

But has Managed Copy taken so long to get to market that its improved functionality has been left behind by services such as Ultraviolet or Disney Studio All-Access?  While these services don’t fulfill the Managed Copy requirement from a legal standpoint, but their ease of use and ubiquity may make Managed Copy obsolete. A common criticism we’ve heard of Managed Copy is that it may prove so cumbersome that while content providers are required to offer it, the uptake by consumers may be miniscule.

Even now, the AACSLA has not announced the ‘sunrise’ date, putting Managed Copy at an even greater disadvantage as the mediascape continues to evolve.  It might be too little too late, as SVOD, VOD and DTO sites proliferate. It’s possible consumers will opt with convenience over quality as has been demonstrated before with the triumph of MP3 over other, richer audio formats.

While we’re gearing up to offer this as part of our overall Blu-ray authoring service, we’ll be anxious to see how the major studios deal with this challenge to the status quo of the home entertainment distribution business, how it affects our production pipeline going forward and how consumers receive it.

We’ll track it and let you know.


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