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Sonic's Qflix licensing process demonstrated
Qflix to pave the way for movies on the cheap as well as unlimited supply for retailers

Sonic, the parent company of Roxio, today announced what it calls a licensing program designed to legally allow users to download content from online providers, burn the content onto DVDs, and watch on set-top players. The program, dubbed Qflix, provides Content Scramble System (CSS) protection for high-quality content.

The Qflix system requires support from both media manufacturers and drive manufacturers. Online digital content providers will also have to be Qflix-enabled, as will the necessary software. When a user downloads a movie for example, the movie has a CSS tag which is recognized by both the client software as well as the drive. When burned, the movie will only be able to be played back on the PC it was downloaded on as well as a standard DVD player. Users will not be able to copy the burned DVD.

The system is broken up into two forms: one for professionals called Qflix Pro, and a standard version for consumers. Right now, Sonic has a host of supporters that include both movie studios as well as hardware OEMs. Plextor, Mitsubishi and Verbatim are just some of the leading manufacturers that have voted "yes" for Qflix.

Warner Brothers studios is also commited to supporting the standard. Chris Cookson, president of Warner Bros. said "Warner Bros. is committed to giving consumers the widest range of choices to access our content in ways that recognize and protect its value."

According to Sonic's own press release:
The Qflix technology and intellectual property program empowers for the first time factory, in-store, and in-home systems for on-demand, electronic sell-through of movies and video programs that can be recorded to DVD with Content Scramble System (CSS) encryption. As the industry-approved content protection mechanism used on mass-produced discs and incorporated into all DVD players, CSS has been deemed essential by major content providers for the on-demand digital distribution of premium entertainment.
One interesting aspect of Sonic's Qflix system is support at the retail level. Sonic, in conjunction with various retailers, plans to offer DVD burning kiosks that will allow users to burn their own DVDs for a fraction of the cost of a retail packed movie. This will also allow retailers to save on actual physical stock. If a store runs out of a particular movie, users can simply burn copies from a virtual library.

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If only...
By masher2 on 1/5/2007 9:22:18 AM , Rating: 5
The program, dubbed Qflix, provides Content Scramble System (CSS) protection for high-quality content...

Now, if someone can just convince Hollywood to start making some high-quality content, we'll be set.

RE: If only...
By TomZ on 1/5/2007 9:49:06 AM , Rating: 3
Oh, c'mon, Hollywood produces at least 1-2 movies each year that are high quality. :o)

RE: If only...
By Marlowe on 1/5/2007 11:49:41 AM , Rating: 3
But even then you wouldn't know for sure if the movie would pass the stringent quality control of Sonic The Hedgehog

They have to give him enough golden rings and his friend Tails and then maby it will get the QFlix treatment

RE: If only...
By BladeVenom on 1/5/2007 5:49:07 PM , Rating: 2
I'm guessing you're not a big Uwe Boll fan.

RE: If only...
By frobizzle on 1/6/2007 9:29:49 AM , Rating: 2
Now, if someone can just convince Hollywood to start making some high-quality content, we'll be set.

Amen to that! For free, most of the recent movies are overpriced.

one computer?
By mm2587 on 1/5/2007 9:41:11 AM , Rating: 2
how do they limit me to one computer? I understand they use this css tag, but it seems to me that if I can play my dvd on any standard dvd player I would be able to play it on any computer without a qflix enabled dvd drive

RE: one computer?
By TomZ on 1/5/2007 9:51:37 AM , Rating: 2
I'm guessing the limitation is that the movie can only be burned on the machine you downloaded onto. In other words, if I purchase and download the file and then pass it to somebody else, the file will be useless.

Also, reading between the lines a bit, I get the impression that a special DVD recorder will be required to record the DVDs. Maybe a show-stopper, or at least a speed bump, if you ask me.

Anyone know if my speculations are correct or not?

RE: one computer?
By KristopherKubicki on 1/5/2007 9:53:25 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, I believe you need a Qflix certified drive. It seems like the licensing is cheap (free?) and a few drive manufacturers are on board already.

RE: one computer?
By BladeVenom on 1/5/2007 5:46:55 PM , Rating: 2
It also says certified media. So you need a special drive, and special discs. I wonder how much those will cost. I'm guessing it won't be too popular.

RE: one computer?
By Dfere on 1/5/2007 12:51:11 PM , Rating: 2
This may be splitting hairs, but what if you reformat your hd/ swap parts out of the computer, upgrade to Vista etc.... you out of luck? (for the computer)

RE: one computer?
By masher2 on 1/5/2007 12:59:31 PM , Rating: 2
Just a guess, but I imagine the Qflix drive has a key encoded in it, so you're fine as long as that drive doesn't die.

By FishTankX on 1/5/2007 9:08:48 AM , Rating: 2
According to the article, it can be played back on any standard DVD player. And it can be played back onto the computer that burned it. I think that's not too bad. Sure, you can't play it back on another computer, so that kind of sucks. But if your really wanted to get around that, you could just rip it anyways.

RE: Okay...
By rtrski on 1/5/2007 9:16:57 AM , Rating: 2
From what I've seen, you wouldn't want to. The bitrate will NOT be equal to the bitrate of an actual purchased DVD, so the video is much more heavily compressed.

RE: Okay...
By jtesoro on 1/5/2007 10:38:15 AM , Rating: 2
I'm hoping this wouldn't be the case. It would be very disappointing if the bitrate isn't the same as standard DVDs.

RE: Okay...
By qwerty1 on 1/5/2007 9:27:12 PM , Rating: 3
Anyone ever consider how long it would take to download a feature length movie with all the bells and whistles? Seems rather impractical to me as most of America operates at speeds of 300kbps or less. If you assume 8gb worth of content at 300kbps, you'll be looking at roughly 7 1/2 hrs just to get 1 movie.

What about
By jak3676 on 1/5/2007 10:24:54 AM , Rating: 2
Someone stop me if this has already been done - but I expect to see proof of concept to circumvent the encryption within a few months. Is there any mass produced media encryption out there that hasn't been hacked?

I believe the article and some other sources I've seen on this mentioned that your hardware would need to support CSS for this to work. As is it a free or very low cost license, most hardware will soon support this if it doesn't already - but that's how they limit it to one computer or a player that has CSS protection built in. If you bought all your DVD drives years ago, you'll probably need to upgrade.

Still unless they limit this to players with only HDCP output, it will still be simple enough to the do the "analog gap" transfers by just plugging the output from your player into a recorder. I suppose this does limit quality a bit - but at least I can still get a copy over to my old laptop.

Overall I'm happy to studio, hardware and distribution support for something like this. It looks like it will only lower costs for consumers and distributors.

RE: What about
By TomZ on 1/5/2007 10:51:36 AM , Rating: 2
I agree - it will be broken - but still, the vast majority of consumers will not be downloading crack/hack programs for that. I'm sure they don't expect everyone to be honest, in order for their business model to make sense. And besides, the DVD encryption's already been broken, so it's not like the content would be available unprotected for the first time due to this.

RE: What about
By OrSin on 1/5/2007 11:42:53 AM , Rating: 2
Companys know all DRM will be hacker at some piont. All they hope is to make it hard enoguh that the "typical" user will not fell like ding ti and just buy the product instead.
For the most part that is true for those watching DVD on a dvd player. The reason for the delay in downloading movies, is the "typical user that wants to DL a movie is much more savy then the dvd player own. The studios know we can figure out teh hacker and do it so easy most of us will do it. Not the same % of the DVD players owner. Basicly if we was dumber we have had DL movies along time ago. Don't fault the studios for knowing that we will rip them off and not giving us the means to do it.

RE: What about
By Zapp Brannigan on 1/5/2007 2:16:19 PM , Rating: 2
CSS isn't anything new, it's the same copy protection thats in all standard dvds. All dvd players will be able to play the burned disks, as long as they can play burned disks. ;)

dvd decrypter or dvd shrink (among others) will easily be able to wipe the CSS protection from the burned dvd but i'm not to sure they would be able to defeat the files you download.

Warner Bros...
By therealnickdanger on 1/5/2007 9:05:47 AM , Rating: 2
Are they the only company that is truly looking out for customers? They support this download system, HD-DVD, Blu-Ray, and forging their own custom hybrid disc. They seem to be the only studio trying not to screw consumers over.

RE: Warner Bros...
By Dfere on 1/5/2007 12:53:26 PM , Rating: 2
Or perhpas, they are taking a patient, long term strategy instead of going for a quick, possible buck...??

Here is how it works.
By jstrombe on 1/5/2007 6:12:02 PM , Rating: 2
Here is how it works.

1. You download the video file that is protected by something. Likely it would be Windows Media DRM so that you could play it on your computer, but an implementor could choose any encryption package that they want.

2. You use a new "QFlix" DVD. Regular CSS DVDs that you buy at the store have an area that includes encryption keys that work with your DVD player to unscramble the disc (yes, this has been cracked and doesn't really work). The new QFlix DVD will allow you to burn in that area on the disc that is not burnable today, which is why a firmware update is needed for your drive. Regular recordable DVD discs do not allow burning in that area.

CSS protection on a disc also protects the outputs from most DVD players so that you can't plug it back in and copy it onto something else.

3. When you "order" one of these movies your burning program will get a key over the Internet and allow you to burn it once. It likely will communicate back "up" when the burn is complete so that someone knows you did it successfully. It can then be played on any DVD player, just like a DVD that you bought at the store.

4. In ADDITION to the CSS protection, they can add in DVD-Copy protection, such as Macrovision RipGuard, so that you can't rip it using programs such as DVDShrink. Yes, this too can likely be hacked, but they can keep updating the rip-protection software (they can't do that to CSS which is of course programmed into the DVD players). The RipGuard protection does work, I've tried it.

This is a very viable solution for burning at home or burning at an in-store kiosk that, with the addition of anti-rip software, will make it more protected than a purchased DVD. Does it solve piracy - probably not. Does it solve it enough for Hollywood to let people order movies online, download them, and burn them in the comfort of their home - probably. Thank God, at least we are making some progress to be able to do things that should just make common sense.

RE: Here is how it works.
By PrinceGaz on 1/6/2007 6:08:44 PM , Rating: 2
You seriously over-estimate what current DRM is capable of.

If this system allows you to burn one (or more) DVD discs of the movie with CSS protection, then you will be able to clone them with any good disc-image/burning software.

Macrovision RipGuard? It stops people ripping the disc if they use ancient software. Pretty much anything current can rip discs "protected" with RipGuard. It's now nothing more than a bad joke which Macrovision came up with, that stops no pirates but can render discs unreadable in some DVD players. As usual, the legal consumers suffer because of protection, while the pirates are unaffected because they have drives that can read the discs regardless of the protection.

"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." -- Sony BMG attorney Jennifer Pariser

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