In a move sure to annoy and frustrate pirates and possibiliy home users, Microsoft has struck a deal with copy-protection specialists Macrovision to make it harder for consumers to swap video content.
The technology aims to stop people making copies of TV shows and movies using analog connections between devices (e.g. linking a set-top box to a television).
Up till now, the big studios and content providers have been more concerned about preventing high quality, digital to digital copies, but now they’re getting in a sweat about users recording the output of a DVD player onto a computer hard drive.
Unlike most digital copy protection schemes, Macrovision doesn’t scramble the signal, but it blasts out a pulse of electronic energy along with the video as it is played. Devices such as DVD recorders will recognise this signal and refuse to record the content.
The new deal also enables Microsoft’s Windows Media software to detect this signal in incoming analog video streams. Future versions of the software may allow content to be stored for just 90 minutes or up to a week.
Upcoming versions of Microsoft’s Media Center Edition operating systems will allow users to make a temporary copy that can be stored for one day and then rendered unusable after that time.
By hammering down digital rights management, the idea is that the entertainment industry can to take advantage of emerging revenue channels without remaining confident that their rights are protected.
How your average consumer, keen to make a copy of the Antiques Roadshow at home, might respond to all this technology is another matter. One option they might take is to replace their Windows machine with another type that doesn’t place this restriction on them.