UPDATE x2: Avatar Blu-ray DRM bites legitimate customers

UPDATE x2: Avatar Blu-ray DRM bites legitimate customers

Summary: Once again, we get a beautiful example of how DRM hurts and harms paying customers while having no impact on pirates.


Once again, we get a beautiful example of how DRM hurts and harms paying customers while having no impact on pirates.

This story relates to the newly released "Avatar" Blu-ray and how some consumers are unable to watch the movie - a movie they've bought and paid for - because of the DRM built into the disc to prevent pirates copying the disc.

TheWrap has details:

The culprit, an individual at Fox told TheWrap, is not the discs, but that certain Blu-ray players need to be upgraded with new firmware.


As for "Avatar," Fox maintains that the problem is largely limited to Samsung players, but a few LG players also require the enhancement.

Customers are, understandably, angry:

One customer wrote: " ... When 3 out of 3 players in my house (Denon, Samsung and PC) won't play it, then 20th Century Fox should be slapped with losses on this one for doing this crap."

Yet another wrote: "I bought the latest Samsung Blu-Ray player 5 days ago and updated all the firmware before installing it. It will not play Avatar! I bought the new player specifically because Avatar was coming out." 

Really, this isn't good enough. I can understand (vaguely) the need to protect the content from being copied, but pirated copies of Avatar have been available since January. DRM solves no problem.

Those choosing not to line James Cameron's coffers can enjoy the movie with no such DRM-related interruptions. People who pay for the movie run the risk of ending up with a coffee cup coaster.

If you have an ethernet-enabled Blu-ray player then a firmware update is quite easy. If not, things get more complex.

DRM sucks!

[UPDATE x2: Having spoken to folks in the know (which wish to remain nameless) if seems the reason for players needing updates is that Avatar sees two new forms of protection updates.  AACS MKB has been updated to v17 and BD+ to v5.]

[UPDATE: This is from a Fox Entertainment representative:

Most, if not all, new technologies are going to require firmware updates to ensure that the equipment works to the best of its ability. The number of consumers having issues were minimal and consumer electronic hardware companies have been offering support to their customers via the forums on the internet, as well as their customer service hotline - and mentioned that the issues have been minimal and while firmware updates were needed for a few models, that issues have been resolved, as has been reflected in the comments on Amazon and the forums - with customers actually replying that after the firmware update, everything is working fine. If it appears to have gotten more attention in the forums, it is only because of the larger volume that this title has sold and the actual numbers are minuscule

I've asked for clarification as to why the firmware update is required if it is not related to DRM and will update this post when I receive a response.]

Topics: Security, Hardware, Mobility, Software

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  • This is what I do

    I buy the disk to have the right to watch the movie and download the playable version from the net.

    That works every time but the studios should help too by creating and distributing torrents so all paying customers can watch the movies. It's no fun to pay and not be able to watch a movie.
    Great Kahuna
    • It's also a complete waste...

      Because if a product maker cannot satisfy their consumer base they don't deserve to profit from their products, regardless of how much time or energy they put into those products. I don't care if Taiwanese children in a sweatshop bled from their fingers to produce those legitimate optical disks, if they don't satisfy the consumer the company deserves to go out of business and let the sweatshop children starve. Products that are free or dirt cheap (just needing to be burned to a disk, if you don't have a USB flash drive or USB-enabled playing device) and can be easily accessed will always trump products that are difficult or frustrating to use and cost as much or more than it did to go see the film in a theater.
      • get your facts straight

        children in Taiwan don't work in sweatshops.
        that'd be China.

        but i do agree with your assessment of the
        consumer going with the easiest accessible product
    • They count such downloads as "lost sales" and use them as excuse to up DRM.

      [b] [/b]
    • Thats fine for YOU but why should others have to?

      That's fine for you.. but why should other people have to DOWNLOAD a movie they JUST BOUGHT!??

      I dont' want to waste my internet bandwidth, which causes hickups with VOIP if actually getting the speeds needed to download FIFTY GIGS of data, nor do I want to kill my time waiting for something I've already purchased and should be able to pop into my bluray player.

      Its your attitude that "these options are just fine" that perpetuates these issues forever.

      The KEY issue here, is that Bluray is not 100% standardized. If it were, then these issues with playback SHOULD NOT EXIST! The ONLY reason there should be problems in attempting to playback content from a bluray, is if the disk or the player is physically or logically broken (ie. scratched, warped, player having too much dust over the laser lense, etc)

      This is not a "logical" problem when you specifically encode a disk, and then don't have the means to allow updates to the players that work. Updates that work!! being the key..

      I have one of the samsung players, and like a few others have said.. I bought my player specifically because I was also buying Avatar (or Avatard as I'm so keen to say). So I'm not an "early adopter" I waited these TWO YEARS and STILL I get a product that is built off of a standard that isn't formalized to get rid of these types of problems!??

      Bluray is NOT finished, is NOT ready and companies making products should be FINED FOR EVERY INSTANCE OF PROBLEMS THEY PUT OUT THERE LIKE THIS.

      One person over at a thread on CNet bought A Ghostbuster's release and hadn't been able to play it for nearly 6 months while waiting for updates to fix issues.

      SIX MONTHS! Now if you go out and by that same disk, you pay less, and could pop it right in to play ... so the manufacturer got TOP DOLLAR for their UNUSABLE PRODUCT! That's theft in my book.. you put it out, it should work. Not in 6 months, not in 6 days (my case with avatard, not 6 hours ... I buy it, it should be ready to run... PERIOD!
      • The update in question is the ever changing . .

        demands from DRM schemes.

        In other words: [b] Defective by design ! [/b]

        DRM causes hassle for [b] paying customers [/b] and keeps illegal copies in full business, as those are [b] not [/b] hampered by any DRM and plays fine without any " updates " .
    • How large are the torrens when unzipped?

      A 1920x1080 resolution movie will look like a certain four-letter word if it's only 8GB. after all, blu-ray discs are 25GB (or 50GB dual layer).

      Heck, I'll stick with standard-def DVD. Many blu-ray movies, to reduce costs, aren't using restored masters. Or, worse, just upsampling uncompressed 720x480 material. (the former claim is easily proven. The latter is inference, but being a cynic I'm sure I could find proof of that claim in a short amount of time.)
      • Re:Large Torrents


        I beg to differ my friend.. I just downloaded a copy of AVATAR (BluDisk rip 2.5 gigs) and its all in 720p and it's as crisp as a fresh slice of bacon when shown of my VIZIO LED 1080p LCD Set. BluDisk are 25-50 gigs but most of that is sound (DTS, True Digital, foreign langs etc..) Here is a receipe for you.. Get Slysofts Any-DVD to Rip that BluDisk to your HDD, then use your favorite authoring software to strip the unessaceary audio from the sample (HandBrake would suffice) and presto, BD quality on a DVD-5, DVD-9, XBOX or PS3 or Handheld device.
      • The 1080p version is 10.9 GB, and not zipped.

        I know Blu-Ray discs can store up to 25GB on one side, but that doesn't mean all that space is made use of.
  • Blu-ray firmware update

    Just of curiosity I checked on Blu-ray firmware updating at


    and have decided that this is really a stupid arrangement.

    My DVD player has never refused to play a DVD. I was, as you might suspect, a late adopter of DVD technology. You can be sure that I'll be a really late adopter of Blu-ray! I mean, it doesn't work and is expensive!
    • wish I'd waited longer ... I guess 2 years isn't enough

      I'm wishing now that I'd waited like you.. I only lasted 2 years though.. only got it now because Avatar was coming out, and while I can now watch Avatar (took a full day to get it working) I only have this to repeat on THE NEXT new bluray movie that changes the schemes.

      This is also why I've never liked java. fix something today, fix it again tomorrow.

      Fixate the standards for bluray, account for these DRM updates properly, stop penalizing the people who LEGALLY pay for content... and I shouldn't have to specifically call out the "account for these drm updates" ... they want them they should work, and until they work, the standard shouldn't be finished. And products shouldn't be sold on an unfinished standard.
      • Whatever the issue really might be...

        DRM, lack of standards, whatever--when you buy things like this they should work. It seems obvious to me and I don't understand the lack of buy-in to this idea by the movie companies.
        • The problem boils down to this...

          The DRM on Blu Ray is not static, Content companies can change the DRM methods per Disk and if the player is not updated to recognize it then you are out of luck, this is one the main reason I will never buy a blu ray player.
          • Wow, talk about the ultimate in corporate control

            Even M$ doesn't reach down this far.

            And yeah, I won't bother with BluRay, either. The ones who do are either tools or fools. Or both.
            ubiquitous one
      • You're lucky...

        You're lucky that you can actually update the firmware on your DVD player. Unlike HD DVD, the Blu-Ray specs don't require manufacturers to have an upgradable ROM. There are many people who have purchased (especially the early adopters) BD players, and are now unable to watch half the movies currently out today.
    • DVD issues

      The only issues I ever had with DVD was playing Sony movies on a Sony player (I could take the movie to any other player and they played just fine). Needless to say, I no longer own any Sony products.
      • RE: Needless to say, I no longer own any Sony products.

        Yeah, me too, ever since the [b]rootkit[/b] fiasco!!!!

        Sony, home to rootkit baloney (to 're-use' an old ad tag line).
    • Blu-ray vs. DVD copy protection

      DVD copy protection wasn't the moving target that Blu-ray is. The major issue with my soon to be retired Samsung player is the endless updates chasing copy protection updates -- now at v2.7 as of Apr. 23, 2010 making, I think, 13 firmware upgrades. The kid's Pioneer player had issues until a firmware update and their PS3 did not seem to require an update though that was less of an issue since the PS3 is on-line and would auto-update unlike the other 2 where it's download to a USB drive and continue on from there.

      What I find funniest is, as the article mentioned, those who are downloading the illegal copies are not having these problems. Most likely since the copy protection breaking programs seem to be updated much faster than the player firmware.
      • Well for companies ...

        there is no incentive to update old devices, they make no additional money for the updates.
        And the pirates have incentive they do make money from their updates.
  • Illegally download it

    It's faster than going to the store or waiting for it to be delivered.

    No reason to put up with this crap.