A prototype DVD-RW drive is being demonstrated at Comdex this week but Pioneer officials concede the machine may never see the light of day if the industry fails to agree on a format that protects the rights of film makers.
The drive allows users to record broadcast signals to a DVD in exactly the same way a VHS video allows recording of TV programmes. The problem, says Eric Haugen, Pioneer's marketing manager optical systems, is that digital broadcasts will allow users to make "digital masters" of those programmes, which would in effect be a perfect clone of the original. "Say Star Wars is being shown on a digital channel, the potential is there to make a digital quality copy that could be replicated again and again. Nobody is happy about that."
The major film company's are working with technology firms, including Yamaha, Ricoh, JVC and Pioneer, to formulate a method that stops users copying digitally recorded movies or programmes from one DVD to another. Andy Parsons, VP of product development at Pioneer explains: "There are several means by which we can prevent people from making multiple copies of a DVD disk -- and that's the real issue here. Not whether or not you can record onto a DVD for your own use, but what you do with that recorded product thereafter."
Parsons says the Copyright Protection Working Group -- made up of engineering, technology and film companies -- is working toward a Copy Protection Scheme that will protect the rights of film makers and ensure that users can use digital quality recordings without threatening the film business. "It's a very contentious issue", says Parsons. "It's critical that we get this right."
Pioneer is confident that its DVD-RW will make it to market. First models, expected late next year, will be in industrial form aimed at digital authoring. If you're hoping to create a digital recording of Frank Butcher propping up the bar at the Queen Vic, you'll have to wait until 2001 -- Pioneer doesn't expect a consumer version to hit the streets until then.