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[FYI] When DVD Is Too Good to Be Legal


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When DVD Is Too Good to Be Legal 

by Leander Kahney 

3:00 a.m. Jun. 19, 2000 PDT 

To Hollywood's alarm, a British company is selling modified DVD 
players that output pure digital signals.  

Unlike regular DVD players, which provide ho-hum quality analog 
pictures, Function Communications' modified DVD players output a 
stream of pure digital video.  


Garrett said that while many Hollywood producers can't wait to get 
their disks into one of the modified players, most have misgivings 
about seeing the players on the market.  

On the one hand, it allows their movies to be shown at the highest 
possible quality, but producers are also afraid digital outputs will 
lead to a loss of control, Garrett said.  

DVD manufacturers license the DVD format from the DVD Copy Control 
Association. Its contract prohibit makers from including digital 
outputs -- specifically a FireWire port -- in their players for fear 
it will allow consumers to make digital copies.  

Garrett said he studied the paperwork and concluded that while it 
isn't illegal to make a chipset providing digital outputs, add them 
to DVD players, or sell the modified machine, it appears to be 
illegal to use the modified player to play a movie.  

"If you read the fine points of the law, anyone who plays a (DVD 
movie) with a digital output is breaking the law," he said. "But if 
you're just watching it, how are you breaking the law?"  

Garrett said he received "dozens" of cease-and-desist letters from 
Hollywood lawyers when the modified players first appeared on the 
market in the U.K last month.  

But since then, the legal threats have come to a halt.  

Garrett thinks it's because there is little danger of legions of     
teenagers copying the latest DVDs and posting them on the Internet. 


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