DRM Dashes Avatar Preview

By  |  Friday, December 18, 2009 at 9:03 pm

German sci-fi fans who were lucky enough to score tickets to an early 3D preview of Jame Cameron’s Avatar were stymied by a failure in the movie’s DRM system. Some theaters were unable to decrypt the video, and some exasperated projectionists reverted back to the 2D version, according to reports.

The film’s digital masters were ‘protected’ by a DRM system that was comprised of certificates and time-sensitive keys that were necessary to authenticate a theater’s equipment–from hard drives down to the projector. That system, which incidentally sounds like it was designed by Rube Goldberg, failed to perform as required to…play the movie.

I understand the studio’s desire to protect its intellectual property. Scores of people doubtlessly worked very hard to produce the film, and it was a $237 million investment. Bootleggers will be trying to obtain the film, and probably eventually succeed in pirating the movie across FTPs and torrent streams.

Let’s be serious:  DRM will not stop a carefully concealed camcorder. With such draconian DRM in place, there should have been failsafes so that it would not affect the moviegoers’ experience.

DRM should be seamless and invisible to the user, but I don’t get why the theater had to use the system anyway given the file size was reported to be 150GB. How many people would actually share that? Screener DVDs are a more likely source of piracy.


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7 Comments For This Post

  1. Jim Says:

    “were ‘protected’ by a DRM system that was compromised of certificates and time-sensitive keys”

    I had to chuckle when I read this since it almost seems appropriate, but I think comprised is actually the word you’re looking for

  2. David Worthington Says:

    oops.. good catch

  3. tengeta Says:

    I love the European Union. They force Microsoft to take IE out of Windows and give a stupid ballot thing, but they let this crap slide.

  4. avoidz Says:

    Hope Fox doesn’t bungle the Blu-ray version as badly.

  5. George Says:

    The truth of any encryption scheme.

    More secure means less convenient.

  6. Dan Says:

    Have I missed something? What good is a massive stolen 3d film unless you have your own 3d projector? (I’m guessing these cost more than a cinema ticket.)

    Or does it come as 2 files, so could you just watch one eye’s worth? In which case, the 2d version is just as valuable, and smaller, and would deserve the same protection, yet it seems they could still play that one…


  7. Lazlo Says:

    There’s plenty of 3D display hardware out here. It’s mainstream enough that Youtube already supports 3D playback (experimental, but still), and Blu-Ray finalized a 3D spec last week.

    The 150Gb version would also be a perfect master to transcode down to other, smaller 2D formats. So they aren’t entirely crazy to be worried about this.