ASCII by Jason Scott

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Another Blu-Ray Strike —

OK, I admit it. Nights get long down here at Jason Scott Ranch and I don’t like to just walk away from things for political/ethical reasons just because my politics and ethics fall along a different path than others might. So a combination of wanting to consider all my options and the fact that my DVD mastering software has a Blu-Ray option made me consider what would be involved in putting my movie out on the “winner” of the home media wars, Blu-Ray Disc.

I have all sorts of statements about disc formats and I was rooting for the other asshole, and without a doubt I am disappointed about Blu-Ray winning.

When I used DVD for the last movie, there was a certain spectrum of fuck I had to maneuver around and I like to think I did it well. For example, I removed the region condition (it’s region 0 or “universal” and hundreds of people outside of the US have thanked me for it), and I certainly didn’t pay for that lame-ass Macrovision whatever-the-hell protection they wanted money for. You could, trivially, pop the DVD set right into your player and have it work and you could definitely plug it into your computer and suck out all the files relevant to your interest and put it on your office network or media server or whatever the hell you wanted. It worked great for me (thanks for the bucks), it worked great for you, (thanks for the nice packaging and the respect). Even doing things in a DVD format, with “Copy Protection” sprayed on it, could be routed around for the damage it was

Now, understand something about this format, about the RIAA, and royalties. You might know this or might not.

First of all, there is an office in every duplication plant that you, standard peon, are probably going to use. This is an RIAA office. This isn’t an RIAA-FRIENDLY office, this is an RIAA office. When you send in your thing to be duplicated, they get a copy and they go over it for any obvious ownership violations. This is done. Always. Just so you know. Plants that don’t have this office, and there are likely a few, are basically targeted for raids. More often than not, these “plants” are backroom operations, not fully professional in the sense we might think of them. If you’re high-volume, you’ve got an RIAA office.

Second, you pay a royalty on every DVD that gets pressed, every DVD player that gets sold. This goes to a patent consortium, which gets paid for their work on the format and the basic design of DVDs. On top of that, you currently pay a royalty on every blank CD/DVD in a lot of places, that goes to the RIAA. OK? OK. You pay a royalty, back end or front end, on a lot of stuff you buy, that’s why people nearly blow their fingers off in garages around the world, to get the chance to charge a royalty on something they invented.

The DVD format mitigated the pain for a guy in 2005; just a few pennies a Disc went to this consortium of companies in the “patent pool”. So of my DVD Set that I made, I paid whatever the royalty was times three. The royalty is something like 3-4 cents a disc, so I was dinged for about 12 cents. OK, fine. Thanks, patent pool. Bear in mind, of course, I didn’t see this royalty, I only know about it because I know about such things; my duplication company included it in the costs of printing, because why bother me about “royalties”, which would confuse the average content creator? So this was a “back end” cost. I didn’t see it or feel it.

So let’s fast forward to Blu-Ray, the rat that won the rat fight. Companies that give you lots of information on the website are fun, so here’s a good page from PacificDisc.

Now, I don’t expect you to browse this thing closely, so let’s go right to the boner:


Advanced Access Content System (AACS) is required on all Blu-Ray projects, unless you are producing a ROM-only product. Any Blu-ray disc (BD-25 or BD-50) with any video content, be it for commercial or non-profit purposes must pay the AACS fees. The AACS fees, which are our true costs, without any mark-up, include: an AACS Media Key, AACS Content Certification and all AACS Order Processing Fees.

PacificDisc does not collect AACS Content Provider Fees. These are to be paid for by the content owner directly from AACS LA and proof of license is required before a project is started.

AACS is required on all Blu-ray discs and costs $1,585 per title plus $0.05/disc

No. Holy Jesus Muffin Baked In Hell’s Sweet Flame No.

There is no fucking way I am going to go through the pain of applying for a “license” to some asswipe centralized copy protection gestapo so that I can be issued my unique serial number, blowing $1,585 out the window for the privilege of this delicious turd which I then HAVE to use (HAVE to use, I must stress) on my disc so it “can’t be duplicated” by normal people but easily duplicated by anyone else and THEN pay another five cents PER DISC for all future copies of the disc using this key I didn’t want for copy protection I don’t want. On TOP of the royalty to the patent pool of the Blu-Ray Consortium per disc. No fucking way! I couldn’t make this clearer if I formed the words using a pile of dead offspring. This is an utter deal breaker, friends.

Think about that the next time you’re in the store considering buying your Blu-Ray player with tasty $30 Sony Royalty in it. Think how much money for all these products out there in the shelves is going to this crime family of copy protection licensing. Most smaller houses consider a 10,000 unit sale of something to be a wild success; it’s usually something like 5,000. Mine has been less than that. This would mean that thirty to fifty cents of every unit you buy is going into NOTHING. Into BREAKING THE DISC SO YOU “CAN’T COPY IT”.

Where’s the EFF in all this? I answer my own question: this situation is too far out there to really get involved with. A judge would point to online distribution and DVD-ROM and hard drives and point out that there’s no constriction of free speech here. They wouldn’t win. It’s too esoteric. But if Blu-Ray becomes “the” way you go to a table and buy a copy off of a stack next to an eager filmmaker, then it’s really the only easy transport mechanism for that direct-sell crowd. It’s sewed up. It’s owned. It’s bought and paid for and fuck you, little guy. Go blow it up on youtube and count your blessings we haven’t shut that shit down this week.

I push the papers back on the table. I get my jacket. I leave the room.

No fucking way am I doing Blu-Ray.


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14 Comments

  1. Drew Wallner says:

    Just out of curiosity, while I’m aware that AACS is required for a commercially produced disc to carry the Blu-Ray logo…is it possible to release, in a BDMV format, without it being officially “blessed” as Blu-Ray? After all, if a consumer can burn AVC-HD content or other “not officially Blu-Ray” stuff that’s H.264 to a disc and stick it in a Blu-Ray player, why not?

    Just wondering. Perhaps it’s possible, but nobody in the duplication business will actually do it for you, dunno. It would be awesome though, and kind of set the documentary apart in a geeky way – similar to the way that the official DVD of Revolution OS is not CSS encrypted (to show support for Linux fans).

  2. Jason Scott says:

    Oh, sure, I could release some 25 gigabyte abortion onto the net with “how to” instructions, but that’d be a hell of a thing to sell to people, and the download would probably be a tad short of murder. I’m not big on selling people four tires and 2 tons of metal and telling them “just add car robot”.

    It would set it apart kind of like a corpse in the desert is set apart.

    As for Revolution OS not being CSS encrypted, I couldn’t see how ANY independently produced DVD would use CSS encryption unless they were either misinformed or delusional.

  3. James says:

    Drew: I suspect the people in the Doom9 forums could answer your question.

  4. h says:

    How about using a pooled number? If the E.F.F. or G.P.L folks bought a key, but then allowed all and any to use it free of charge…

  5. Jason Scott says:

    The AACS limitations are 100% artificial. One of these artificial limitations is the license is just for one product, one SKU. The same limitation that would cause a duplication plant to suffer from delisting by the bigs for not using a license would apply as well for re-using keys. Good out of the box thinking though.

  6. Thanks for putting up this info. No, I no doubt will never author a Blu-Ray disk, but it’s important to know how ridiculous making the disks are. Indie people just…can’t afford that. No wonder Blu-Ray disks are so damn expensive…

    I mean, I’d love higher-then-DVD quality if I had a massive need for it (such as for high motion events or things that required really high resolutions) but for that, web downloaded files compressed correctly work better I think.

    That is one insane cost. Man-o-man. :(

  7. phoenix says:

    it’s mafia style business obviously, but we could still probably swing it for mindcandy 3. going thru the aacs la docs tho, it seems like it may be even more for a content certificate? maybe there will be enough of an indie backlash that they’ll ease up on the fees under a certain number of discs, we can only hope.

  8. Vemrion says:

    RIAA office? For DVD replication? Don’t you mean MPAA, or both?

    You are right, though. This is a total turd-burger and will simply ensure people stick with DVDs for much longer than they otherwise would. Sony, BDA and the MPAA need to pull their fucking heads out and stop trying to fuck over the little guy — and consumers.

  9. Oliver says:

    What would stop a duplication plant from manufacturing copies of a Blu-Ray you made with commercial software, like tomorrow’s HD equivalent of iDVD/imToo/whatever?

  10. Sigh says:

    Right. So it’s all Sony’s fault.

    http://www.aacsla.com/founders/

  11. D Keaton says:

    I feel your pain mate. My mums craft group for this side of the city wanted to make an instructional Blu Ray last year, but the Blu Ray fees were just too much. She would have had to taken out a small personal loan just to get her members the Blu Rays, with no possible way to recover from the costs. Not to mention that she wouldn’t have sold too many Blu Rays anyway, but we rented a HDV camera and she wanted the option out there. DVDs were dead easy in comparison, there were so many people in the DVD presser companies that were so willing to help her, the fees were almost nothing at all, she can start another run on printing again at any time for no extra cost except per disc (in batches of 50 or more) and the resulting DVD came out amazing. For a product that wants to break through into mainstream, Sony really isn’t making it easy for the mainstream to use and buy their product.

  12. Jason Scott says:

    Reddit sent a few hundred people here. Let me just drop a couple responses/clarification.

    I definitely meant RIAA, not MPAA. The RIAA has had offices in duplication plants since the CD days. They still go through DVDs for copyright violations; the MPAA does not do it this way. On the other hand, the new Blu-Ray discs have, because of this current arrangement, all the information on the persons responsible for an infringing item (and the plant) and can prosecute that way.

    I can certainly do a BD-ROM version of the movie and not pay the fees. But the point is that would be a big waste of my customers’ time and effort. Same for the hack where you can put blu-ray compatible information on a DVD-ROM. It will be confusing as hell, even if it works in (most) Blu-Ray players. Oh, and DID I MENTION BLU-RAY GETS THE BIOS UPDATED and may in fact stop working that way in the future? Wow, that’s going to hurt people other than me.

    As for the semi-clever idea of posting the member list in charge of AACS and sneering that it’s not just Sony’s fault, this is Sony’s format and Sony is the most DRM-happy company in the electronics business. This is what they generally bring to the table. So yeah, blame Sony.

  13. Anon says:

    It looks like “Piracy, the better choice ™” is winning again:

    http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20081117-fake-blu-ray-discs-hatched-in-china-industry-is-concerned.html

    And here is another possibility – use AVCHD to distribute your film on BluRay discs (PS3 plays them, according to Wikipedia).