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Movies Bug Media Sci-Fi

DRM Flub Prevented 3D Showings of Avatar In Germany 386

Posted by timothy
from the token-of-our-appreciation dept.
Fraggy_the_undead writes "According to German IT news site, yesterday several 3D showings of Avatar couldn't take place (German; Google translation to English), because the movies were DRM protected such that there had to be a key per copy of the film, per film projector, and per movie server in the theater. The key supplier, by the name Deluxe, was apparently unable to provide a sufficient number of valid keys in time. Moviegoers were offered to get a refund or view an analogue 2D showing instead."
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DRM Flub Prevented 3D Showings of Avatar In Germany

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  • Wait... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TaggartAleslayer (840739) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @03:43PM (#30477714)

    I don't want to be the one modded to hell and back for saying it, but isn't this an issue with the company not purchasing the proper licenses in the appropriate amount of time rather than an issue with DRM?

    I understand this wouldn't exist if there were no DRM, but then the theater would still not have paid for the rights to show the movie. I'm just unclear on how that makes this a noteworthy "DRM is bad" case.

  • Re:Wait... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by idontgno (624372) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @03:52PM (#30477868) Journal

    Well, a recurring theme in almost any kind of DRM (and content licensing in general) is the entire issue of knowing and acquiring "the proper licenses."

    Did I buy enough Microsoft Client Access Licenses? Did I buy enough Oracle licenses for my upgraded machine with more cores? Did I buy the correct licenses for commercial use of this software? Is this DVD for a zone my player isn't licensed for?

    To some extent, the DRM community hasn't completely succeeded yet in shaping all consumer behavior. The Content Provider's fondest dream is that every consumer reflexively asks "Am I licensed to [do|use|listen to|view] this copyrighted content? Should I be giving those nice Content Providers more money?"

    So yeah, the problem was that the consumer didn't buy the right licenses. The problem behind the problem was "Why wasn't the consumer properly warned they weren't buying enough licenses for their needs? And why should that be possible?"

  • Re:Wait... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by manyxcxi (1037382) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @03:55PM (#30477906) Journal

    You're right in this isn't a cut and dried DRM is teh evulz case. It does however highlight that everyone following the rules, forking over their cash, and generally being socially acceptable, still got screwed over by a DRM system. I'm assuming the movie theater(s) in question paid all the money they were supposed to to all the people involved. All of the movie goers paid over all their money to legally see it in such a way that the movie studios would allow, if only barely (the customers did leave the box office with their souls presumably). All of them were screwed when somewhere along the DRM chain someone dropped the ball.
    This goes along with the DRMed mp3s that no longer work when a company kills its servers. Office 2003 not opening files because of a bad cert, etc. The pirates remove all these 'security features' and the products work so much smoother. I have used pirated copies of software that I legally paid for due to activation/reactivation rules, and I'll probably do it again.

  • Re:not surprising (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Ichijo (607641) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @04:25PM (#30478412) Homepage Journal

    Maybe now some of the rank & file will begin to understand the evils of pervasive DRM, even if only in Germany.

    If the fact that it's difficult to get right makes it evil, then what does that say about the Space Race?

    There are some good arguments to make against DRM, but that isn't one of them.

  • Re:not surprising (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WeatherServo9 (1393327) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @04:31PM (#30478506)
    I don't think that a snafu like this will do anything to open the eyes of the public to DRM; it's a technical snafu some theaters had running the movie, something which most patrons know nothing about, will never see how it works, and don't care how it works. This isn't equipment anyone is looking to buy or use, and the software (in this form) will never be available for purchase! From a patrons point of view something went wrong behind the scenes and they got a refund, something that happens all the time at theaters for various reasons (could be data corruption loading the movie, digital key problem, or with film a defective or missing reel, shipping problem, and so on).
  • Re:Wait... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stiggle (649614) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @04:32PM (#30478514)

    Deluxe were unable to provide keys or validate the keys they had provided. The supplier was unable to provide working copies of the movie.

    So a phone line being down, or a network card dropping to 10Mbit/s or whatever the technical problems was causes movie viewers all over a country to not be able to watch a movie, for which all the data is already within the theater.

    DRM - your rights in their hands.

  • Re:Wait... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by clarkn0va (807617) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .teg.tpa.> on Thursday December 17, 2009 @04:35PM (#30478556) Homepage

    The consumer got screwed by the supplier in this instance.

    If DRM prevails, this will be the reason why: the general public tends to view the consumption of media as if it were the consumption of food or oxygen. As if our only options are to cough up the asking price, or assume the life of a 'pirate', skulking around shady web sites grabbing torrents for the latest content.

    What ever happened to the option of just not consuming? Shouldn't we say, instead of "the consumer got screwed", "the consumer received yet another demonstration of some of the flaws in the DRM model"? Wouldn't you rather seize the power that you have as a consumer and make a choice to spend your dollars elsewhere, and influence your friends to do the same, than to take the victim's stance and believe that we are totally helpless when somebody like the MPAA screws up and just assumes that we'll quietly get in the next line?

    The simple fact is that DRM cannot succeed unless the consumer chooses to support it.

  • Re:not surprising (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bensafrickingenius (828123) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @04:38PM (#30478604)
    Except not a single person leaving that theater knew that DRM had anything to do with it. Or even the meaning of the acronym itself.

    "Sorry, folks, little glitch with the 3D thingamajig here! Heh heh... Well, you're all welcome to stay and enjoy the show in all it's 2D glory, including some free popcorn! Or we'll gladly refund your money."

    And they all came back the next day, and paid their money to support the now properly-running DRMed-up-the-ass movie, none the wiser. Do you really think the theater hauled out Cory Doctorow to hold forth on the evils of DRM for the audience's benefit?
  • Re:Wait... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mister Whirly (964219) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @04:40PM (#30478638) Homepage
    DRM isn't supposed to benefit movie patrons directly. It's purpose in digital films is to prevent piracy of HDD movies from people working at the theater. I am guessing they will claim that DRM does benefit the customer by controlling piracy, which if left uncontrolled would drive the average price of the movie tickets up. Whether or not this is true I have no idea, but I am guessing that is the stance they will use to justify the DRM.
  • Re:Wait... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mr. Freeman (933986) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @04:47PM (#30478750)
    Because it wasn't the theater, it was the people in charge of the licensing that fucked up. Furthermore, if there were no DRM then this entire problem would be gone. The theater could have purchased the rights to show it, shown it, made money, everyone is happy
  • Re:Wait... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by CreamyG31337 (1084693) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @04:51PM (#30478822)

    Okay, I thought this was pretty obvious. Seriously, how many of you think typing "keygen" into google is going to find you anything but a bunch of spam sites linking to each other, and if you're lucky, a virus to download.
    Type any word into Google, add "keygen", OH LOOK IT'S THE SAME WEBSITES!! Okay, not ANY word, but close enough.
    Anyways, if you did happen to find a keygen for something to do with Avatar on any website, there's no way in hell it's anything to do with the movie. You think some hacker at the movie theater made one for the fun of it? A 3D movie is not small enough to be spread online, nor can it be played back on any equipment available to the general public. If there's no way or reason to copy the data, nobody is going to worry about breaking the DRM.

  • Re:not surprising (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pnewhook (788591) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @04:55PM (#30478868)

    Hey you want to borrow some music from me?

    Loan them the CD

    What about the TV show I recorded last night

    Why not invite them over for some socialization? And if you don't like them that much then they should have had the foresight to record it themselves.

  • by xav_jones (612754) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @05:03PM (#30479006)
    While watching the latest Batman movie the screen went dark and stayed that way for about 20 minutes. Speaking to the attendants afterward, they said their projectors had lost the internet link which authorized the movies to be shown. All projectors in the cineplex went down since all were digital (theatre was in Riverside, CA).
  • Re:Good thing, too.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by maxume (22995) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @05:07PM (#30479080)

    I got that it was a joke, but I don't really go for humor that is based on obscuring the issue, and movie companies are a lot more worried about insider copying than they are cell phone videos.

  • by loren (2875) <linux_dr@yaho[ ]om ['o.c' in gap]> on Thursday December 17, 2009 @05:21PM (#30479318) Homepage Journal

    Some interesting points to think about:

    • You make a film called "The XYZ Picture"
    • Millions of people download "The XYZ Picture" and see it for free without paying you a dime
    • Most of these millions of people wouldn't have paid to see in the first place. Lets say a few thousand that would have paid to see your picture don't because they found it for free yes, this costs you real money
    • Some of these millions decide to see it in theaters for various reasons:
      • it's more fun to go see it in a large groups with their friends
      • The prefer a big theater viewing experience
      • or maybe they just like the over-buttered movie theater popcorn

      and many of these people wouldn't have even known about your movie unless they found it online for free This is money you got from movie piracy that you wouldn't have gotten if it couldn't be downloaded

    • many of these millions tell the friends about it, and they go to the theater to see your movie. again more money you got from free movie piracy as advertising
    • Many of these millions decide that your movie isn't good enough, or worth the time / effort to go see in theaters, but they really liked it or want to see all your behind the scenes stuff, so they decide to buy or rent the movie on DVD when it comes out These are even MORE sales you can attribute to free movie piracy as advertising

    And here is the very delicate and sensitive philosophical question

    • Do the few thousand movie tickets you lost in sales to piracy cost you more than...
    • ...the many thousand more tickets you sold because of the free advertising that movie piracy provided?

    I honestly think this comes down to those movie makers who make really mediocre films being afraid that they'll loose their shirts to those movie makers that produce quality content that thrives on word of mouth advertising.

    What do you think?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 17, 2009 @05:29PM (#30479480)

    As an IT admin in a medium sized movie theater chain, I can assure you, this happens ALL THE TIME. We face DRM key problems on a weekly basis. They won't issue keys very far ahead of time, especially for a massive release like Avatar.

    And sometimes, often in fact, the keys don't work. Sometimes its just a simple matter of training the employee how to transfer it to the projector. Sometimes the key is just wrong. Sometimes it works for 2d, but not 3d. Sometimes they issue a key, but it doesn't last for the entire run of the movie, so suddenly from one showing to the next, the projector just stops playing the movie.

    I can't even count the number of times we've had auditoriums full of people, and are waiting for an email to show up in the next ten minutes, or we get to tell 300 extremely angry people to go home.

    The distribution process works for the most part, but has *zero* contingencies. If the network to a theater is not working tonight between 6pm and Midnight, they will not be showing Avatar on a digital projector. But hey, everyone knows, the internet would never just stop working for a few hours, right? Tech support will answer, and won't put you on hold for 45 minutes, right? Not like there could be 4,000 other locations facing key problems simultaneously?

  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @05:39PM (#30479658) Homepage

    Not any more.

    The "resolution" of file is dependent on the chemical properties of the film, the amount of light (size of the lens), and the physical size of the film.

    The "resolution" of a digital image is dependent on the electronic properties of the sensors, the amount of light (size of the lens), and the physical size of the sensor array.

    Someone could, in theory, make a film camera that is higher resolution than a digital camera by making a huge honking lens and a huge honking piece of film. Then that same person could make a digital camera with even higher resolution by making a digital camera with an even bigger lens and bigger sensor. And on and on we can go.

    But at this point, the industry has decided on digital. Even if someone records video on film, the first step is to scan it. So in effect, everything is digital. You can't easily adjust color, lighting, and add CG effects with film.

    This obsolescence of film was solidified when George Lucas decided to film Star Wars Episode 1 in all digital. It was the first major movie that skipped the step of recording to film then scanning. It saved money and time, and improved the quality. Since then, even indie has gone digital. I don't think anyone is working on pushing film technology any longer. There's just no point in doing it only to have to spend the extra time and money to have the film scanned.

  • Re:not surprising (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PCM2 (4486) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @06:11PM (#30480098) Homepage

    Indeed. What was "surprising" to me was that this story appeared on Slashdot now. I have a friend who manages a movie theater that recently upgraded to digital projection, and believe me, this kind of glitch happens all the time. Often the digital delivery systems work flawlessly, but when they don't, it really pisses a lot of people off -- often because it costs them a lot of money in lost ticket sales. At least once or twice, my friend has had to get in his car and drive to the nearest studio distribution center to pick up a film copy of a movie that was supposed to be projected digitally -- because the old ways, at least, still work fine.

  • Re:not surprising (Score:2, Interesting)

    by socz (1057222) < minus pi> on Thursday December 17, 2009 @07:54PM (#30481306) Homepage Journal
    Hey, do you have that CD i let you borrow? Oh, you ruined it? Big scratch huh? No, i can't replace it, you see it's the rare New Order Remix blue edition. Yeah, that one, the one that has the confusion pump remix. Yup, from Blade. No, it wasn't on the Blade sountrack disc. But ok, it was expensive but maybe I can find it someday in a used cd store.... if they only allowed us to sell used CDs :(

If you don't have time to do it right, where are you going to find the time to do it over?