The Case of the Disappearing DVD Recorder
Why DVD Recorders are Getting So Hard to Find
By Robert Silva, About.com Guide
Have you shopped for a DVD Recorder recently and have found
slim-pickins on store shelves? It is not your imagination. While DVD
recorders are thriving in other parts of the World and Blu-ray Disc
recorders are all the rage in Japan, and are being introduced in
several other markets, the U.S. is being left out of the video
recording equation; on purpose.
However, contrary to what you might think, it is not all the fault of
Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba and other Asian-based consumer
electronics manufacturers. After all, they would love to sell as many
DVD and Blu-ray Disc recorders as possible to anyone who wants to buy one.
The real reason that DVD recorders are scarce in the U.S., and
Blu-ray Disc recorders are non-existent, can be squarely laid at the
foot of the U.S. movie studios and cable/satellite providers, which
place restrictions on video recording that make the continued selling
new DVD recorders, let alone providing access to standalone Blu-ray
Disc recorders, in the U.S. consumer market an increasingly
Copy-Protection and Recording Cable/Satellite Programming
Most consumers buy a DVD recorder to record television programs for
later viewing. So how are movie studios and cable/satellite program
providers conspiring to limit your access to such video recording?
The implementation of a copy-protection scheme that severely
restricts what you can record and how you can record it.
For example, HBO and some other cable and network programmers
copy-protect most of their programs on a random basis. The type of
copy protection that they use (referred to as "Record Once") allows
an initial recording to a temporary storage device (such as to a hard
drive of a DVD recorder/Hard Drive combo, a cable
<http://dvr.about.com>DVR, TIVO, but not necessarily to a permanent
storage format, such as DVD). In addition, once you have made your
recording to cable DVR, TIVO, or Hard Drive, you are not allowed to
make a copy of the initial recording to a DVD or VHS.
In other words, while you can make a recording to temporary storage
format, such as DVR-type device, you cannot make a "hard copy" onto
DVD to add to your permanent collection. "Record Once" means
recording once on a temporary storage medium, not to a hard copy, such as DVD.
As a result, consumers are finding out quickly that newer DVD
recorders and DVD Recorder/VHS combo units are unable record programs
from HBO or other premium channels, and definitely not Pay-Per-View
or On-Demand programming ("Record Never"), due to the types of
copy-protection employed to restrict recording onto DVD. This is also
filtering into some of the non-premium cable channels.
This isn't the fault of the DVD recorder, or the DVD recorder
manufacturer; it is the enforcement of copy-protection schemes
required by the movie studios and other content providers, which is
also backed up legal court rulings. It is a "Catch 22". You have the
right to record, but the content owners and providers also have the
legal right to protect copyrighted content from being recorded. As a
result, the ability to make a hard-copy recording may be prevented.
TECH NOTE: There is no way around the "Record Once" copy-protection
scheme used by broadcasters and cable/satellite providers unless you
use a DVD Recorder that can record on a DVD-RW disc in VR Mode or a
DVD-RAM format disc that is CPRM compatible
(look on the package). However, keep in mind that DVD-RW VR Mode or
DVD-RAM recorded discs are not playable on most DVD players (just
Panasonic and few others - refer to user manuals).
The Cable/Satellite DVR Factor
As mentioned above, cable/satellite DVRs and TIVO do allow recording
of most content (except for pay-per-view and on-demand programming).
However, since the recordings are made on a hard drive instead of a
disc, they are not permanently saved (unless you have an extremely
large hard drive). This is acceptable to movie studios and other
content providers as further copies of the hard drive recording
cannot be made.
This state of affairs is also a profit center for cable/Satellite
service providers as they can lease or rent DVRs and also offer video
"on demand" services that they can charge their subscribers. Since
the DVR is required in order to record "Record Once" programming, the
consumer is locked into this added expense if the they want the
ability to record many of the of their favorite shows and movies.
Of course, if you own the increasingly scarce DVD recorder/Hard Drive
combination, you should be able to record your program onto the Hard
Drive of the DVD Recorder/Hard Drive Combo, but if copy-protection is
implemented within the program, you will be prevented from making a
copy of your hard drive recording to DVD.
Where are the Blu-ray Disc Recorders?
There are no current plans to market standalone Blu-ray Disc
recorders for consumers in the U.S market. One factor contributing to
this state of affairs is the increasing use of TIVO and
Cable/Satellite DVRs in the U.S., which is perceived by Asian-based
manufacturers to affect the potential competitive success of Blu-ray
as a recording option.
In addition, copy-protection concerns and potential piracy have the
movie studios "paranoid" about mainstream consumers having the
ability to record high definition video content that can be saved in
permanent hard-copy format, such as Blu-ray Disc.
Video copy-protection and the DVR factor are the main reasons why
standalone Blu-ray Disc recorders are not available in the U.S.,
although they are plentiful in Japan and are being introduced
elsewhere. The manufacturers simply don't want to hassle the expense
of complying with the recording restrictions imposed in the U.S. market.
For more details on the Blu-ray Disc Recorder issue, read my article:
Are There Blu-ray Disc Recorders?
A Final Word
Although not all TV, cable, and satellite programming is currently
affected by "Record Once" or "Record Never" copy-protection schemes,
and can still be recorded using a DVD recorder (although you often
won't know until you find out if the program was able to be
recorded), the era of widespread video recording of TV, cable and
satellite programs onto a tape or disc format is coming to end.
So next time you go shopping for a DVD Recorder, don't be surprised
at the slim-pickins. It is all part of the "plan".
For an additional technical explanation and perspective on the issues
revolving around video recording and copy-protection, also read the
article: Understanding Copy Protection (About.com DVRs).
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