Until now, a need for robust copy protection has held back the introduction of DVD-Audio, but the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) has finally put forth a solution. The SDMI brought together more than 180 companies to develop specifications that protect the playback, storage, and distribution of digital music and they have opted to recommend Verance Corporation's watermarking technology.
The DVD Forum has also decided to use Content Protection and Pre-Recorded Media (CPPM), an encryption technology, as an additional copy protection strategy for DVD-Audio. With CPPM, disc contents are encrypted and players are equipped with a decoder that enables them to read CPPM-encrypted media. The system defined by the specification relies on key management for interchangeable media, content encryption, and media-based renewability.
Although it has been decided that the Verance watermark and CPPM will be DVD-Audio's protectors, it appears that only WEA Advanced Media Operations and Panasonic Disc Services Corporation currently hold both licenses. Although some industry sources hint that there is a reason for the Warner/Panasonic jumpstart, sources at Verance and Warner Music insist that it is not so. Panasonic could not be reached for comment.
watermarks hacked? independent labels move forward
Industry reports have indicated that hackers have broken all SDMI watermarks. Verance chairman David Leibowitz and Warner Music senior VP Jordan Rost both question the validity of that claim, and another source told EMedia there is no truth to the rumors. Whatever the current hacking status of SDMI may be, this watermark issue will not hold back independent labels, such as Silverline, Waterlily (which already has a title on the market), and Telarc, which expects to release four titles in February. AIX Entertainment also has a half-a-dozen titles in the works.
Indie labels say they don't even want the watermark on their products because it can affect sound quality. Rost vehemently disagrees. "The Verance watermark passed two ‘golden ears' tests. We also have our own internal quality control to make sure no watermarks impinge on quality. If people want to do exotic tests that have nothing to do with listening to music in a consumer environment, that's a silly game. We can't fool consumers. If the quality is not there, they'll hear it."
what's out there now
In October, 5.1 shipped its first 24-bit/96Hz DVD-audio discs. Swingin' for the Fences by Gordan Goodwin's Big Phat Band (Silverline); Devotion by Aaron Neville (Silverline); and Venice Underground, featuring guitarist Peter DiStefano (immergent). The 5.1 discs have a suggested retail price of $19.95.
November 7 is the day Warner will release titles from Stone Temple Pilots, Daniel Barenboim with the Staatskapelle Berlin, Natalie Merchant, Nikolaus Hamoncourt with the Berlin Philharmonic, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Orchestre Lamoureux conducted by Yutaka Sado, and Jazz At The Movies Band. All recordings have been remixed from the original masters. Warner's suggested retail price is $24.98.
"We're working very hard to get a comparable amount for December releases and we'll continue in January," says Rost. Warner sampler discs will also be included with Panasonic DVD-Audio players. Also in November, Silverline is expected to release 26 classical music titles on DVD. In January, an additional 10 DVD-Audio titles will be introduced with 10 titles per month after that expected from Silverline and immergent.