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Major Labels’ DualDisc Releases Could Land Them in Court
Posted Apr 12, 2004 Print Version     Page 1of 1

For the first time in ages, it appears that all of the record labels might be playing on the same court, no pun intended. The Big Five of the recording industry—Warner, Bertelsmann, Universal, Sony, and EMI—released DualDisc titles in test markets in early February. But was it their product to release? Dieter Dierks, CEO and founder of Germany-based DVD Plus International, says no.

"In April 2000, I signed a contract with Warner Brothers that gave them permission to manufacture DVD Plus for their artists and record labels," says Dierks. DVD Plus and DualDisc are based on the same concept—hybrid discs with a DVD on one side and a CD on the other—and Warner sold its patent on the technology to Dierks, though the label retained the license to manufacture products under the Warner name. "The contract called for them to use the DVD Plus logo. The Warner Group seems to have omitted my logo. "The contract does not allow Warner to produce for other labels or artists," Dierks told EMedia.

Additionally, Dierks has given EnXnet the sole license to market these hybrids under the OneDisc name in North America, according to Mark Pempsell, national sales director of EnXnet, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Rounder Records has released The Kathleen Edwards Special Edition and Edwards' Live from the Bowery Ballroom under the OneDisc name and with a DVD Plus logo.

But the fight over who owns the patent—and therefore the rights to release the format—isn't the only problem dogging DualDisc. Consumer Electronics Daily reported that the DualDiscs on the market are out of spec and therefore do not play in all players. "The difference is that the Kathleen Edwards disc was made under our supervision on Singulus machines. Singulus is the only machine capable of replicating a dual-sided hybrid disc to our specifications. In short, DVD Plus works everywhere and DualDisc does not," says Dierks. Ordinary CDs and DVDs are 1.2mm thick and, according to specs for both media, can't exceed 1.5mm in thickness. While DualDisc makers claim their discs are in spec, industry sources have indicated that there is a problem with balance because the two layers are not equal in thickness.

EnXnet's Pempsell says he doesn't know whether DualDiscs are in spec, but he says that DVD Plus discs are 1.48mm and can play in every player. Right now, only Digital Valley in France is actually replicating DVD Plus product. Will the DVD Plus/DualDisc battle go to court? No one is saying for sure, but the lack of comment from most parties leads one to believe just that.

The record labels have remained quiet. A Warner spokesperson responded with a written statement, the gist being that "DualDiscs are being tested in select markets." This is old news, since that news was widely spread in early February as the five major labels released a total of 15 titles in Boston and Seattle. Warner has released DualDisc albums by R.E.M., P.O.D., Barenaked Ladies, Donald Fagen, and Linkin Park. The CD side of the disc contains standard two-channel, 16-bit/44.1kHz audio, while the DVD side features a high-resolution, 5.1-channel mix of the album. BMG, on the other hand, has music videos on the DVD side of its Usher release. Sony has released DualDiscs by AC/DC, Audioslave, David Bowie, and Good Charlotte. RCA has issued an EP-length DualDisc by the Calling. In addition to the Kathleen Edwards disc, Rounder Records is reportedly planning more DVD Plus releases this year that will have a film on one side and audio on the other.

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