BD phone home!

You know that endless wait while a Blu-ray Disc title loads into your player before the first menu screen appears? And those discs that either refuse point blank to load, or load then stall?

Well, it seems it might not just be that the players themselves are really slow: research from a company involved in the development of multimedia back-up software suggests that some discs are firing up BD-Live functionality, and effectively using their Ethernet ports and your internet connection to 'call home' to the studio that made them.

And that could have real implications for the amount of data those studios could be gathering about how and where discs are being watched.

Investigations by SlySoft, which makes the popular AnyDVD software to back up DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc content onto a computer hard drive, has revealed that some BD players don't offer the user the choice of turning off BD-Live functionality.

And it says that many consumers won't have a clue that BD-Live is actually a two-way street.

"Absolutely dumbfounded"
As the company's head of development, Peer van Heuen, says, when SlySoft looked at some BD-Live-enabled discs "we were absolutely dumbfounded. Sometimes the films actually contacted the manufacturer and did so with the user not knowing about it or even being in a position to recognize that a download connection was taking place.

"I assume that a significant percentage of these film buyers don't know what to make of the little BD-Live logo on the package or even recognize what that logo implies.

"In other words, hardly anyone expects that a Blu-ray disc makes a `telephone call home' while it’s being played. The circumstances and manner whereby unwitting consumers are maliciously and insidiously eavesdropped upon might get the attention of data, security and/or personal privacy experts in some countries eventually."

Enough disc-space for extra content

The company, whose software is able to disable BD-Live and also bypass Blu-ray Disc's regional coding, contends that while the manufacturers of software and hardware are promoting BD-Live as a means of delivering extra content to buyers of discs, there's actually more than enough space on a 50GB disc to store all that extra stuff, without the need to download it from the internet.

So next time you're twiddling your thumbs waiting for your new disc to load, could just be that the movie is busy telling its maker where you live, and just who's watching...

Andrew has written about audio and video products for the past 20+ years, and been a consumer journalist for more than 30 years, starting his career on camera magazines. Andrew has contributed to titles including What Hi-Fi?, GramophoneJazzwise and Hi-Fi CriticHi-Fi News & Record Review and Hi-Fi Choice. I’ve also written for a number of non-specialist and overseas magazines.