US: Blu-ray back-ups to become legal next year

Good news? From next year it should be possible to make a legal high-resolution back-up copy of Blu-ray Disc movie titles, which will please those with media centre/server systems.

Bad news? The 'managed copy' facility will only be available on newly-released titles, and will require you to buy some new hardware. But of course...

The facility has just been agreed by the body responsible for administering the Advanced Access Content System (AACS) copy-management system used on BD titles, and is subject to approval by studio, manufacturers and other Blu-ray Disc licensees.

But provided all goes according to plan, from some time in 2010 it will be possible for buyers of most discs to make one high-res copy for back-up purposes.

However, this isn't a sign that all bets are off when it comes to BD copyright: studios will have tight control over copying, and may choose to charge for the first copy or any rights they offer to make subsequent copies.

And it won't be possible to make copies of your current discs using your present BD player and a recorder: at the moment players aren't set up to offer this 'managed copy' facility, and compatible machines aren't expected before midway through next year. The same goes for the software - the movies themselves.

When the system is in place, it's expected that a compatible player, when loaded with a copy-enabled disc, might offer a menu option of making that copy. If the selection is made, the player will contact an online authorisation centre for permission to allow the copy to be made, and copy-protection would be lifted for that one copying procedure.

Subsequent attempts at copying would be blocked unless the authorisation centre has been instructed to allow them.

You see? All that paranoia about what is going upstream on that BD-Live/Profile 2.0 Ethernet link had a sound basis, after all...

The studios have to make a decision by December this year, and if they sign they'll be required to make all releases compatible with managed copying, although they won't actually have to allow the copying until some time in the first half of next year, which is when AACS authorisation servers are ready. Further down the line, the studios may have their own authorisation servers.

Copies will be allowed to recordable Blu-ray Disc or DVD media, as a download to a Windows Media DRM-compatible portable device or hard drive, or to memory devices.

But there's a hitch for owners of iPods and iPhones – copying to these devices isn't approved, and Apple is yet to approach the AACS licensing people to allow copying from BD titles to its products.

Things are going to get interesting over the next 12 months...

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.