Burning Downloaded Movies to Disk

New Sonic Solutions gear gets around DVD copying restrictions—once, anyway.

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Downloading movies is getting more popular. But it's still a pain to get them from the PC to our TV, where we can watch from the comfort of our couches. Sonic Solutions is launching new gear to free downloaded movies from studio handcuffs—at least enough to get flicks from the PC to the TV.

Sonic won approval for a way to burn movies to DVDs while still protecting them from being copied again and again. Sonic's scheme overcame resistance from studios, scared that their movies would get ripped and burned in the manner that has hurt the music industry. News that the studios had approved Sonic's technology, called Qflix, has sent the company's stock up about 30 percent in recent days.

New burners from companies like Pioneer, Philips, and Toshiba will soon have the built-in software needed to burn the special DVDs, which will cost a bit more than today's writable disks. Downloading is still a sliver of the movie sales and rental business. But Sonic thinks it will grow quickly once downloads can be put onto DVD. Disks are easy to transport and store, says Sonic's Jim Taylor, adding, "People still like having a shiny disk."

Consumers also will see kiosks in stores where they can select a movie and wait while it's burned to a disk. They'll find a broader selection of movies and shows available from online stores, which can burn single disks for flicks that haven't been released on DVD. Sonic calls it "DVD on demand."

The irony is that studios wouldn't have considered the idea if software whizzes hadn't cracked the code that protects DVDs. Studios had made sure that the crack remained underground and awkward. But the break made the protection code seem less sacrosanct, Taylor says. Otherwise, he says, the studios would have been horrified at an approach like Sonic's.