This DVD Will Self-Destruct in 48 Hours


Disney is test marketing a DVD that becomes unwatchable two days after you open it. It's not clear how this new technology will work with movies that were unwatchable to begin with.


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  1. So obviously these DVDs would be for rental. Then there’s no need to return them, eh? That would have to be the tradeoff for consumers: convenience. Otherwise there’s no benefit.

    It might catch on. But if they don’t play and the readers are unreliable, then you can forget it.

  2. I can see it already, the complaints department will be filled with people complaining that their DVD wouldn’t play or had bad images so they want their money back.

    “Oh, you need proof, here’s my self destructed DVD, the one that was unwatchable when I tried to watch it the other night. I was out of town on business yesterday, I got here as soon as I could!”

  3. Isn’t this similar to that “DivX” thing (not sure how to spell it) that came out and failed a few years ago?

  4. The only way Disney can possibly sell these disposable DVD discs is if…

    (1) The price was UNDER $5 per disc. I’d say closer to $3 would make it a good impulse purchase.

    (2) No extra features would be provided, save for chapter selection and possibly previews. (Hey, they need to sell the next batch of unwatchable movies, right?)

    (3) They make sure that people KNOW that the disc has an expiration date, or else they will face so many lawsuits it just won’t be worth the trouble.

    (4) That there isn’t the means for people to copy the video to another medium… like, for instance, a computer. Whoops! I guess that one is just a little too late, huh?

  5. Just wait until someone figures out which clear spray applied to the back side immediately after opening will prevent the oxidation reaction which makes these things go dark.

  6. yeah, it does sound like DivX, doesn’t it.

    not to say the government should regulate it, but this sure does seem like a good way to create quite a bit of waste.

    i think i’d stick with PPV for my quick, 1 shot needs and Netflix for rentals to avoid late fees.

  7. Or you could just keep your home theatre in a complete vacuum… it’d be like space! Except smaller and full of home theatre equipment, so not really like space at all.

  8. Unless it actually combusts into flames with sparks flying everywhere, I’m not interested. And speaking of Mission Impossible, I can think of a number of films for which the DVD should explode *before* viewing.

  9. Divx was a software thing, this new tech is chemical.

  10. And how long before someone sues, claiming horrible diseases contracted from the toxic discs?

  11. “Disney hopes that the purchase price of $5 to $7 will be close enough to the cost of a typical DVD rental that many customers will consider it an easy impulse buy.”

    That’s too close to the cost of newly released GOOD titles on sale at discounters like Best Buy and Amazon. And those titles don’t have a time bomb.

    DVD Rentals around here are at most $4 for five days.

  12. Here’s your $4.99 solution. You’d probably need a vacuum box however, and I don’t know how much those cost.

  13. Divx almost put Circuit City out of business 3 years ago ( and still might). What is the point of this? Sure, the movie studios might embrace it, but why would retailers and consumers?

  14. 48 hours is plenty of time to copy it to a computer.

    Unless the first exposure to oxygen sets in motion an inevitable process (a surface reaction, with a product that diffuses inward in a 48 hour span), the self-destruction will need a steady supply of oxygen. Here’s how to save such a DVD from self-destruction:

    Take a fan. Take the spindle knob from a Walkman player and affix it to the center of the fan. Lay the fan on its back and put the DVD on backwards so that the side with the information is facing up. You now have a spin-coater, which can produce a thin film of whatever substance you want on the surface of the DVD.

    I’ll leave it to somebody else to figure out what the ideal substance is for spin-coat purposes. It shouldn’t damage the DVD, it shouldn’t allow oxygen to diffuse through, and it should be easy to produce with materials available from a hardware store.

  15. a little explanation of a spin-coater:

    When you have a flat surface and you spin it really fast, if you put a droplet of liquid in the center of the surface it will spread out and form a fairly uniform thin film. It’s basically centrifugal force. It’s used all the time in science and industry. Since the center of the DVD would be hollow, just apply some coating substance in a ring around the inner edge.

    I wonder if RIAA will sue me for posting this.

  16. One reason so many people return movies late is that they don’t have time to watch them before they’re due to be returned. I’d say people who tend to find themselves in this situation are unlikely to buy movies that will self-destruct after two days.

    This idea offends me at a fairly basic level because it is so wasteful. I get annoyed enough by junk mail in general, and all the unsolicited CDs I receive in the mail for this or that ISP’s browser in particular.

  17. Seems to me the best way to market this would be to call it the “no-return rental” because that sounds like a feature. The alternative, “self-destructing purchase” sounds worse.

    This experiment is nowhere near as expensive as DivX. These discs should work in standard DVD players.

    I would agree that even $5 is too high a price. Where I live a week long DVD rental is $4.

  18. Shouldn’t these people know better than to give hackers a challenge? Haven’t they learned anything?

  19. Ah, but it’s good to see old-school intellectual property distributors address the licensing problem inherent in selling a physical copy of the product.

    I guess I will keep my DVD player immersed in argon from now on.

  20. All of you that say that this will make it easier for hackers to copy are idiots. Easier than what, renting a movie? If people want to steal copies of movies, they have an easy way to do it, with or without self-destructing disks.

  21. The spin-coater idea is original and brilliant though.

  22. I pretty well never watch a movie twice, and often have the trouble of renting a movie (well, having my mother get me to rent a movie) and then ending up not watching it for 3 weeks and paying 3X the price of just having bought the damn thing in rental fees. This way I could just go to a vending machine, pop in a few dollars, and get my vaccuum-pack to take home with me.

    Then I could just pop it open as soon as I was _actually_ ready to watch the blasted thing. That it would be useless after 48 hours would mean nothing to me – it would be useless to me after 3 hours.

    As to waste, that did make me feel a bit odd about it when I first heard it, but my reaction is just like those of most people to issues of privacy – eehhh, just give me my shiny trinket.

    On that point, this would actually be a little mini-win for privacy – no more need for IDs or membership cards of any kind, because it can all be just as well handled via a vending machine…which is under surveillance by a security camera!

    Truth be told, I don’t really much care for movies at all, and I’ve lost most of my taste for non-interactive fiction, so this really isn’t a big issue for me either way.

  23. Geez, I’d pick up one of these in a second if it were the same price as a rental. I’d open it only when I was ready to watch the movie, and I’d be grateful to be able to throw it out instead of driving my butt all the way back to the video store.

    Can’t believe all you other posters are so negative … this is truly a consumer-friendly technology.

  24. I’m with Plutarck. I’ve been absolutely astonished at the sales figures for DVDs these past couple of years (and sales figures for videotapes before that). Who actually BUYS a movie? What compels somebody to watch a movie more than once?

    OK, sure, I could maybe understand watching some amazingly adventurous film twice to catch something you missed the first time. But watching it enough times to justify laying out $20 to have your own copy forever? Seriously — who DOES that, and why?

  25. “Seriously — who DOES that, and why?”

    Brief fleeting nudity, strong language, and adult situations.

  26. Hmmm, could be a market for this. You can watch it whenever you want, no need to worry about late fees (that one screws me up a lot), and you can pause it to go to the bathroom or get something to eat (unlike PPV). That last one has been significant for me since my wife and I had a baby – it typically takes us 3 hours to watch a two hour movie with interruptions, unless we stay up after baby goes to bed, which cuts into our precious sleep time. I can see the value in that. Still, it’s got to compete with $3.99 VHS/DVD rentals that give you a week to hold onto it. I hadn’t thought of the privacy angle but that’s a good one, especially if you want to rent something you’d be embarrased if anyone knew you bought it (I’m not just thinking here of ‘adult’ material but guilty pleasures like the plethora of really bad comedies that are good for a laugh or two as rentals). That would only work with the vending machine option – you could also cut costs by elminating the overhead of a fully stocked video store with employees manning it.

    I don’t think they’re doing this to prevent piracy. It wouldn’t work anyway, since it has to put out the signal long enough for a DVD player to display it on the screen and that’s long enough for someone to copy it as well. There wouldn’t be any signal degradation, or to the extent that there is some from the exponential decay process as long as the system gets a strong enough responce to read 1’s and 0’s the digital quality will remain pristine. If it didn’t, I doubt consumers would buy into it anyway – otherwise you might as well stick with VHS.

  27. Prices will come down. They always do. And movie theaters will become a thing of the past — like drive-in speakers hanging on your old Mustang windows.

  28. Fabian is right. Movie theaters ARE going to go the way of the dodo.

  29. Well, I suppose I could see how one would wish to keep, say, Starfish (or whatever that movie was) because Halle Berry showed us her tits, in the same sort of way that someone might, theoretically in a way that has nothing to do with me (naturally), keep pornographic material they no longer look at or are particularly interested in…but really, at least all the movies I’ve seen have been pretty cut rate in their sexual attractiveness, but that might just be me and my damn-this-is-another-long-sentance style.

  30. The funny thing about this is that Eisner himself says this scheme probably won’t work.

  31. Sounds like a massive hit in the making to me. 😉

  32. “Prices will come down. They always do.” That’s what the music industry said.

    I wonder if clear coating these is the “moral equivalent” of recording an LP to CD, storing the record (“you really shouldn’t stack them like that because they get pressurized” – anyone who has seen a movie more than once want to guess?) and never playing it again.

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