Blu-ray is a Bag of Hurt

As Steve Jobs famously said back in October 2008, during the unveiling of the unibody MacBook and MacBook Pro, blu-ray is a bag of hurt. I have found this out first hand in the past 24 hours. Yesterday, I bought Iron Man 2 in a Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Copy set. I saw the movie in theaters and loved it, so adding it to my collection was a no-brainer. But once I got it home, the pain began.

First off, I love the picture quality of Blu-ray (or rather, HD, whether or not it’s on a disc). What I hate, however, is Digital Rights Management, or DRM. In layman’s terms – copy protection. The reason I hate it so much is the undue burden it puts on the average consumer. I experienced such a burden last night.

The movie industry is constantly changing the DRM scheme on new movies, requiring your Blu-ray player to be updated constantly with new firmware to decode the new schemes. What I have fallen into is something I figured would be unlikely. The manufacturer of my player has stopped providing updates.

I hadn’t noticed as I hadn’t bought a new release in quite some time, but LG last updated my BD-390 in April. Iron Man 2 freezes in playback every 20 minutes, and when you press rewind or fast-forward to get over the freeze, it forgets where it was at and drops you ten minutes back in the movie.

At first, I figured it was a defective disc, so I exchanged it. The new disc exhibited the same problem. I decided to experiment a little. I picked a different part of the movie to start from, watched about 20 minutes, and freeze. Same behavior. I nudged past the freeze, watched about 20 minutes, freeze. Rinse, repeat. So it isn’t a physical anomaly in the disc.

I checked for updates via the WiFi connection of my player. Nothing. So I went to Google. It appears that many owners of the LG BD-390 are experiencing the same exact issue. Even worse, folks who have purchased movies made by Lionsgate films that were released since May have had their LG BD-390 spit the disc right back out.

LG lists the BD-390 as discontinued. We’re talking about a 10-month old player that was the top of the game last November. It sure seems like LG has given up on supporting new firmware for a discontinued device.

I talked with LG’s support, and the representative told me my report would be filed with the firmware team. I’m not very confident.

This whole mess is because of constantly changing DRM schemes, and companies discontinuing support for those schemes. I do love the Blu-ray experience when it works. This is the first bump I’ve hit with it, but it doesn’t bode well for the format.

Quite simply, DRM needs to go away, just like it did with music downloads. It’s time to trust the majority of consumers, because DRM sure as heck doesn’t stop the pirates. It just slows them down.