Piracy fears stall Sony and Philips DVD launch

Sony and Philips have postponed their plans to launch Digital Video Disk (DVD) players this year because Hollywood film studios have not released enough films capable of being shown on the system.

The high-quality combined music and movie players have been touted as the technology that will lift flat sales in the consumer electronics industry. TVs, for example, show a stagnant growth in sales over the past four years, according to market researcher Mintel.

However, major film studios like Disney, Universal and Twentieth Century Fox have withheld support because of fears over recording piracy. DVDs are not designed to be recordable but if pirates crack the encryption codes they will be able to produce perfect copies of Hollywood films – in contrast to video piracy, which produces films of decreasing quality as more copies are produced from the original tape.

A spokeswoman for Sony says: “We will not be launching DVD this year. We had planned to do so, but there will not be enough software.” A Philips spokesman adds: “We see no point in launching DVD this year. There is no software to play on it.”

Sony says it plans to launch the system in the UK early next year, in conjunction with a catalogue of films from Sony-owned Columbia Tri-Star. Philips has no plans to release its system until there are “hundreds of films and programmes on the shelf and as many more in the pipeline”.

Earlier this month DVD players went on sale in the US, where a number of films are available as a result of companies testing their systems. DVD systems have also launched in in Japan, where much of the software is for karaoke performances.

These DVD models use encryption systems that would be inoperable in Western Europe.

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