Single-play DVDs? It’s a hoax

On the Internet, a hoax can spread just as fast as a genuine news story. That’s the lesson from the bogus story published in an obscure UK business magazine yesterday that claimed Microsoft is about to unleash a new single-play DVD format.

Paul Thurrott reprinted the story without giving credit to the original source. picked up the story from Paul and reprinted it verbatim.

Techdirt commented on the original story, with attribution but without any fact-checking. So did John Walkenbach.

The funny part? There’s no truth to the story. None whatsoever. In fact, the original story sparked a flurry of e-mails around Microsoft as people in different groups tried to figure out where on earth this story came from. After the head-scratching stopped, a spokesmen told me, they concluded that the story was not true. “It appears to be confusing an existing feature within Windows Media DRM that allows for single-play of promotional digital material. This has been an option for content owners to use for some time for the Windows Media format – it does not apply to MPEG2 content found on DVDs.”

Downloaded content in the Windows Media format can be DRM-protected, and if the content owner wants to limit it to a specific number of plays, or to set an expiration date for the content, that’s an option, just as it is with subscription-based music services. But it’s only one of many options, and it has nothing to do with DVDs.

So, case closed. The single-play DVD format can go back to the 1990s, where it rightfully belongs.


An “unlikely” defense of the one-play DVD story

More on the single-play DVD

[Cross-posted at Ed Bott’s Media Central]

16 thoughts on “Single-play DVDs? It’s a hoax

  1. Congrats, this story is currently #1 on Blogniscient’s “Top Technology Blog Articles” list ( ). Thank you for getting the straight scoop and letting everyone know. From now on, we’ll call you Ed “Snopes” Bott. Congratulations again and keep up the great work!

  2. But your story has no basis in fact either, so how do I know your claim is true? The only source you cite is “a spokesmen”.

  3. Peter, ultimately you have to decide which sources you trust. If you think I’m lying or incompetent or biased, then don’t believe me. I’ve been at this a long time and I work very hard to be a credible, trustworthy source. But you still have to decide whether to trust me.

    So far, though, most of the sources who picked up this story were willing to correct it based on my say-so. That’s at least a little external validation of my credibility, wouldn’t you say?

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  6. I’m still confused. How is this a hoax? Didn’t you just confirm the contents of the article?

    Windows Media DRM supports a play once function.
    Windows Media 9 is one of three standard HD-DVD formats (see [CNET])
    Microsoft recently announced support for the HD DVD format.
    HD DVD format recorders are due out in 2006 (see [Reuters]).

    So, let’s read the “hoax” story again:

    ==== quote
    The discs would give Hollywood increased control over the release of new films and allow consumers the chance to watch a film at the fraction of the price of an ordinary pre-recorded DVD. More important, the discs would prevent copying and digital piracy, which is costing the film and music industry billions in lost revenues.

    The revolutionary product could be on the market as early as next year, with the new DVD players needed to view them. Microsoft hopes it will help the company dominate home entertainment as it dominates the desktop computer market.
    ==== end quote

    What part of this is untrue? Whether WM DRM is used for “promotional material” or “movies” depends only on the licensee, not the implementation. Single play discs WOULD be cheaper. And Microsoft DOES hope to dominate entertainment.

    The fact that single play applies to HD DVD vs. current DVDs (“it does not apply to MPEG2 content found on DVDs” and “it has nothing to do with DVDs” and “The single-play DVD format can go back to the 1990s, where it rightfully belongs”) sounds like semantic obfuscation rather than honesty.

  7. Match those facts up with the lede graf:

    “Computer software giant Microsoft has developed a cheap, disposable pre-recorded DVD disc that consumers can play only once.”

    And if they’re talking about DVD-HD format, then how do you explain this quote from the original piece: “A senior source in the company says Microsoft is in talks with the main electronics manufacturers about developing DVD players to play the new discs.” Microsoft doesn’t need to talk with anyone about developing players for the DVD-HD format.

    In fact none of this story computes. Sure, content makers could choose to release discs in this format if they want to, but that’s a far cry from a “cheap, disposable” disc format. What you’re really saying is, “There’s no technical reason why this technology couldn’t be implemented using currently available technologies.” Which is a far cry from having a new DVD format about to be rushed onto the market.

  8. “Peter, ultimately you have to decide which sources you trust”
    You are correct about that. At this point I don’t know you so I’m not inclined to believe your story. I got here by way of Scoble, so that does lend credibility to you, but he’s been wrong before.
    My main point is that I think it’s ironic/hypocritical to criticize a story for having no attribution by writing a story with no attribution.

  9. Peter, you’re confused about what attribution means.

    Paul wrote a story that was based on something printed in another newspaper. He didn’t attribute that story to its original source, so a reader could not tell where it came from. In fact, a reader who wasn’t aware of the original story would think that Paul had dug up these facts on his own, when that wasn’t the case.

    My story was based on original reporting. It doesn’t need to be attributed to another source because I made the phone calls and sent the e-mails to cmy ontacts within Microsoft. The fact that I did not quote a source by name doesn’t mean that it wasn’t attributed. The source was official and spoke on behalf of Microsoft.

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