DRM keeps Spielberg's Munich out of award-voters' hands

Patrick von Sychowski sez,

Steven Spielberg will most likely not get any nomination for the BAFTA (British Film Academy) awards for "Munich" because of a massive DRM cock-up. BAFTA's 3,000+ members were sent encrypted 'screener' DVDs that can only be played on special DVD players supplied by Cinea (www.cinea.com – a Dolby subsidiary). First the DVDs were held up by UK customs, thereby missing the first round voting deadline. But when they arrived, they would not play on any machine because they had been mastered for Region 1 (North America). As BAFTA members are cannot vote for films they have not seen and only a handful of preview screenings have been held, the film ought to be disqualified from consideration. I can't imagine Spielberg will be best pleased about this.

I find it extraordinary that even members of Britain's film making community are not trusted to play DVDs from any other region than Europe! Warner Bros has earlier committed a similar technical faux-pas when they sent BAFTA members commercial DVDs of "Batman Begins" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" that were also Region 1, though at least WB has steered clear of Dolby/Cinea (motto: "Making Piracy History"). Looks like other studios might want to do the same thing, come next year's awards season.

On Patrick's advice, I called the BAFTA PR office and heard a recorded message apologizing for the "technical errors" with the Munich screener that "will not play in the UK machines" and a recent BAFTA PR email adds "WHILE YOU SHOULD ALREADY HAVE RECEIVED YOUR DVD OF THE FILM,  DUE TO A LABORATORY ERROR IN THE U.S., THE DVD YOU WERE SENT WILL NOT OPERATE IN UK PLAYERS, AS IT IS FORMATTED FOR REGION 1."

Update: Ron sez, "I'm a BAFTA member that lives in the US and the reverse issue is just as much of a problem – many of the screeners I was sent are PAL format and so I can't watch 'em. You'd think that the genuises who are mailing these out would understand that if you're MAILING it to the US, you might want to use a format that can be VIEWED there.

"Regarding the special encrypted Cinea player that we were all sent, I never hooked it up and I wonder how many people did. About half of the screeners I received are encrypted for Cinea and the other half weren't. I don't have time to watch ALL the screeners I get anyway so naturally I just end up watching the ones that are easy to watch, that I can watch on my laptop or at a friend's house. I have to believe that those movies that were sent out in the encrypted format were viewed FAR less than those that won't."

Update 2: Ted sez, "The judges for the Academy Awards here in the US are now all saddled with Cinea machines and encrypted DVDs. Not only that, but when the DVDs are played, despite the fact that all is encrypted, etc., the films are still interrupted by the periodic copyright ownership warnings, as with the pre-Cinea DVDs."