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[dvd-discuss] Fwd: Australian Court rules: Films aren't software

John Schulien wrote:
> I have a C program that performs a single function -- it
> calculates and prints out the digits of the number pi
> consecutively.  Is this program code or data?

Tom <tom(at)lemuria.org>
> good border case example. I would say it is code,
> because its output was not put in it. "fixed" as I
> used it above was not meant in the sense of "not
> changing". maybe "fixated" would've been the better
> term, or "hardcoded into".

if you look at it that way, it is code.  However, you
can make an equally valid argument that it is data.

Argument:  The C program is actually nothing
more than compressed  data.  The programmer wrote
the program with the explicit purpose of "fixating" a
representation of the digits of pi.  In this case, he used
a clever compression algorithm -- he expressed the
digits of pi as a compressed block of data that when
passed through a suitable decompression device --
in this case a C compiler and runtime environment --
results in a decompressed data stream corresponding
to the digits of pi -- thus recreating the original data
that he hardcoded into the work when he designed the
program for the specific, singular purpose of printing
those digits.

So yes, it is code and data, just like all software.

> my point is that yes, a technical argument does
> exist that the content of a DVD is a computer
> program.


> however, that argument is only interesting in a
> computer science theoretical way,

I would say that that argument SHOULD be only
interesting in a theoretical way.  Unfortunately, it
is also interesting in a legal way, because code and
data are treated differently under the law.

> ... the purpose of a DVD is to contain a movie, and
> the computer program aspect of the data is not
> even secondary.

Ok.  Here's a line-blurring example.

The "Dragon's Lair" game was originally implemented
as  a standup arcade machine with a built-in videodisc
player.  The videodisc contained a sequence of short
animated video clips, and the game contained software
to monitor the game controls, and sequence between
the video clips accordingly.

The player is shown a "movie" in real-time, and at
certain points in the action, he must manipulate the
controls to determine the fate of the hero.    Pushing
the right buttons pulls the hero out of danger, and
switches to the next segment of video in the story.
Pushing the wrong button switches the videodisc to
a different segment of video that shows the main
character dying in a number of creative and interesting

This game has been re-released as a DVD, utilizing
the rarely-used built-in programming capabilities of
the DVD architecture.   Here's a press release:


Quoting from the press release:

"People will be amazed when they see what can be
done with DVD," Elizabeth Foster, president of Digital
Leisure said. "Many DVD-Video owners don't realize
the hidden capabilities that are built into their machines.
Dragon's Lair, possibly the most complex DVD-Video
title authored to date, makes use of real-time decision
making and user input to determine the flow of the game.

> ... the purpose of a DVD is to contain a movie, and
> the computer program aspect of the data is not
> even secondary.

In the case of Dragon's Lair, the computer program
aspect of the data is paramount -- in fact it's the entire
point of the DVD.  Watching the isolated video clips
is not interesting or desirable.  Playing the game is.
However, Dragon's Lair is completely implemented
using standard DVD technology, just like "The Matrix."

So, is Dragon's Lair properly classified as a movie or
as software?  Is it legally or socially useful in any way
to differentiate between DVD "movies" that utilize only the
most primitive, non-interactive operational modes of the
DVD engine, and DVD "software" that utilizes the more
sophisticated, interactive capabilities of the DVD