Why do we need this?
High definition video has been long anticipated, and it's clearly the way of the future for media distribution. But the people promoting it in the proprietary film and television business are trying to hang onto their past business models at the same time as they grasp for this shiny future.
The result has been a ridiculously overcomplicated set of technologies whose purpose is primarily to prevent you from watching their movies.
Sure, they say that Blu-Ray (and HD-DVD) are new and improved media for distributing video -- but that's easily done, and not the focus of development. Where the money is spent is on introducing anti-features: ways to make the "illegitimate" product worse in order to make the legitimate product more attractive. If you want to know more about this sordid situation, here's a short list of these anti-features as they exist in Blu-Ray, with explanations of what they do:
- A type of DRM
- Another DRM element which is essentially a legalized rootkit technology.
- Hobbled copying path.
- Encryption over the wire.
- Video interface implementing HDCP.
- Signal used to degrade output.
- Region Coding
- To divide viewers geographically and sustain market distortions.
These technologies are not fundamentally about playing video, but about preventing video from being played at a time, by people, in a place, or in a context that the publisher doesn't want it to be played. Usually in order to extract payment, though sometimes as an act of pure despotic control over the viewer.
Of course, it's true that none of this actually works to defeat "piracy": all of this encryption has been broken by now, and so anyone serious about circumventing Blu-Ray's DRM will have little trouble in doing so. So it has no effect on real commercial "piracy" or "bootleg" disks. The real impact is to oppress ordinary users of the media.
And all of this is clearly antithetical to your needs if you are a free culture movie, television, or web video producer. So, you want to opt out. With DVD you could -- you just made an unencrypted "all region" disk. It was unfortunate that this wasn't the norm, but at least we could operate in our own little free-trade zone.
Not so with Blu-Ray. Blu-ray is locked down by industry collusion and binding contracts. The media moguls have got you on a short leash. As a video producer, I cannot get a non-DRM version of a Blu-Ray disk replicated (this is no myth, I queried a replicator about this directly). It's a contract violation, and it's illegal (due to patent law) to build a competing replication business using the same physical technology.
For those of us who want to produce free culture high-definition video, this presents a Hobson's choice: either we sacrifice our ethics and ideology and release on the locked down format anyway or we don't release HD video at all.
So we insist on a third option: Build a new standard that respects freedom.
Lib-Ray is that standard, and it is all about taking back the high-definition video space, at least for those of us who really care about free culture. Our standard is driven by open, transparent interface standards originally developed for the World Wide Web: HTML and free multimedia codecs.
Our goal is to replicate the positive features of Blu-Ray (menus, extras, high-definition video, high-fidelity sound, and so on) with none of the anti-features (no DRM, no region codes, nothing that would keep you from enjoying the video, copying it, sharing it, or watching it on any hardware you want to use).
MARCH 2012 UPDATE: New Proposal Coming
We stopped work on Lib-Ray in late Summer 2011, owing to some design issues. We're now working on a modified concept that we'll soon be releasing as our "Version 0.3" Lib-Ray or "Third Prototype". This will be quite different:
- Hardware medium: SDHC 16GB or 32GB (SDXC 64GB or 128GB possible for later extensions)
- Video File Format: Matroska + VP8 + Vorbis -- similar to WebM. Possibly not identical
- Video Standards: More flexible - 720x480 (SD), 1280x720 (720p), 1920x1080 (1080p), 4096x2048 (4K/"Digital Cinema") supported
- Software and hardware player design to be included in the project
I will post more information as it becomes available.
On this site you will find:
- The specification (what exactly "Lib-Ray" is) for the current "version 0.2"
- A wiki to collect information (and suggestions) about the design, viewing software, and authoring software as well as a support matrix
- A guide to my tutorials on Free Software Magazine documenting the creation of the "Sintel" Lib-Ray prototype disk
- The Downloads page contains the required Lib-Ray files that you will need to use in authoring a new disk as well as guides for media viewers, media authors, and player developers (providing full support for Lib-Ray in browser software)
- The development needed to fully support Lib-Ray in Chromium and other browsers is included in the wiki as well as in the PDF Developers' Guide