Legal Linux DVD Player on the Horizon

If Intervideo Inc.'s LinDVD software, on display at the Comdex trade show here, had been available a year ago, perhaps there never would have been a DeCSS case.

The story goes that DeCSS, the software which allowed the supposedly-secure DVD (digital versatile disc) to be hacked and its files copied to computer hard drives, was created by Linux enthusiasts because there was no way to play their DVD movies on Linux computers, as their colleagues were able to do in Windows. [See "Judge Rules Links Illegal, Code Not Free Speech," Aug. 18.] But, starting early next year, Linux users will have a fully-licensed, legal DVD player for Linux, according to Intervideo.

After working with graphics card and Linux vendors for the last 8 to 9 months, Intervideo's LinDVD, the platform's first legal software DVD player will soon be available, said Joe Monastiero, the senior vice president of worldwide sales and marketing at Intervideo. However, the product will not initially be available in a retail version, he added.

According to Monastiero, Intervideo is initially focusing on selling the software to manufacturers of embedded Linux devices, such as home entertainment equipment, rather than to consumers because the "consumer electronics and convergence space is much more interesting" in terms of market size. However, later in the first quarter of 2001, consumers can expect to see a retail version of the software available on Intervideo's Web site for US$29.95. Monastiero also said that the company has held discussions with major Linux vendors like Red Hat Inc., SuSe AG, Caldera Systems Inc. and Corel Corp. about bundling the software.

Though stressing that the program is not open source (as much Linux software is), Monastiero said that later in 2001 Intervideo expects to publish the program's APIs (application programming interfaces) so as to allow for customization by those with the necessary technical skill.

While LinDVD will finally provide the legal software player that many Linux users have long sought, Monastiero is not convinced that a licensed DVD player would have prevented DeCSS. Though Intervideo is "trying to be the good guys" when it comes to copyright protection, he said that DeCSS was probably an inevitable development because of the "Unabomber types" who exist at the fringe of the computer world. The Unabomber was an anti-technology terrorist who conducted a campaign of bombings. Though DeCSS was "initially problematic" for Intervideo, it "never had a major impact" and is now a non-issue, Monastiero said.

Intervideo, no doubt, is hoping that LinDVD will make DeCSS a commercial non-issue as well.

Intervideo, located in Fremont, California, can be reached at

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