Pioneer to Ignore Copy-Protection Issue, Will Launch DVD-A

Despite the recent defeat of DVD-Audio's copy-protection scheme (see previous story), Pioneer Electronics has decided to move forward with its plan to release two models of its high-resolution players in Japan. The announcement was made December 14 by company executives in Tokyo, who said that delaying the format's launch at this late stage could do irreparable damage to its acceptance by music fans. Super Audio Compact Disc, a competing format developed by the Sony/Philips alliance, is already beginning to win converts.

Pioneer's competitors Matsushita (Panasonic) and Japan Victor Company (JVC) earlier this month announced that they would withhold their new DVD-A players from the market in the wake of a copy-protection encryption breakthrough by a Norwegian computer hacker, who posted the results of his efforts on the Internet. Music-industry executives, always sensitive about copyright matters, urged the hardware makers to stall while a more robust protection technology is developed.

CSS2, as the original content-scrambling system was called, was found to be vulnerable to decrypting because of a couple of system "keys" that were left exposed by Xing Technology, a software developer. Xing has lost its DVD-A authoring license because of the incident.

Pioneer will release two models of DVD-Audio players: the DV-AX10, at approximately $5000 retail, and the DV-S10A, at about $2000. Pioneer's more expensive model will also play Super Audio CDs, making it the first "universal" player to hit the market.

Upgrades with new encryption technology will be made available later—probably within six months, Pioneer officials said. What advantage these upgrades could offer to owners of first-generation machines is not clear from the available information.