Single-Play DVD Hoax Fools Windows Sites

On Monday, news surfaced that Microsoft had invented a single-play DVD that would no longer function after being watched once in order to combat piracy. The story was quickly repeated, often without source, on a number of Windows enthusiast sites and blogs. There was only one problem: the news was not true.

The report was initially made by British Web site "The Business Online," claiming, "Showing a video of himself dressed in a sailor suit pretending to audition for the blockbuster Titanic, Gates pitched Hollywood with the proposition that only Microsoft could solve its piracy problem by making its DRM software a standard across every home entertainment playback and recording device."

Well-known Microsoft MVP Paul Thurrott was one of the first to jump on the story, writing, "Further damaging to the new format is that it will require a new type of DVD player, which will be in the market in early 2006. And let's not even tackle the environmental issues of a disc-based format that is designed to be used once and then thrown in the trash."

"The new single-play DVD format that Microsoft will sell will utilize the company's DRM scheme and movie technology formats, not those of rivals," Thurrott claimed.

Other Windows enthusiasts including Steven Bink quickly reposted the news, which eventually made its way to the popular Slashdot.org community site. Responses by readers were predictably similar: self-destructing DVDs failed once with Circuit City's DIVX and Microsoft's format would suffer the same fate.

And to its credit, Microsoft agrees, telling Windows author Ed Bott it has no plans to build or offer a single-play DVD. Windows Media digital rights management does allow content owners to set a maximum number of plays, but the technology is not related to DVDs.

"It appears to be confusing an existing feature within Windows Media DRM that allows for single-play of promotional digital material," a Microsoft spokesperson said. "This has been an option for content owners to use for some time for the Windows Media format - it does not apply to MPEG2 content found on DVDs."

But the story didn't end there, instead sparking a war of words in the Windows community. Fellow Microsoft MVP Robert McLaws questioned Thurrott's journalistic integrity, which prompted a harsh reply.

"No offense to Ed, who is a Monday morning quarterback at best, harping at people from the safety of his home, or Robert, who is a blogger that, frankly, hasn't been at this very long, but I must call bullshit on this one," Thurrott wrote. "I worked with Microsoft to uncover what happened here. I had used two sources for the original article I wrote."

"I have some pretty good sources at Microsoft too, and when I called, I couldn't find a single person who had ever heard of anything remotely like this story," countered Bott. "Because it's a complete fabrication."

Even Microsoft's own blogger Robert Scoble chimed in on the matter. "Yes, the news system can be hoaxed. But, it cleans itself out pretty fast. Bloggers, please include links to original sources and the source where you saw it. Also, correct any post where something false is reported. Help the system clean itself out."

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