Samsung sued over incompatible Blu-ray players

It's a story that's been hard to ignore, and now a class action lawsuit has been filed: early Blu-ray players had compatibility problems when new features and DRM were introduced into Blu-ray movies.

While Blu-ray Disc Association representatives told BetaNews at CES that early adopters "knew what they were getting into" regarding the changes to the platform, some apparently didn't. Bob McGovern, who has become the lead plaintiff in the case, says his BD-P1200 player from Samsung was unable to view "numerous Blu-ray disc titles."

In the New Jersey court filing, lawyers for the plaintiff assert, "There have been numerous complaints about the inoperability of new Blu-ray disc titles without Samsung firmware upgrades that match the new releases. Consumers have verified with the Company that does not intend to provide future firmware updates."

The case accuses Samsung of consumer fraud, breach of express warranty and breach of implied warranty. In addition, Samsung is accused of unjust enrichment, which simply means it benefited monetarily by selling the defective Blu-ray players.

It's not clear how many movies were affected by compatibility issues with early Blu-ray players, but it likely involves the BD+ copy-protection mechanism that was added to discs last year. BD+ relies on an embedded, programmable virtual machine that gives studios the option of creating title-specific security functions -- mechanisms specific maybe even to just one movie.

Specific playback issues including freezing were reported in October when playing "Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer" and "The Day After Tomorrow." Samsung promised a firmware fix, but according to the lawsuit, it never materialized, leaving early adopters out in the cold.

Sony's PlayStation 3 and players from other manufacturers were able to play the affected discs after a firmware update. But the lawsuit highlights the consumer backlash that can occur when selling products whose hardware and software specifications are still in flux.

The Blu-ray Disc Association expects to introduce Profile 2.0 Blu-ray players later on this year, adding a mandatory Internet connection, along with updates to BD-J, Blu-ray's interactivity layer. The PS3 is the only Blu-ray player currently on the market that will be upgradeable to Profile 2.0.

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