How does Apple's iTunes Digital Copy work?

New iPod-friendly DRM-encoded digital movie format tested

It took all of about a day between Family Guy Presents: Blue Harvest going on sale in the US and an enterprising Apple fansite to put Apple's all-new iTunes Digital Copy that comes bundled with the movie to the test.

And according to AppleTVsource.com which ran the test, transferring a DVD that comes bundled with a Digital Copy to your iTunes library ready for your iPod is a fairly quick and straightforward process.

Buyers of DVDs that include the iTunes Digital Copy feature - presently limited to Twentieth Century Fox productions, although other major studios are expected to follow - will open up their DVD boxes to find two discs: a regular DVD for their DVD player, and another disc containing the iTunes Digital Copy for their Mac or PC.

Users simply insert the Digital Copy disc into their computer where a series of on-screen prompts will take over. Apple users are only given the option to store the movie in iTunes, while PC users can choose to store it in either iTunes or Windows Media Player format. Either way, the user must input a code that comes with the documentation before the iTunes Digital Copy is copied across.

Quick copy process

According to AppleTVSource.com, the literature that comes supplied with iTunes Digital Copy discs misleadingly suggests that the digital copy is 'downloaded' from the internet, when in fact it comes directly from the supplied disc.

This is actually a good thing because it means the copy process takes mere minutes rather than hours. The resultant quality is described as being a "little darker" than the regular DVD, but otherwise completely acceptable.

So, given that the quality is good and the process quick and pain free, what's the DRM payback? Well, users will only be able to import each Digital Copy into one iTunes library, and won't be able to make multiple copies thereafter.

So, will it catch on? We think it might well. Not only is it a legal, easy and pain-free way to get a DVD on to your iPod, it's also significantly quicker than other (illegal) methods. For many, that could well turn out to be the clincher.