Disposable DVDs offer alternative to rentals

A new DVD technology will allow consumers to purchase a DVD and then recycle or dispose of the disc after viewing.

Flexplay, a video technology company, has developed a new DVD that becomes unreadable two days after it has been opened. The new disc, called EZ-D, is a time-limited DVD that offers customers an alternative to traditional movie rentals while eliminating the hassles of scratched discs and late fees.

Targeting the rental market, Buena Vista Home Entertainment Division is selling EZ-Ds at a test price of $6 to $7 at high-volume retail outlets. In comparison, traditional rentals ordinarily sell for about $4.

The EZ-D is similar to a conventional DVD, except that it can only be viewed for 48 hours after the disc has been exposed to oxygen. The DVD can be viewed an unlimited number of times during that period. After 48 hours the disc becomes unplayable and can then be recycled.

Offering the same picture and sound quality as that of a standard DVD, Flexplay DVDs work in all players, including DVD drives and gaming systems designed to play standard DVDs.

Using a proprietary process, Flexplay makes a DVD unreadable by the player’s laser beam after a pre-set amount of time expires. Due to the disc’s prolonged exposure to oxygen, the EZ-D turns from red to black at the end of the viewing period.

The DVD includes a separate chemical layer that is bonded to the disc by Flexplay’s special adhesive. The layer hardens as the chemicals are exposed to air.

The chemicals used in the process are balanced so that the reaction proceeds slowly at first, before accelerating toward the end of the rental period. At this point, the specialized layer turns from transparent to cloudy.

Because the device that controls the time limit is chemical, the technology cannot by hacked by computer programmers who want to extend the viewing time frame. However, the disc can be copied within the 48 hours since it works like a conventional DVD during that time period.

Buena Vista, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company, has partnered with Flexplay to use the limited-play technology to make EZ-D movies available to consumers.

The company is piloting the sale of EZ-Ds in four test cities — Kansas City, Charleston, Austin and Bloomington/Peoria. In addition to traditional video retail outlets, the DVDs can be purchased at convenience stores, grocery markets, drug stores and gas stations.

Disney has confirmed that they will be using this new technology on popular movie titles such as 25th Hour, The Recruit, Heaven and The Hot Chick.

By distributing the DVDs through retail and other non-traditional video rental vendors, Buena Vista hopes the technology will provide the convenience of one-stop shopping and help it reach a wider rental audience.

In addition to movies, a Flexplay enabled DVD can be used in other industries and applications, such as music, video games, television programming, software and promotions.

For example, content providers could use Flexplay DVDs for sampling and creating promotions.

Although the new technology has great promise for some individuals, others are still skeptical. A common concern with the new technology among environmentalists is how to safely dispose of the DVDs after they have expired. Many argue that because DVDs contain a polycarbonate plastic they can cause significant harm to marine life, primarily due to the length of time that plastics remain in the environment before they decompose.

However, Flexplay insists that the discs are completely safe for consumers and the environment. The company supports its statement by mentioning that the discs are fully recyclable and conform to all EPA environmental standards.

To develop new recycling options for consumers, Buena Vista has partnered with local environmental organizations and GreenDisk, a specialized waste recycling company. Recycling methods include a mail-in, pre-paid postage options and local drop-off points.

In addition, consumers can request a free pre-paid postage mailer or a print out of an electronic pre-paid postage label through a recycling link on the Flexplay Web site. The mailer can hold up to five expired EZ-D discs.

Once returned, the expired discs will then be recycled and processed into a polycarbonate that is used in several industries including automotive, computer, telecommunications and consumer electronics.

Flexplay is continuing to work with content providers and recycling partners to broaden the recycling program.

To encourage recycling, Buena Vista is actively developing incentive programs. One such program offers consumers a free disc after returning six discs directly to Buena Vista.

By eliminating the inconveniences of extra stops at the rental store, scratched discs and late fees, the EZ-D disc provides a hassle-free alternative to the traditional movie rental. Although it may not be a perfect technology, it is a step forward for individuals who like to view movies without rental store worries.www.flexplay.com