Monday, June 25, 2007

Entertainment industry encourages piracy

The DVD Copy Control Association want to render DVD ripping impossible, according to the Register. Allegedly, they are doing this to prevent piracy. However the result is likely be exactly the opposite.

To see why this is the case, consider the efficacy of copy control mechanisms so far. They do not work. Every DRM system requires an encryption scheme and a licence key. Most modern encryption schemes are so advanced that with a sufficient key-length, it is very unlikely to be cracked by brute force. No-one is going to break AES-256 in order to watch Die Hard. They don't need to, because the key must be available in the user's system, and key security is always a weak link. Ironically the DRM for DVDs, CSS, is so weak that both encryption and key-finding attacks work just fine.

The current proposal to strengthen the (badly broken) CSS system is as follows:

"DVD products, alone or in combination with other DVD products, shall
not be designed to descramble scrambled CSS data when the DVD disc
containing such CSS data and associated CSS keys is not physically
present in the DVD player or DVD drive (as applicable), and a DVD
product shall not be designed to make or direct the making of a
persistent copy of CSS data that has been descrambled from such DVD
disc by such DVD product."

In a nutshell, if you don't have the original DVD in the drive, then software won't play. Playing from a file on your hard drive won't be allowed.

Sound robust? Not a bit. Programs like DeCSS remove the CSS crud layer, leaving the file in the clear. There is nothing to stop it playing.

The desired effect may be to make the physical reproduction of discs more difficult, i.e. necessitating CloneDVD or similar. However the serious pirates are already well equipped, they can make 1:1 copies without effort.

So, who is affected by this proposal? The normal consumer who is not aware of DVD decryption tools. S/he will be unable to make backups of DVDs bought via legal channels, and will therefore look for alternatives. My expectation is that this will drive average consumers to seek out non-CSSed physical discs, probably directly per mail-order from Malaysia.

My counter-proposal to the entertainment industry would be to stop considering your customers to be either criminals or suckers, and start to satisfy their needs. Drop all DRM efforts, and concentrate on cultivating the consumers who are willing to pay for content. There are plenty of us about, all we require are reasonable products to buy.

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