| Main |

Cracking HD DVD

There's been a great series of posts this past week on Professor Ed Felten's Freedom to Tinker blog regarding a program called BackupHDDVD, which claims to defeat some of the electronic locks on HD DVD discs. Read the posts (and the comments, too) here, here, here and here. What emerges is a picture of how vulnerable the DRM on HD DVD is -- not only because of the ability and incentive of hackers to break the locks, but also because of the disincentives the studios might have to fix them. On the latter point, though, I remain skeptical. The AACS system, which is the rights-management system used on both HD DVD and Blu-ray discs, has two important features that were missing from the DRM on conventional DVDs: it helps identify the disc playing hardware or software that was hacked, and enables the studios to "revoke" said hardware or software. Neither of these features is a perfect answer, but my guess is that they're function better than critics on Felten's blog suggest.

In particular, I doubt that revocation would send thousands of angry customers back to BestBuy with innoperative HD DVD players. Instead, if it works as designed, it will force hardware and software makers to deliver updates with more effectiveness than they have in the past (to wit, have you ever checked to see whether your DVD player has the latest firmware?). Nevertheless, the posts on Freedom to Tinker do a good job suggesting where things are likely to go. With the keys to unlock dozens of movies already posted at sites like the Doom9 Forum, look for some high-def titles to start popping up online, At the very least, the software and keys enable people to make permanent copies of selected HD DVD titles by ripping copies they borrow from friends or rent from Netflix.

In my next post, I'll try to say something worth reading about the impacts of BackupHDDVD on Blu-ray and on managed copy, the feature of AACS that was designed to make BackupHDDVD pointless (at least for legal uses).

By the way, if you're interested in the TV industry's new enthusiasm for the Net as a distribution platform, please attend a free panel discussion that the Times is presenting next Monday, Jan. 22, in Culver City. The panel consists of five executives from various parts of this emerging world, including the networks, production companies and online video outlets. The weakest link in the chain is the moderator, but I'll try not to say much. For more details or to reserve a seat, visit the Zócalo site.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Cracking HD DVD:


The comments to this entry are closed.

Our Blogger
Times editorial writer Jon Healey pens opinion pieces about a variety of business issues, and blogs about technologies that are changing the entertainment industry's business model.

Search this blog

Subscribe to this Blog - What is RSS?

Now Playing

Where I've Been Lately