DRM: AACS, DTCP-IP, and your rights to video content

DRM: AACS, DTCP-IP, and your rights to video content

Summary: you pay to rent content for use ona licensed device and you get exactly what you pay for

TOPICS: Networking
AACS stands for Advanced Access Content System and really refers more to an agreement among the people who make video recording and playback devices than a specific technology.

Mike Evangelist, who used to be the chief video guy at Apple and knows where at least some of the bodies are buried, tried to blow the whistle on this recently by calling for a consumer boycott of HD products. In his words

This is important. I really want you to understand what's going on with the video industry's push towards HD. Under pressure from Hollywood, they are engineering a complete removal of the concept of fair use. They are setting up systems that will completely control how, when and where you can use content that you buy. Even worse, they can retroactively change the rules!

The first four letters in DTCP-IP stand for Digital Transmission Content Protection. This is an Intel technology described at length in a joint presentation by Brett Branch (Technical Marketing Engineer, Intel Digital Home Group) and Alec Main (Chief Technology Officer, Cloakware) to the recent Intel developer conference called DTCP-IP Applied - Secure Premium Content Module.

The digital transmission content protection scheme uses a pretty standard digital signature and authentication protocol to prevent the transmission of digital content to unauthorized destination devices. Basically the sending device is going to query receiving devices to see if the license encoded in the material itself authorizes having it sent to, or stored on, that receiving device.

Notice that DTCP is not a DRM technology, it is a DRM enforcement technology. If the five play license you purchased with your favorite movie DVD expires and you manage to download some code that breaks the DRM lock, you'll find that your HD screen uses embedded DTCP-IP and will refuse to accept the data transmission for display from an unlicensed source.

Both AACS and DTCP-IP have "forward looking" elements too: for example AACS commits signatories to an all digital world, end of lifing (uncontrollable) analog device manufacturing while DTCP-IP envisages a need to control content rights after that content has been downloaded to an end-user device. Between the two, the content owner could, for example, force content erasure on rights expiry - even if that expiry is the result of a policy or pricing change made after you obtain your initial content license.

So how do these two things come together? AACS is fundamentally aimed at controlling what the people who make players and recording devices enable the consumer to do with those devices, and DTCP-IP is fundamentally about controlling which of those devices people use to record and display licensed digital content. In other words, these are the key elements in two halfs of a set of controls aimed at reducing or eliminating your ability to record entertainment materials like a TV show or pop tune and then watch it, or listen to it, when, where, or as often as you choose.

Microsoft has identified itself with both AACS and DTCP-IP and is betting the farm on using DRM to push the X360 into a significant home entertainment role. Apple (at least to my knowledge) has not; but Apple is widely thought to have serious ambitions in digital video distribution.

One rumor about Apple's plans, for example, suggests that people will be able to buy digital video content from an Apple "iVideo" store just as you can buy music from the iTunes store now, but with two big differences. First the video would be stored on "your" slice of an Apple server rather than downloaded to you, and, secondly, you'll buy a display license for one or more specified devices rather than the video content itself. Licensed devices can then show the video at any time, by downloading it from Apple's servers and using RAM, not disk, to buffer it for quality of service purposes.

A license encoded on an iPod, USB key, or smart phone would enable portability - authorizing player gear other than your own to download and play whatever content you've licensed, provided only that the connectivity is in place and the target gear plays nicely with DTCP-IP.

(Note, incidently, that there's an oddity about Apple's rumored plans in this area: the Microsoft/Intel alliance selling this stuff to the studios isn't the technology leader. Freescale is, and they have all the other stuff - like an UltraWideBand radio chipset for wireless component linkup or on board cryptography within SoC (System on a Chip) processors, needed to make it work.)

In principle there shouldn't be anything wrong with what the industry is planning: you pay to rent content for use on a licensed device and you get exactly what you pay for.

In practice, the world's not quite ready for it. In particular there are two problems:

  1. napster and the mp3 culture mean that the market isn't ready to accept the controls; and,

  2. the existing broadband infrastructure isn't generally up to the job -and neither are today's fixed or portable home entertainment devices.

As a result some kind of interim offering may be expected - for example, electronic distribution through retailers, like Blockbuster, that have a national presence with in-store kiosks writing content protected DVDs for customer use on traditional equipment like DVD players.

In the long run, however, AACS and DTCP-IP seem intended to become defining elements of a brave new world in which you can only rent, never buy, content; and a big content owner, like Disney, can reach right into your living to affect what you watch, when you watch it, and what equipment you do that on.

Topic: Networking

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  • The sad thing is that after all of this

    The movie industry will still end up making less money. How many times will a person pay to watch a dvd. I've got hundreds that I've only watched once.
    Dear Hollywood,
    Make better movies with original ideas
    That is how you make money
    Right now there is too much competition for this to succeed. Sports, Video Games and Pay-tv have taken away a big chunk of your market. Locking down the customer will do little to change this I'm sure.
    • Video games will be next

      What makes you think that this attack on fair use will stop with video. Radio, audio, and games will also fall prey as soon as the technology is in place to prevent multi use. We must not accept systems that will determine our rights to access the media we choose to use.

      Have you ever loaned out a DVD to a friend? With the advent of these initiatives, you would not be able to do that. If you did, his new hardware would not be recognized by the media and access to the media would be denied. This is equivilent to matching access to books and magazines to the fingerprints of the original buyer. How may books would exist if that were the case?
  • New formula for success: force the customer to do what he doesn't want.

    I?ll go back to using audio and video cassettes before I accept all these limitations. And if they take those away from me, I?ll just resort to reading a good book. The computer industry has sold out its customers. They are fools if they think they will make money this way.
    P. Douglas
  • The end goal of DRM... no fair use?!

    Mike Evangelist's words:

    <i>"Under pressure from Hollywood, they are engineering a complete removal of the concept of fair use."</i>

    This is why I'm against DRM. The MPAA/RIAA cartels say that DRM is needed to stop piracy. But with DRM systems becoming more and more invasive(from software to hardware), laws that seek to eliminate interoperability and legal circumvention(DMCA, Analog Hole, Broadcast Flag, etc), you have to wonder, <b>"How does taking rights away from consumers have anything to do with stopping piracy?"<b>

    <b>Answer: it doesn't.</b> The end goal of DRM is to extract more money from consumers by creating "pay-per-play" scenarios where consumers don't have any legal or technological way of exercising fair use rights, such as putting a video purchased from iTunes onto a portable media player that isn't an iPod. True pirates, however, would see this as something that would drive up demand for DRM-less pirated content.

    If the cartels really want to drive down piracy, they should stop putting so many layers of C.R.A.P. on content and give consumers back their fair use rights. That way, there's less reason for a consumer to engage in piracy, and encourage more legal content consumption.

    After all, it's just movies and music, things sold and consumed by the general public. It's not internal company or goverment information that <b>would</b> need something like this.
    Tony Agudo
    • Problem with my post...

      It look like my post got munged by ZDNet's reply processing(again). Only one sentence was supposed to be bold, and the post is supposed ot be separated into paragraphs. Ugh. But at least my points came across.
      Tony Agudo
    • let's extrapolate the line..

      Where does this end.. Probably somewhere where you pay a monthly or annual fee for using software for our PC's or Mac's.. which is named a 'service fee'...
      Arnout Groen
      • Like we do now!!

        Hello, we already do. When was the last time you bought software that did not need to upgraded(at an additional expense) to meet this years needs.

        Whatever happened to the software vendors that sold a onetime license with unlimited upgrades. That is why I support the authors of shareware that still support this concept.

        I am betting that soon Microsoft will license its operating systems on a per annum basis. If you want to be able to use your computer, you will have to buy the new year's update.

        Think it can't happen? With the consumer willing to take what is dished out, what is to prevent it?
  • Thanks but no thanks

    That's the recurring issue with all of these grandiose DRM schemes that Hollywood/the RIAA keep wanting to foist upon us. They don't seem to realize that in order to sell a product, that product has to be desirable. They keep assuming we'll buy anything they offer. And that's not the case. So let them try these ridiculous and expensive new schemes. No one will buy in, and they'll be thrown on the scrapheap (and at the same time, you'll see a rise in sales for indie movies/music that eschew such measures).

    As someone pointed out above, most of us still own a vcr, and if it comes down to it, that still works good enough for most things.
    tic swayback
    • Unless DTCP works..

      Then your HD TV (needed because all content will be HD) won't transmit to a non DTCP device: your VCR.
      • Still not a problem

        Then I won't buy an HDTV. I've got a nice set I purchased 6 or 7
        years ago. I have no intention of buying a new television until this
        one completely dies.

        And I think I'm in the majority as someone who refuses to spend
        $3000 to $5000 for a television. Which spells doom for this sort of
        tic swayback
      • Not exactly....

        DirectTV will still be providing non HD signals even after the 2007 mandated switch over. Cable will be too.
  • Other DRM News

    Thought these were of interest:

    The CRIA (Canada's version of the RIAA) has done a study that despite their best attempts, shows that p2p sharing is good for music sales:


    And here, you have the RIAA demanding that it be illegal to circumvent DRM, even if it is endangering your life:

    tic swayback
    • No Sharing = No More Music Sales!

      [b]The CRIA (Canada's version of the RIAA) has done a study that despite their best attempts, shows that [i]p2p sharing is good for music sales[/i][/b]

      Exactly. Ever since Napster 1.0 has gone away, I have stopped buying music. Am I a pirate? No. I used to trade music with friends to make sure I liked the music before [b]I [u]bought[/u] it[/b], often rushing to the music store to buy CDs upon returning them to my friends.

      Guess what?

      I haven't bought a single music CD since the end of the first incarnation of Napster. Sad thing for the music industry, too...I used to average over $200 [b]every[/b] month in music purchases.

      And you know what?

      [b][i]I'm not alone.[/i][/b]
  • Uninformed consumers will allow it to happen

    Without a consolidated effort, the average uneducated American consumers will blindly buy whatever tripe the entertainment industry serves up. Unless there is a concerted effort to educate consumers and to boycott these technologies, they will sadly succeed through indifference.

    It is a sorry situation, but WE have only ourselves to blame. Over the past few years, several anti-fair-use initiatives by industry and government have succeeded because the weight of the dollars behind the effort far out weighed the meager outcrys of outraged and inconvenienced consumers. When are we going to decide that enough is enough!

    As for me, the time is now. I swear to not buy or support any media that supports anti fair-ues concepts. Sure, I will miss out on some of the neat stuff the industry throws at my feet to lure me into the trap, but I will be outside when the trap door closes...will you?
    • We'll see

      History shows us that a new technology that's less useful than the old technologies usually doesn't catch on. That's why those odd Divx boxes never sold, nor did the self-destructing dvds. If the RIAA/MPAA want us to buy in to some new restricting format, they're going to have to offer us something really compelling to offset the lack of usability (not to mention the really high price). Otherwise, it just won't sell.
      tic swayback
  • Just look to the PAST

    The one thing that most DRM supported manufactures seem to have forgotten is that when faced with an unfair situation. People will find a way, i.e. a Passive DTCP-IP Dongle that will sit prior to your NON DRM CPE
    and mimic an Authenticated response.
  • Back to the Future

    The one thing that most DRM supported manufactures seem to have forgotten is that when faced with an unfair situation. People will find a way, i.e. a Passive DTCP-IP Dongle that will sit prior to your NON DRM CPE
    and mimic an Authenticated response.