Friday, September 17, 2010

Blu-ray DRM: epic fail!

Everyone knew it would only be a matter of time before the strong encryption used to lock-up the content of Blu-ray disks would be broken.

It happened years ago to the CSS system used by the humble DVD and now, by virtue of a similar "leak" of important information, it has happened to today's HD video standard.

Now hackers have all the clues they need to craft their own software to decode the otherwise unintelligible stream of data that is stored on Blu-ray disks and which passes through the HDCP (High Definition Content Protection) connections (such as HDMI, DVI, etc) between various system components.

Experts believe the most likely outcome of this event is the creation of a mod-chip that will decode the otherwise encrypted streams, allowing ready "ripping" of HD content stored (and allegedly protected) on Blu-ray disks.

Rumors of the leaked master-key were rife on the internet as early as Tuesday but confirmation that the master key really had "escaped" came today when Intel issued a statement saying "We have tested this published material that was on the Web. It does produce product keys... the net of that means that it is a circumvention of the [HDCP] code."

Opponents of DRM tout the leak as another example of how DRM does nothing but handicap consumers with higher prices and reduced flexibility in how they can use the products they purchase.

Now that the genie is out of the bottle, so to speak, there will soon be a plethora of code available to make ripping Blu-ray content a trivial process.

Legitimate disk owners will justify such activities by claiming they have a right to back up the movies they've bought and paid for -- pirates will rejoice in having ready-access to HD content without paying the prices being asked by the movie studios.

Intel, the creator of the HDCP DRM system has advised clients that they may now have to resort to legal action to enforce their rights as copyright owners, if examples of piracy in the wake of the key leak are detected.

This commentator wonders when the studios will wake up to the fact that they're wasting an awful lot of money trying to protect their product in a manner that will always be doomed to failure. Perhaps they should learn from the Music industry which has begun to ditch the DRM on its wares in favor of reasonable pricing and ready availability.

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