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HD DVD Part 4: Mark Knox, Adviser, HD DVD Promotion Group

AACS copy protection on HD DVDs will be nearly bulletproof By Charlie White

In this fourth and final part of our exclusive interview with Mark Knox, adviser to the HD DVD Promotion Group, Consumer Electronics Nets Charlie White asks Knox about the copy protection included with HD DVDs. Knox asserts that even though DVDs were relatively easy to crack, pirating this new HD DVD and Blu-ray content is going to be thousands of times more difficult. Beyond that, those who do make illegal copies of the software might find their players unable to play subsequent discs.

Consumer Electronics Net (CEN): Right after DVD was released, CSS was cracked. Do you see something like that happening with HD DVD and Blu-ray as well?

Knox: No, I don't. One of the main reasons is that AACS is, A) renewable, and B), the CSS system was essentially one set of keys. So, I'll give you a very simple analogy. There was only one set of keys and somebody left it in the lock in the door in his Cadillac in front of the hotel. Somebody picked up the keys and made copies, and now everybody in the world can unlock his car. In the case of AACS, theres a lot more than one set of keys, and each entity in the chain has its own key. The content has a key. Your unique player has a key. A playback software package for the PC has the key. And all the keys have to fit into the lock, or it doesn't work. If someone does somehow manage to hack the key, what happens is all our engineers need to see is one example of the hack, one pirated desk, one download from the Internet of video that he put on the Internet by using the key, and the engineers can back calculate the exact identity of the key that was used to do that naughty thing.

CEN: It's like a serial number on a firearm, right?

Knox: It is. And, it's real make-your-hair-hurt technology on how they do that. It's hard to crack. In addition, after they've identified which key was used illegally, every time a new disk is made, it contains the equivalent of wanted posters in the post office. It says, these keys are no longer valid, so let's say some Finnish teenager hacks the keys on a player, and he puts out an illegal video of Batman Begins. What will happen is, we'll see that illegal video over the Internet, or will pick up a pirate disk of the streets of Manhattan, we will calculate what the key is, and we'll add that wanted poster to the next desk, and when he goes to write Harry Potter And the Goblet of Fire, it won't play on his machine.

CEN: Because he played one of those before, thats what would happen?

Knox: No, what will happen is, his player will still play Batman Begins, because his key is not on the Batman Begins disk as being a bad key. But there's a set of data called the media key block, and every time a new disk is made, the replicator gets the latest listing from the ACS Group. And that new listing goes onto each new piece of software that goes out to the market. So what it means, unlike CSS?which we learned means Can't Stop Stealing?this system is renewable. So if that key does get hacked, then any future releases of the studio are protected. Beyond that, we can give the studio a forensic trail so they can make a very good case in court if they catch that person, if that indeed is the person who's responsible for that specific illegal copy.

CEN: Let me make sure I understand, Mark. If I get one of these disks, or if I somehow get my hands on one of these pirated copies of the movie and play it on my HD DVD player, than any further HD DVDs I put in that player won't play?

Knox: No, that is not correct. What it boils down to is, if you get a pirate disk, your machine will probably play that pirate disk, that's a big assumption that this guy has broken through all the other encryption in the game, and frankly, that's no mean feat, let me tell you. That's a big ?if there, anyway, if anybody could even figure out how to make that pirate disk. But let's say that it happens. You, as a consumer whos never done anything illegal, are not going to be impacted by that, and playing that disk on your player, not only will that disk play at that was successfully pirated?again, a big ?if?your machine is not going to then refuse to play other disks you have. There's no way for the system to break your machine. 

CEN: I see.

Knox: The only thing that will happen is that if you were the bad guy who put the video on the pirate disk, or if you are the bad guy who but the video on the Internet, it will still play that disk that you originally hacked, but when you buy a new disk, it will refuse to play that new disk, because we found out you're a bad boy. So that's how it works. It never impacts the individual consumer. The keys are unique to each and every player, not just the model. And so as a consumer, you'll never bump your head. You'll never even know that somebody was a bad boy and put out pirate content.

CEN: So as long as you're not making copies and putting out pirate content, you don't have to worry about this happening to you, right?

Knox: Right. You don't have to worry about this, it's not going to affect you. And frankly, that's one of the issues where we don't know if that is also true for the BD plus technology, because we just don't have access to all the specs. Our fear is that since there is this a virtual machine that must be on the player, we don't know what that virtual machine might do depending on what the player software does when operating on the machine.

CEN: Mark, so much for spending the time to talk with us at Consumer Electronics Net today.

Knox: You're welcome. It was my pleasure. Thank you for having me.

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