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What's the Big Deal About Digital Content Copyright Protection?

By Guillaume Mazieres
In talking to people at trade shows, user conferences and in channel partner stores, there are a few common questions that are always raised: "When is writable/rewritable DVD going to be cheap enough for me to use at home?" "Is Hollywood raising all of the copyright stink just to make sure I can't copy their movies?" "When will it be possible for me to copy movies?" "When are they going to finalize all of the DVD copyright issues?"

Raising the Walls
First, it was DeCSS, the open-source Linux computer code that defeats the security software on DVD-formatted movies. Now, an MIT student and an alumni friend have developed the shortest program to break DVD copy protection to date. While the seven-line program does unscramble the protection around a DVD, the developers have emphasized that no one would use the program for routinely watching movies. The reason is that the unscrambling requires so much processing power. Even on a 1GHz processor, movies appear choppy.


On the Internet, the greatest deterrents to piracy are computer memory and modem bandwidth. The average DVD movie used nearly 5GB of capacity. Even if you had the storage capacity, it would take 22 hours to download with a 56k modem, and you wouldn't be able to download separate-track extras, such as director commentary and behind-the-scenes documentaries. The challenge today is that we live in a digital environment (figure 1).




Figure 1

Increasingly, all of our data, documents, images and sounds are becoming digital. This information is distributed using various media including DVD/CD discs, the Internet and by broadcasting stations. It is received by home and office computers, TVs/radios, players and other devices which use a variety of storage media- DVD-RAM/R, DVD-R/CD-RW, DVC, tape and so forth.

Because of this, copying digital content--legally or illegally--can be easier, more economical and faster than it was with analog content. Just as people make illegal photocopies of materials without thinking, some of the illegal digital copies are also done innocently. However, for those who wish to benefit from other people's work, digital copying represents a huge profit.

Protecting Each of Us
To protect original works recorded to DVD, a group called the CPTWG (copy protection technical working group) works to establish copy protection solutions that will "Keep Honest People Honest."

The CPTWG was formed following agreement by international members of the government, IT industry, consumer electronics industry, video and audio content developers, cable and content distributors and conditional access providers. Their mutual objective was to create a secure copy protection system for the DVD family as well as other applications.

There will always be those who want to make a dishonest profit, but international copyright laws were designed to protect and promote innovation and creativity. The DVD Forum's logic was that it is better to protect people from themselves rather than sniffing out and suing for each illegal use.

Today, there are hundreds of thousands of web sites for pirated software, music, films and games. Contrary to popular belief, being on the web does not make a product free.

The Real Cost
Many people view software theft as a "victimless" crime. But globally, it costs the software industry an estimated $12 billion annually in lost revenue. In the U.S. and Europe, it is estimated that -1/3 of all PC software sales (excluding OS) are illegal products. In Russia, Bulgaria and Turkey, its about 70% of the total sales. And in China and Vietnam, its more than 90%. According to Autodesk management, every legal sale produces eight illegal copies.

Figure 2. While no protection is foolproof, every effort has been made by those involved to not only provide protection but to ensure that it doesn't get in the way of your work or your enjoyment


Those people can afford it?
Unfortunately, it isn't "those people" if you work for one of the companies, sell their products or invest in their firms. Or, to put it in different terms, Price Waterhouse estimates that by reducing software piracy, we could generate 200,000 more jobs in Europe and 400,000 more jobs in the U.S.

Protection in Place
Before we explain the various content protection technologies that are in place today, Figure 2 will graphically show the relationship and interrelationship of the technologies. While no protection is foolproof, every effort has been made by those involved to not only provide protection but to ensure that it doesnŐt get in the way of your work or your enjoyment.

Solutions today include: Today's Standards CPSA (content protection system architecture) is the overall framework for security and access control across the entire DVD family. It covers encryption, watermarking, protection of analog and digital outputs, etc. There are six forms of content protection that apply to DVD.

CSS (content scrambling system) --CSS is a scrambling system used in the distribution for movies on DVD. Its main purpose is to prevent the unauthorized duplication of disc contents. Each CSS licensee is given a key from a master set of 400 keys that are stored on every CSS-encrypted disc. This allows a license to be revoked by removing its key from future discs. The CSS decryption algorithm exchanges keys with the drive unit to generate an encryption key that is then used to obfuscate the exchange of disc keys and title keys that are needed to decrypt data from the disc.

Macrovision Corp. pioneered video, audio and DVD copy-protection encryption. Seventy-five percent of all DVDs pressed are encoded with Macrovision copy protection.
The developers of the DVD-Audio standard recently published their final Version 1.2 specification. Previous iterations of DVD-Audio incorporated a derivative of the CSS (Content Security System) algorithm used by DVD-Video discs. Version 1.2 switches to the still-CSS-based but significantly enhanced CPPM (Content Protection for more Prerecorded Media). Like CPRM (Content Protection for Recordable Media) which Secure Digital cards use, CPPM encryption comprehends the concepts of renewability and revocation.

The Content Protection for Recordable Media and Pre-Recorded Media (CPRM/CPPM) Specifications define a renewable cryptographic method for protecting entertainment content when recorded on physical media. CPPM provides DVD-Audio with Copy Protection. CPRM provides effective protection against unauthorized casual consumer copying of audio/video entertainment content.

HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Copy Protection) is a specification that encrypts each pixel as it moves from the PC or set-top box to digital displays. Asymmetric encryption establishes the initial authorization between the host and display, as well as the periodic reauthorization.

DTCP (Digital Transmission Copy Protection) covers devices that are digitally connected, such as a DVD player and a digital TV or a digital VCR, exchange keys and authentication certificates to establish a secure channel. This keeps other connected but unauthenticated devices from stealing the signal.

Watermarking which is used for DVD-Audio and will be added to DVD-Video at some point, permanently marks each digital audio or video frame with noise that is supposedly undetectable by human ears or eyes. Watermark signatures can be recognized by playback and recording equipment to prevent copying, even when the signal is transmitted via digital or analog connections or is subjected to video processing.



Solving the Issues
With the convergence of computer and consumer electronic technology, digital content will move almost seamlessly from device to device. The goal of the various copy protection solutions is first and foremost to respect and protect the content owner's rights. Secondly, from the hardware, software and storage media perspective, the goal has been to develop a balance between implementation costs, protection effectiveness and total transparency to the user.

Admittedly, the copy protection solutions were developed to address the sins of the past --omission. But with the dramatic growth in the development of digital content and global on-line distribution, these cross-industry efforts are increasingly important.

Without this protection, no content developer will want his or her work to be rapidly distributed over the new distribution channels. Companies and individuals will only be interested in seeing the technology implementation accelerated if they can be assured of receiving adequate compensation for their innovations and creative efforts.

Economical Personal Solutions
Now to answer the other questions we asked at the outset --economic solutions and personal video production.

Apple, Compaq, and HP have introduced systems that allow people to produce their own videos. Admittedly, users today have a choice between expensive, easy-to-use solutions or economical solutions that are not as user-friendly.

But these alternatives don't address the needs of people who are happy with their present Mac or PC systems, and simply want to add the new video production/copying capabilities.

At the NAB2001 several external USB and FireWire DVD-RAM/R and DVD-R/CD-RW solutions were announced. Most will be priced under $800, which is considerably less than upgrading from a perfectly good computer to one of the new DVD Video systems.

The products are being announced, content developers and consumers probably won't see huge volumes of the units on the market until July. Undoubtedly, content developers and prosumers will be the first to get these solutions because they represent dramatic cost savings for anyone who has recently priced a professional DVD recorder.

While digital camcorders were the "must-buy" and "must-give" gifts of Christmas 2000, the recordable/rewritable products will probably become the hot product this Christmas. At that point, we will all be producing videos that will have the same quality as you watch at your local theater.

Once your Masterpiece Theater piece is completed, you will be fairly confident that all of your creative effort and hard work won't be ripped off and widely distributed without your permission.

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