[opendtv] News: Tech, studio giants team on new DVD locks

  • From: Craig Birkmaier <craig@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: OpenDTV Mail List <opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 15 Jul 2004 07:11:32 -0400


Tech, studio giants team on new DVD locks
By John Borland CNET News.com
July 14, 2004, 11:37 AM PT

A group of high-profile technology companies and movie studios have 
joined forces to create a new copy protection standard for DVDs that 
could allow high-definition movies to be copied and used inside home 

Dubbed Advanced Access Content System, or AACS, the technology--which 
has yet to be created--would replace the anticopying technology that 
now protects ordinary DVDs, but it would be focused on 
next-generation, high-definition discs. As previously reported, the 
group behind the technology includes IBM, Intel, Warner Bros., 
Disney, Microsoft, Sony and Panasonic, as well as Toshiba.

Unlike today's technology, which allows movies to be played only in 
authorized DVD players, AACS would potentially allow people to store 
copies of a movie on home computers and watch it on other devices 
connected to a network--or even transfer it to a portable movie 

"We're going to enable a bunch of new scenarios that add to things 
that you can do with discs in the home today," Michael Ripley, a 
senior staff engineer at Intel, said during a conference call. "We're 
building the foundation of something that will have broad support and 
will meet the broad needs of the affected industries in a way that 
has not necessarily happened in the past."

The AACS LA alliance (the LA stands for Licensing Authority) marks 
the culmination of years of tentative and often suspicious contact 
between the high-tech industry and Hollywood. Technology companies 
and content companies have developed content protection systems 
before--but rarely in concert.

The group has considerable work ahead before coming to market. 
Members said they have already begun working on the specifications 
and hope to release the technology this year. But earlier 
cross-industry content protection alliances, such as the Secure 
Digital Music Initiative, have broken down after hammering out 
initially promising agreements. Nevertheless, analysts said the broad 
range of representation gave the alliance a more promising future 
than some of the initiatives that had come solely out of the 
technology industry.

"In this case, you've got two major gorillas from the home video 
business," GartnerG2 Vice President James Brancheau said. "That's 
really good news. I like the composition of this."

The content protection system on today's DVDs, called Content 
Scrambling System, or CSS, was broken in the late 1990s by hackers. A 
program that helped copy DVDs called DeCSS was subsequently 
distributed by Norwegian programmer Jon Johansen. Although U.S. 
courts ruled that it was illegal, other programs soon appeared, 
including the popular DVD X-Copy from 321 Studios.

Like CSS, the new AACS technology would be added to a disc as it is 
created and would require specific hardware or software to have the 
"key" to unlock the content on the disc. Individual keys could be 
retired by studios if they slip into the public domain, allowing the 
overall system to continue functioning, even if a key is broken or 
accidentally released, as was the case with CSS.

Unlike today's technology, the newly developed content protection 
system would also allow movie studios to specify exactly what could 
be done with the video. For example, a studio might allow people to 
store the content on a Media Center PC and stream it to TVs around 
the house, or to transfer it to a portable device, for example.

Members of the group said the new technology would be complementary 
to other digital rights management and content protection systems, 
such as Microsoft's Windows Media.

However, Microsoft has also touted the use of its own digital rights 
management technology to protect high-definition movie content. The 
company even took the uncharacteristic step of submitting its Windows 
Media video technology, called VC-9, to the DVD Forum to be approved 
as a standard, ultimately hoping that studios would use the video 
technology and the associated rights management tools to protect new 

The AACS LA coalition said it would have technology specifications 
and licenses ready later this year. It will provide licenses to all 
content, technology or consumers electronics companies.

All of the technology companies involved have separately made their 
own strides toward elements of content protection that could help 
create the vision of the "digital home" talked up by so many 
high-tech executives.

Studios have put some movies online that are protected by Microsoft's 
digital rights management, accessible through services such as 
Movielink and CinemaNow. Microsoft and Disney also struck a 
wide-ranging deal earlier this year that focused on content 

IBM has been working on its own home networking security system, 
called extensible content protection, or xCP, which it says will 
contribute to the new AACS specifications. Intel, working through the 
"5C" consortium of Hitachi, Intel, Matsushita, Sony and Toshiba, has 
helped develop a technology called Digital Transmission Content 
Protection, designed to protect, compress and move video between 
different points in a home network.

Both Warner and Sony have previously endorsed that technology.
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