[clug] A most interesting read, most interesting

David Tulloh david at tulloh.id.au
Wed Dec 27 13:26:54 GMT 2006

I found it fascinating to read this email just after I had read this 
article on the new DRM measures in Vista 

Michael Cohen wrote:
> On Wed, Dec 27, 2006 at 10:10:06PM +1100, Sam Couter wrote:
>> No, it's a technological path. They're trying to restrict the ability to
>> make perfect digital copies of media. The next step is watermarking and
>> such, to close the analog hole.
>> Vista claims to provide secure media services of some kind, including
>> encryption of video on the PCI Express bus on its way to the video card.
>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Features_new_to_Windows_Vista#Digital_Rights_Management
>> My quick Google search hasn't turned up anything further, but I've read in
>> the past about standards that include encryption of the signal on the video
>> cable between the video card and the monitor.
> Sam, this sort of thing has been talked about for yonks. Its not going to work
> any better than the current system, because somewhere, the data is present in
> an unencrypted form in order to be presented to a human neural sensor of some
> kind. Encrypting the signal between the DVD rom and the monitor will simply
> move the clear text data to the monitor (i.e. you might need to patch signal
> lines inside the monitor). 
> Apart from this, This proposition is obviously ludicrous because you will be
> unable to watch any video on monitors which do not support such encryption. The
> dvd consortium would love to force monitor manufacturers to pay them a fee for
> each monitor sold, but I dont think this will fly. Besides, and this has been
> proved time and time again, the marketplace must obey the will of consumers.
> And consumers want to gain access to the decrypted data, so any manufacturer
> worth their while will build the DRM system so weak that it would be trivial to
> circumvent it because that will sell more units.
> For example look at the first DVD players released in the late 90s. Back then
> in order to obtain a DVD licence the manufacturer had to enforce region coding.
> The first units to hit the market did enforce it very strongly. But very
> quickly products appeared which were "multi-region" or could be reflashed to
> remove this restriction. These were then so popular that today almost every dvd
> player sold is multi-region. In fact its a fact which most players advertise as
> a feature!!!
> This is primarily because the hardware manufacturers have a different agenda to
> the DVD consortium. The hardware guys are all about shipping units, and the
> more they ship over their competitors the more they get paid. The DVD
> consortium is about restricting and controlling consumers. And lets face it,
> consumers do not want to be restricted...
Vista has fixed this problem nicely.  There is now a requirement for a 
secure signal path, right up to the bits of light being transmitted.  So 
an unsecure fancy digital display using a standard DVI cable will have a 
slightly fuzzy picture.  To fix the fuzziness you will have to have a 
DRM compliant video card and a DRM compliant monitor.  This flips the 
equation for the consumer because they now have a choice between a 
product which in unrestricted and one that shows the full signal, I'm 
betting with the DRM guys on this one, consumers will go for the 
"working" restricted product.

They have also stopped rogue hardware that says it's compliant and 
really isn't (eg. is multiregion), they can revoke the driver so the 
piece of hardware ceases to work.  The article argues that this probably 
won't actually be used but it may still be enough to keep the hardware 
guys in line.

I don't think that this situation is the end of the world, I suspect 
that hardware manufacturers aren't required to enforce any DRM at their 
end so DRM compliant hardware will still work in non-DRM linux systems.  
However this would be for compatibility with XP and friends, once Vista 
and DRM OS's become the norm then we may need to start breaking the DMCA 
just to use our video card.


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