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Jan 3, 2007

New DVD copy protection scheme hacked

A scene reminiscent of the satellite TV crypto wars is emerging with Advanced Access Copy System (AACS), a new copy protection scheme designed to control the playing and copying of protected DVD/video content. A hacker claims to have broken AACS, the protection technology used by both the competing standards HD-DVD and Blu-ray. Blu-ray apparently has the capability to encode alternative protection mechanisms on the DVDs themselves which mitigates the risk a little but if the hacker's claims are true, HD-DVD is already in deep trouble.

Breaking/bypassing copy protection mechanisms to steal protected copyright content is clearly unethical and most likely illegal under copyright law and DMCA but, if the satellite TV situation is anything to go by, there is a substantial underground market both for pirated movies and for the cracking devices. Perhaps it's time for the movie studios and music business to disarm the pirates not (just) by technical wizardry but (also) by reducing the retail prices of the legitimate goods?

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