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I love Chinese food, and about once a week, I stop by the mall and order the orange chicken combo in the Food Court. The cooks and cashiers are always friendly, and not once have they accused me of stealing from the tip jar or duplicating the recipe at home and selling it for profit. Best of all, they've never stripped the orange sauce off the chicken, or quit selling it altogether just to thwart me from replicating the savory flavor.
Sounds a bit silly not to take the above for granted, but if you own a computer, then you qualify for the same goofy treatment. You see, owning a PC automatically makes you an assumed criminal, at least according to the movie studios. Don't believe me? Try and backup a DVD from your collection. If it's a recent movie, chances are it comes with some form of copy protection and you'll need a decrypter to strip it of its CSS encryption. Not a problem for the computer savvy, except that by removing said copy protection, you're violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). It's also not a problem for those running a pirated movie ring, as these unscrupulous users fall under the computer savvy category. Instead, this blanketed criminal mindset cast by the movie studios hurts the honest mainstream user the most, such as the couple with kids (and a Dell) that would like to backup their DVD collection to keep the originals free from peanut butter and jelly fingerprints, or scratches and cracks because little Timmy accidentally stepped on a disc. But even for these users, all is not lost thanks to weak encryption. Using a ripping program like DVD Shrink in conjunction with AnyDVD (which automatically strips a movie of its DRM) makes backing up only a minor hassle, leaving only the most novice (and morally bound) PC users out in the cold.
Oh noes, is that a broken Stars Wars DVD? Oh wait, it's only an illegal backup copy, PHEW!
Unfortunately, the movie studios are doing everything they can to turn a minor hassle into a fruitless headache. In the ongoing high definition format war between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray, some studios have outright refused to release big name titles due to the lack of unbreakable encryption, a laughable trait when discussing AACS. But the long anticipated Blu-Ray only BD+ DRM scheme is finally ready for prime time, giving the studios a reason to start selling movies again (apparently it made more fiscal sense to not sell a movie at all, as opposed to absorbing any lost sales resulting from piracy...insert your own fuzzy math joke), and giving the Blu-Ray format a major boost in becoming the new standard. Hooray for Blu-Ray, but what does this mean for consumers?
If history's any indication, it doesn't mean much. Every copy protection scheme to date has eventually been broken, some as easy as holding the shift key, and while this round will prove a bit more challenging for hackers, I still expect no less from BD+. The new scheme works by running a virtual machine inside the media player hardware, and if any user shenanigans are detected, such as hacked hardware via a firmware update, the VM can prevent the disc from playing. It can also unscramble purposely scrambled code on the disc to allow playback after detecting everything is Kosher, among a host of other functions inherent with VMs.
After the dust settles and hackers spend some time getting acquainted with BD+, none of this will matter. BD+ will be cracked, you and I will continue to backup our personal video collection (which is dwindling thanks to the advent of online rental services à la Netflix and Blockbuster), and a new DRM scheme will be introduced. So goes the virtual circle of life. And through it all, you and I will both remain criminals for the egregious act of owning a PC with an optical drive. Now, someone pass me the grog...