Time was that if you wanted to see a movie, you went to a theatre or you waited a few months to rent a VHS tape or DVD at five bucks a pop. That's just the way it was. An artist/performer/writer would create something and you would pay real money to buy a copy. But in the purely digital, networked era, old school routines have been forever altered. And while that's theoretically great news for the end user, who can now buy selectively and at his or her convenience, it also presents us with a whole new set of hassles. Hassles such as copy protection.
Ubisoft's New Year's resolution must be to stop pissing people off with with crappy DRM checks, because as our sister site PCGamer.com reports, the developer has decided to ditch its controversial DRM system.
Prior to the update, you needed a persistent Internet connection in order to play games like Assassin's Creed 2. If a storm knocked out your ISP or if your router went on the fritz, the game would pause, even if it was a single player game. It was a stupid DRM scheme on a number of levels, one that was introduced with Settlers 7 last year.
You do still need an Internet connection to authenticate Ubisoft games when they're first booted, but at least now if your connection goes belly up, you can continue to play, just like all the pirates who plundered their copies from BitTorrent.
Word on the street today is that the so-called 'Master Key' to HDCP has been leaked. HDCP is a the copy protection that ensures the uncompressed digital output of devices like Blu-Ray players remain encrypted unless played on an approved HDCP compliant device. If this pans out, that HD stream could be captured quite easily.
All the set top boxes and HDMI-port equipped screens use special encrypt/decrypt keys that are specific to that device. This was seen as the strength of HDCP. If a device is compromised, future content could revoke those keys, making any attempts at copying difficult. If the master key is available, capture devices could be built that could record any uncompressed stream.
Even if this leak is the real deal, it's going to be an underground strategy. The DMCA bans the cracking of copy protection. You won't be picking up a universal HDCP capture device at the store. What's your guess? Is it real?
Having trouble playing Blu-ray flicks from Universal and Warner Brothers on your Samsung player? If it's any consolation, so are scores of other users.
Here's the deal. Something funky in Samsung's latest firmware -- version 2.09 -- for its line of BD-Px600 Blu-ray players is preventing the unit from playing movies like "The Hangover" and "The Book of Eli," two must-see movies, by the way, in case you haven't watched them already.
As is predictably the case, the SNAFU deals with copy protection, and once again, it's the paying consumer who pays the price. While software pirates are merrily clogging up their ISP's pipes downloading movies from BitTorrent sites, several Samsung Blu-ray player owners are forced to sit back and wait for a fix. The good news is a fix is on the way, but not until September, the company said.
Does that mean early September or closer to the end? Nobody knows. Samsung BD-Px600 owners may be able to watch their legally purchased/rented Blu-ray movies next week, or maybe several weeks from now. And if we sound particularly critical about the whole situation, consider that this isn't the first time something like this has happened. Earlier this year, Samsung BD-UP5000 and BD-P1400 Blu-ray players coughed up a hairball when owners tried to watch "Avatar" on Blu-ray. Samsung did fix the issue, but is this really the future of HD movies on the home front?
Ubisoft's new always on Internet connection DRM hasn't won any fans here at Max PC, but we do applaud the company for at least taking a stab (pun intended) at making amends to paying customers who were shut out because of a DRM server attack.
The game company wrote registered customers; "Following the recent temporary game server outages which may have caused disruption to some Assassin's Creed 2 players on PC only, we would like to reward your patience if you have experienced any problems by offering you some additional content - previously only available with special editions."
The special edition content was previously exclusive to those who ordered the Black Edition of the game, but apparently some users are now reporting that Ubisoft is even giving the option to trade up to a free game. Examples given include Hawx, Heros Over Europe, EndWar, Shaun White's Snowboarding or Prince of Persia.
It's not as good as offering to patch out the DRM, but is this peace offering enough for you to forgive Ubisoft?
The Ubisoft DRM situation has been covered to death, but it's like a train wreck we just can't seem to look away from. The latest news comes out of Europe and is reporting that the DRM authentication servers have been down all day, and have yet to return.
"I don't have any clear information on what the issue is ... but clearly the extended downtime and lengthy login issues are unacceptable, particularly as I've been told these servers are constantly monitored," said 'Ubi.Vigil', adding, "I'll do what I can to get more information on what the issue is here first thing tomorrow and push for a resolution and assurance this won't happen in the future."
North American customers don't seem to be affected by the outage, but it clearly validates all the negative press and comments this DRM approach has been generating across the Internet. PC Gamers across the globe are united for the first time in history, too bad it wasn't under better circumstances.
We've tossed around some pretty harsh criticisms of Ubisoft's new PC DRM approach, and it's very much deserved. Piracy is a tricky issue to combat, we get it, but we also know that no amount of DRM will ever stop the dedicated few kleptomaniacs who for one reason or another, simply refuse to pay for software. The only truth when it comes to copy protection is that the stronger it is, the more honest customers you will accidentally burn with it. This isn't anything we haven't said before, but it's ironic how all of our predictions seem to be coming true.
According to ZDnet a version of Assassin's Creed 2 sans DRM has appeared on Bit Torrents, and the date confirms it took a mere 24 hours to defuse Ubisoft's DRM of mass destruction. If this version works as advertised, it would leave the gimped version in the hands of paying customers who will needlessly be forced to suffer through another failed attempt at heavy handed copy protection. Its hard to gauge if all the bad press is having any impact on Assassin's Creed II's sales, but a quick peek at the Steam player stats ranks the game in 29th place, just below the original Day of Defeat (a game released 7 years ago).
The best way to vote against this type of behavior is with your wallet, not your Bit Torrent client, but perhaps the evolving reality of the situation will force Ubisoft to take action and release a patch for its loyal patrons.
The first Managed Copy enabled Blu-Ray disks will be hitting store shelves soon, unfortunately, it will be well ahead of any hardware that can make use of it. For those that haven’t heard of Managed Copy, it is a system that allows you to make legal copies of Blu-Ray disks, but spawned versions of the content are very heavily protected by DRM. Any user trying to play the copied version needs to contact the studios DRM servers which decide if you can watch it, and even how many times it can be copied.
Dedicated Blu-Ray hardware isn’t expected to implement this feature anytime soon, but PC jukebox software will likely be available within the next few months to take advantage of the fact that all disks sold after December 4th will need to be compliant. It remains to be seen if this is true of just new releases, or if the entire back catalog of Blu-Ray disks will eventually be updated. Either way, expect it to be a confusing mess until packaging updates roll along in the Spring.
Many wonder if Managed Copy will satisfy consumers ever increasing demands to “liberate” their digital content from the medium, but consumers historically haven’t embraced solutions that trade one DRM implementation for another. This is especially true when competing technologies such as those from Slysoft accomplishes the same thing, and without any additional usage restrictions.
Want to learn more about HD Video Encryption? Check out our White Paper for the low down.
Down but not out, RealNetworks said it will file an appeal and ask that a court ruling to ban sales of its DVD-copying software, RealDVD, be lifted.
The original ruling dates back to August when a federal district judge issued a preliminary injunction to halt sales of the software after film studios successfully argued that RealDVD violated copyright law. The injunction drew major interest from consumers looking for some clarification in the murky Fair Use waters.
RealNetwork's appeal only addresses the injunction, not the case itself, which, barring a resolution, is moving towards a jury trial.
"What they're going to argue is that somehow the legal basis for the injunction is wanting," said Denise Howell, an appellate and technology lawyer. "They will say that there has been an error of law somewhere along the way but they're going to try and undo the injunction. Real is facing an uphill battle."
Movie pirates have often justified their DMCA violations by claiming that “they were just making backup copies”. And while this might seem like a reasonable enough explanation for cracking the copy protection on your new Blu-ray disk, it is in fact, highly illegal. It’s taken over three years, but “Managed Copy” is hoping to finally put the backup issue to rest by allowing users to make legitimate backup copies of their Blu-ray disks as early as next year.
For those of you who are thinking that this sounds too good to be true, it does indeed come at a cost. Current Blu-ray players will most likely not be able to decode the copied disk, and although this feature will be included in new players, that doesn’t help people with older hardware. The number of copies will also be heavily restricted, carry an unknown price tag, and if you want a PC friendly version, the result is a DRM-laced, Microsoft only file. This leaves iPod’s, Zune’s, and other platforms out in the cold. This might change before next year, but it seems increasingly unlikely when you consider that the authenticity check requires an internet connection.
I suppose something is better than nothing, and while Slysoft clearly has the superior solution,at least this one is guaranteed to be legal!