A hacker known as Arnezami has gone a giant step further than Muslix64 in hacking AACS. Arnezami has discovered and published the cryptographic key (known as the "processing key") that can be used to circumvent AACS copy restrictions on any Blu-ray or HD-DVD movie (the "one key to rule them all" 🙂 ). He did so by using an Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive and studying all changes (comparing hex-dumps) to a key part of memory during startup of the movie King Kong.
Previously, Muslix64 had discovered the "volume keys" for individual HD-DVD movies (and subsequently Blu-ray titles) which, when used with his BackupHDDVD software, allowed technically adept users to decrypt and copy individual HD titles protected by AACS. Since then, volume keys for more than 100 HD titles have circulated on the Internet. The processing key discovered by Arnezami can, until revoked, be used to easily determine the volume key needed to decrypt and copy any HD title.
It appears that the latest entry into the DRM arms-race, BackupHDDVD, along with the Volume Unique Keys in memory found by Doom9 forum member Musilix64, is able to isolate private keys within AACS protected HD-DVD disks needed to crack them. The cracked HD-DVD movies have made their way to torrent sites and are now circulating the globe. Some minor playback glitches have been reported, however.
Dale's Comment: I want to be clear about something. I do not endorse piracy nor the use of BitTorrent to circulate pirated copies of HD-DVD content.
I do, however, believe the DMCA unfairly criminalizes the behavior of honest consumers wishing to exercise their "fair use" rights to make copies of and/or format shift copies of content purchased by the consumer for the consumer's own personal use. The DMCA and the WIPO Copyright Treaty unfairly take away rights that U.S. consumers have under the fair use provisions of U.S. Copyright law. It is therefore understandable why consumers would choose to use software such as BackupHDDVD to exercise the rights the U.S. Copyright regime otherwise affords them. In my opinion it is copy-protection mechanisms such as AACS put in place by the content industry to penalize the activities of honest consumers that leads to massive piracy by the same consumers through BitTorrent and other P2P networks. As I've said here for years, treat honest consumers fairly and they'll purchase your products in record numbers. Treat them like criminals and they'll rebel.
Warner Home Video made a surprising announcement at CES. Starting in the 3rd quarter of 2007 it will exclusively release its HD titles on a hybrid, multi-layer, HD-DVD and Blu-ray disk dubbed "Total Hi Def". HD-DVD formatted content will be on one side and Blu-ray formatted content will be on the other. Regardless of the HD player a consumer purchases, these disks would be playable.
In an effort to put the format wars behind (and increase sales), Warner has committed to licensing the Total Hi Def technology to any other TV/movie studio for free. Not surprisingly, fellow Time Warner properties, New Line Studios and HBO, have said they will also use the Total Hi Def format. Major retailers including Best Buy, Circuit City, and Amazon.com have announced they will support this format and make Total Hi Def DVDs available through these retail channels. No word yet from Walmart.
Dale's Comment: This is an interesting development in the high-def wars (which I personally believe HD-DVD is winning). Consumers don't want to be left in a loosing Betamax-like camp. Universal exclusively supports the HD-DVD standard. Fox, Disney and Sony, of course, exclusively support Blu-ray. Other studios support both. If Warner is licensing this this technology for free, it is possible that these studios, with the exception of Sony, could eventually support this hybrid disk approach. That said, the per-unit manufacturing costs will be higher than producing disks with one format or the other because the process requires the purchase of dual manufacturing equipment to support both formats.
Reports are coming in fast and furious that the AACS DRM system used by both HD-DVD and Blu-ray players has been cracked by someone with the codename muslix64. I had reported earlier on a possible brute-force print-screen method of cracking HD-DVD.
This new method seems to rely on a compromised HD-DVD player whereby muslix64 was first able to access the unique decryption keys for particular HD-DVDs. Then using those keys and his java-based BackupHDDVD program, muslix64 was able to implement the AACS decryption protocol as outlined at aacsla.com (the official AACS website) and play it back using standard HD-DVD play-back software (in this case PowerDVD 6.5 HD-DVD).
Muslix64 says the tool works on his XBOX 360 external HD DVD player, but that the software would not be limited to just one specific player.
For years I have called for video-download services to be provided directly to a TV-connected consumer electronics product such as the Xbox, TiVo or PS3. This Variety article discusses how the Xbox 360's new Internet-based video-on-demand service is having relative success (where others have failed) due to its available HD content and its direct connection to the TV.
The relative success of video downloads on Microsoft's Xbox Live and disappointment of Amazon.com's Unbox point to two factors that differentiate Xbox from Amazon and its many other competitors — consumers who download a movie want a simple way to watch it on their TV, and those with high-def TVs want high-def content.
A primary reason for its success lies also in the fact that DRM is not a relevant consideration for most users when the content is delivered directly to the display unit of choice. iVOD services to PCs have largely failed because most people do not want to watch TV and movies on their computers. And the DRM used by most of those services preclude users from copying the movie onto a DVD for playback where they want to watch them – in the living room.
FYI: Joystiq has a pretty good preview of the system here including a YouTube demo. Note that the demo was done early-on. As I understand it the slow-downloads and other glitches experienced in the early days have been resolved.
Dale's Comment: Each of these articles make the same essential point. Piracy of video content is pervasive because it provides consumers with a product they want – a vast selection of high quality content, meeting the tastes of both the masses and the long tail – with the ability to use/view the content on any device and with any software/service of their choosing. Something the TV and movie-industries fail to provide to the very consumers eager to purchase it from them – if only it was conveniently available at fair prices and under fair use terms.
This oft-quoted remark by Disney co-chair Ann Sweeney made at a conference in October, shows at least that the industry is finally starting to grapple with the issue:
"We understand now that piracy is a business model. It exists to serve a need in the market for consumers who want TV content on demand. Pirates compete the same way we do – through quality, price and availability. We we don?t like the model but we realise it?s competitive enough to make it a major competitor going forward."
Following a similar suit by the BPI in July, AllofMP3.com's Moscow-based parent Mediaservices, Inc. has been sued by the RIAA for massive copyright infringement in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. According to the New York Post:
The RIAA is seeking $150,000 for each instance of copyright infringement. That equates to an astounding $1.65 trillion for the five-month period in question.
Wow! I suspect they'll have a little trouble collecting this damage award if successful!
Interestingly, along with the damages award, the suit seeks court ordered control of AllofMP3.com's domains. Given the global nature of the Internet, it will be interesting to see if a court would grant such a prayer for relief. Mountainview California-based Verisign operates the domain name registry for the .com domain space.
AllofMP3.com has long claimed that they are in full compliance with Russian law and pay licensing fees on all music sales to Russia's equivalent of the RIAA, the Russian Organization for Multimedia and Digital Systems (ROMS). The RIAA's response is that ROMS has no authority to issue licenses to AllofMP3 and that AllofMP3.com would require licenses from record companies to legally sell downloadable music – which it does not have.
Dale's Comment: Aside from the astronomical damages request, what intrigues me is the global implications of an order to transfer the domain. There has been much controversy at the United Nations over who should control the Internet and the Internet domain space. The U.S. has fiercely guarded its ultimate ability to control it. If such an order was made by a U.S. court at the behest of the U.S. music industry, and if Verisign complies, this might spark protests from nations around the globe.
Note: I have not yet found the claim online. When I do, I'll post it here. Most of the stories online are all repeats of the original AP story so there are not many details available at this point.
The name seems daft, but this Windows Media Player ("WMP") 11 plug-in seems promising. I've long been a WMP fan. I only use iTunes because it was the only reasonable way to manage music on my iPod – until now. Microsoft chose, once again, not to provide iPod support in its latest version of WMP. To the rescue comes MGTEK with DOPISP. DOPISP is a plug-in for WMP that enables you to sync your MP3 music to your iPod directly from within Windows Media Player.
A free two month trial is available here. No word yet on final pricing. Of course it cannot manage any DRM'd AAC files purchased from iTunes. If it could, my work here would be done! Well, at least until Apple and/or the RIAA sued them! 🙂
I haven't tried it yet, but one possible downside to this approach to managing your iPod is that it likely won't support podcasts. For some reason that only the God's know, Windows Media Player does notinclude podcast support. Since I discovered podcasts in October of 2005, I use my iPod primarily for podcast listening while on the road. Without podcast functionality, I'm not ready to head back to WMP!
Davis' interview of DivX, Inc.'s CEO Jordan Greenhall is interesting. There isn't much here that is new to me but it is topical given DivX's recent public offering. One bit that was new to me was his explanation of why the inclusion of DivX encoding technology within CE devices like PVRs didn't make much sense until recently. Unlike decoding, encoding media to DivX is computationally intensive. Until a couple months ago DivX encoding chips where far more expensive than the inexpensive larger hard drives needed for use with less efficient codecs. With the emergence of cheap encoding chips it now makes sense for manufacturers to start embedding them within CE devices in conjunction with the DivX codec.
The interview covers the history of the company, the current status and trends (YouTube, convergence) and where this promising, yet controversial, company and its technology are headed.
Dale's Comment: I had to smile when I read Greenhall's answers. Having lived in Silicon Valley for a few years, and having left it, his "Silicon Valley-speak" reminds me of the good old bubble days. Take this snipped for example:
So the fact that DivX technology is associated with that path is a really interesting physical manifestation, but the reality of the value proposition is that the market, the community itself is a value proposition, so what you’ll find is, if you map our progress on a go forward basis …
Silicon-valley-speak notwithstanding, its an interesting interview of an interesting man in control of an important technology. Good work Davis!
Dale's Comment: Listening to this was my first introduction to Professor Moglen's ideas. I don't exactly know what to make of this speech. With the flair of an elequoent Baptist preacher he advocates on behalf of the free software movement. The speech has many interesting and compelling points.
But, my goodness, this substance of his speech seems to be, Open Source – all good, Closed Source – all bad, all the time. To my mind there is a place for both. Contrary to the underlying sentiment of this talk, I believe capitalism and software-for-profit is critical to global development and advancement. Open Source software is also, obviously, very beneficial to the world. Both have their place and importance.
Perhaps I haven't had enough exposure to Professor Mogeln yet. But while interesting, I found his talk, effectively dissing closed source software and its creators, eerily discomforting.
AllofMP3.com does not seem like it is willing to go silently into the night.
In response to Visa's and Mastercard's cessation of services to the site, AllofMP3 now uses a prepaid credit proxy, Xrost,which can, in turn, be paid by Visa or Mastercard (See AllofMP3's payment page as explained here).
This recent TechWeb article explains that the payment process is not exactly easy. Only the most determined are likely to work their way through the payment maze. See also this Wired Blog description of the process. Incidentally the Wired Blog claim about the "complete legality" of music downloading in Canada is nonsense (see my blog entry on the topic if interested)!
On another note, AllofMP3 has engaged a New York-based intellectual property attorney, John Kheit of Chadbourne & Parke, LLP. as a U.S.-based spokesperson, advocate and PR person. In a recent panel discussion Kheit asserted that AllofMP3 has not broken any laws, that it operates legally in Russia and pays 15% of all music sales to Russia's equivalent of the RIAA, the Russian Organization for Multimedia and Digital Systems (ROMS). Kheit claims that foreign rights holders could petition ROMS for payment but that record labels have specifically not requested such payments in fear of legitimizing AllofMP3.
The RIAA's response is that ROMS has no authority to issue licenses to AllofMP3 and that AllofMP3.com would require licenses from record companies to legally sell downloadable music – which it does not have.
Under the U.S/Russian agreement, Russia has until June 1, 2007 to modify its laws and clarify that such activity is illegal. Until it does AllofMP3.com can continue as is. AllofMP3.com says it will comply with any new laws put in place by Moscow.
Within days of TiVo's DRM being cracked, someone has automated the rather difficult to use TiVo Decode Manager and created an easy to use TiVo2Go application, without DRM, on Apple computers. The software automatically discovers local TiVos. With one mouse click shows are downloaded from the TiVo, DRM-free, to the Mac by episode, recorded date etc. The resultant Mpeg-2 files still need to be converted to a PC-usable format such as .wmv using a program like VLC. My guess is that it won't be long before the end-to-end process is fully automated.
Dale's Comment: I foresee TiVo-released DMCA take-down notices being sent to whoever controls thebenesch.com (the site hosting the program) in the near future!
After achieving success streaming videos converted to .wmv format with VLC (download here) to my Xbox 360, several people recommended I try the recent release (v. 0.9.9) of TVersity (download and system requirements here). TVersity holds the promise of transcoding and streaming most any video (in any format) to the Xbox 360 – assuming your PC has the hefty horsepower needed (mine does).
Initially, after reading the many comments in the support pages I figured this was going to be too difficult and didn't bother. Since then I've seen articles popping up all over th net (see Sources below) touting TVersity as the second coming of video streaming to the 360. I wonder how many of these bloggers actually tried to install it! 🙂
So, reluctantly I dug in, got out the notebook and pen (actually my tablet PC) and spent the better part of a day trying to install this program and get it to work. I failed! I can definitively conclude that this program is not ready for prime time. If you are a software and network engineer (or just plain lucky), you may be able to get it to work. I couldn't, and I suspect the average user won't be able to either.
TiVo's Director of Broadband Services, Evan Young, gave this interesting keynote address to the Streaming Media West 2006 conference. I learned a few new things about TiVo's nascent TiVoCast service and I am concerned with the seemingly walled-garden-only approach TiVo seems to be going with the TiVoCast service.
Dale's Comment: I was quite stoked about this announcement. I'd love to learn some new Halo 2 moves from Fatal1ty. That is, until I got to the fine print. Apparently CBS will only show snippets of actual game play because the content of the competitions are too violent for prime-time television. How crazy is this!? While I gather getting network coverage IS a step forward, this is the same-old, same-old network thinking! Who would want to watch something called the "World Series of Video Games" without being able to watch the actual competitions in their entirety! Clearly network TV is not the right venue for this. This will have to head on over to cable in order for it to be successful in the long term.
Dale's Comment: If true, expect a patch from TiVo soon! 🙂 Unfortunately for those of us waiting for the TiVo Series 3 software upgrade that was due out about now, my guess is we'll be waiting awhile longer while TiVo's engineers work at sorting this one out. 🙁
ars technica and others are reporting that AllofMP3 says it will not be shut down. Instead it says Russia agreed to certain copyright reforms that AllofMP3.com says it will comply with. Even if this is true, AllofMP3 could never be what it was. If the reported agreement is implemented by Russia, any new AllofMP3.com would be as close to its current incarnation as today's Napster is to its original form.
As of the time of this post, AllofMP3.com was still up and running.
Dale's Comment: This is a sad day of sorts. While the legality of AllofMP3 was always murky, its success (second in world-wide sales only to iTunes) was a clear example of the fact that consumers are willing to pay a fair price for music from a site that services the users needs, if they are given fair rights to use the music they purchase. In the case of AllofMP3.com the user could chose the format they wished to purchase and there were no restrictions on the use they could make of the music. I look forward to the day the major labels learn this lesson and start offering DRM-free music for sale to honest users under fair terms.
I don't know what is in the air these days, but Internet-TV aggregators seem to be popping up all over the Internet. I recently blogged about Tioti and the TVUPlayer, each of which have received substantial press coverage owing to their controversial nature.
Over the last few days, I have become aware of dozens of online TV, movie and other aggregators running the gamut from sites streaming literally hundreds of live TV channels over the Internet to others indexing and hosting thousands of TV shows and movies for instant viewing over the Internet.
Many of the live broadcast feeds are likely accessed from Internet feeds supplied by the content owners themselves. But, I'm guessing, others are likely redirected Slingbox or similar streams. As you can read in my TVUPlayer post, the company's CEO, Paul Shen, believes he can escape U.S. copyright infringement liability using the DMCA's ISP safe harbor. He argues that the streams are made available from the service's users and not hosted directly by his company.
peekvid and QuickSilverScreen in particular, seem to be the most blatantly infringing services of the lot. They directly index over a thousand TV shows, movies, cartoons etc. for instant viewing. Users can select a particular TV series from a list and then directly view selected episodes – on demand. Movies can similarly be selected and viewed on demand. If peekvid is located in the U.S., I suspect it won't be long before the link fails to work owing to NAB and MPAA legal actions. QuickSilverScreen was located in the U.S. until Fox sent it a cease and desist letter. The proprietor has sold it to someone offshore and it continues to operate unabated from an offshore location.
In no particular order, here are only a few of the dozens of live TV aggregation sites that have popped up recently.
All of these have the following features in common:
They all actually worked when I tried them
Of the dozens of other aggregators available, these sites required no prior signups or passwords.
Unlike Tioti and the TVUPlayer, no plugins or downloads were required for these sites to work – simply show up, click and watch.
My browser, Firefox 2.0, is set to disable popups and redirects – all worked without popups or redirects
Many of the video streams were resizable – even to full screen in many contexts
This is clearly a new trend, or at least a new trend to me. In light of the fact that iCrave TV was so quickly shut down in 2003 for doing essentially the same thing, it is surprising to see so many seemingly thriving. I gather that most, if not all, are hosted in far-off countries outside the reach of NAB and the MPAA – for now. As AllofMP3.com has recently discovered, locating offshore will not, alone, keep you outside the reach of the U.S. copyright lobby.
For years I have been looking for a convenient way to stream my videos (movies, video clips, video game trailers etc.) from PCs on my home network to my HDTV in the living room. Today I have had my first success using the new video streaming functionality built into the most recent XBox 360 Dashboard software update.
This Arne360 blog entry describes the basics of setting up the new Windows Media Player 11, sharing media directories with the 360 and setting up the 360 so it can access content from a home network. That was all well and good, but a continuing basic problem was that the Microsoft video streaming solution only supports their proprietary (but still very good) .wmv codec. Most of my video content is not in the .wmv format – or at least it wasn't.
Download and save this text onto your desktop into a batch file (ie: Copy and paste it into Notepad and save it as VLC.bat onto your desktop).
Then simply drag and drop most any video in any format (or at least any format I use) onto the batch file's icon on the desktop, and it will automatically be transcoded into the .wmv format.
When done, a WMV version of the video will be saved in the same directory of the source file and, assuming that directory is accessible to your Xbox 360, it will be accessible and playable on the 360 with no further effort. It's THAT simple.
All is not peaches and cream though. There's good news and bad news.
Universal Music Group has sued Myspace for providing a transcoding service. Myspace users upload videos to their MySpace account and Myspace transcodes them into formats playable by its users. Alleging that MySpace "encourages, facilitates and participates in the unauthorized reproduction, adaptation, distribution and public performance,", UMG is seeking an injunction and unspecified damages, including up to $150,000 for each unauthorized music video or song posted on the Web site. Until last week the two were in licensing discussions. To paraphrase Clausewitz, lawsuits such as this are just business negotiations by another means.
Dale's Comment: This is an interesting claim. It may very well turn on the facts. As I understand them, MySpace is agnostic as to what the content is. It has taken some steps to limit infringing uploads. In this case its servers accept user video uploads, examine the format, if not a supported format they then transcodes it into a playable format. This seems to be similar to what YouTube and other video hosting sites do. But YouTube signed a licensing agreement with Universal (and others) after being threatened with a lawsuit. If Myspace fights this, it will likely argue that it is an ISP, and all they are providing is a tool that can be used by their users for legitimate or illegitimate purposes. Assuming that MySpace is otherwise responding to Universal's DMCA take-down notices, this transcoding service may very well fall within the DMCA's safe harbour.
“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
In this case, the plaintiff doctors operated Web sites devoted to exposing health care fraud. Rosenthal, a woman's health advocate, posted a third party's e-mail that included harsh remarks about the doctors, calling them “quacks'' and “dishonest,''. The doctors sued for defamation, arguing that Rosenthal should be held responsible for posting the allegedly libelous material, along with the author of the e-mail.
"The prospect of blanket immunity for those who intentionally redistribute defamatory statements on the Internet has disturbing implications," writes Associate Justice Carol A. Corrigan in the majority opinion. "Nevertheless … statutory immunity serves to protect online freedom of expression and to encourage self-regulation, as Congress intended."
While an important victory for the likes of AOL and Google, it is also important for the growing Bloggosphere as it represents the first time an individual has sought, and obtained, the same immunity from defamation liability that is provided to ISPs under this Act.
Dale's Comment: OK, so I guess this means I'm off the hook for the silly things you might post in the comment section of this blog – at least in California.
TIOTI (Tape it of the Internet) is another web service in beta that intends to provide legitimate TV and pointers to TV show torrents for download through BitTorrent clients such as uTorrent and Azureus. According to the TIOTI Website:
We currently index 1,600+ TV shows – 90,000+ episodes – and we are matching everything up with content sources like iTunes, AOL and Amazon Unbox – with more to come.
Our beta feature set allows you to do exactly what it says on the tin and do it in style. With integrated message boards, groups, personalised badges and an extensive API, we have lots more great stuff coming soon too.
Dale's Comment: It appears the TIOTI founders believe they can steer clear of the many recent lawsuits brought against torrent host sites by including only pointers to torrents hosted elsewhere rather than the torrents themselves. I have little doubt that this presumed 'safe harbour' will be quickly tested in the courts if TIOTI becomes at all successful.
I have added myself to the waiting list to test this out once it expands its beta. I'll report back what I see if/when I join the beta.