Monday, June 8, 2009

Mickey Mouse hates FireWire, Part Four

The 1394 community adopted a copy protection technology called DTCP which provides for several levels of copy protection, from Copy Never, to Copy Once, to Copy Freely. This is on top of the copy protection already on DVDs and other devices. This was in line with FCC requirements which indicated that Hollywood must permit consumers to make copies of video they paid for (HBO) or paid for by by others (movies shown on network TV). DVDs remained another matter as no copies were permitted. However, after extensive negotiations with the DVD CCA (DVD Copy Control Association), it appeared that 1394 would be an accepted output from DVD, Blu-Ray, and HD-DVD drives. Video would be permitted to travel over 1394 to a display. It was agreed that the video could be transported over long distance 1394 (1394b) as long as the “copy never” flag was set. Everything was progressing until someone inside the MPAA heard about the progress being made in transporting data on the internet over longer distances at faster speeds. Suddenly fear emerged that devices could send video between themselves over long distances via the Internet. Consumers would be sharing their videos with their neighbors next door, friends across town, family a state away, etc. Visions of Napster emerged and Hollywood initiated a lockdown on 1394. Hollywood wanted a guarantee that the device sending the video was in the same house as the device displaying the video. This was called “localization.”

The MPAA has entertained a number of anti-piracy solutions which would appear more than a little strange to the average consumer. When it came to establishing localization, a proposal I heard discussed by a senior MPAA attorney in March of 2006 was to require all Audio/Video products to include a GPS (Global Positioning System) device so it could be determined if two devices trying to communicate with each other were in close proximity. I stifled my response for a second to see if he was joking. He was dead serious.

Fortunately, a innovative engineer at Samsung determined that there was enough capability within DTCP copy protection to send a signal out to all devices connected over 1394, measure the roundtrip time, and determine if everything was reasonably close. The localization procedure was adopted by the DTCP group with the necessary acceptance by both the MPAA and the DVD CCA.

Sometimes it is amazing that anything gets done.

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