George Ou on DRM and the myth of the ‘analog hole’.

Good article over at George Ou’s blog on ZDNet about how DRM doesn’t punish anyone except for legitimate consumers:

There seems to be a persistent myth floating around the board rooms of the movie companies and Congress that analog content is the boogie man of music and video piracy.  In fact they’re so paranoid about it that they’re considering a mechanism called ICT (Image Constraint Token) that punishes law-abiding customers for content that they legally purchased. It isn’t even for something bad that they’ve done, but for something they theoretically might do which is to copy an HDTV movie at maximum 1920 by 1080 resolution using an analog video connector that doesn’t have copy restrictions built in.  But ironically, the real content pirates who make millions of bootleg movies have no intention of ever taking advantage of the so called “analog hole” because that is the slowest and lowest quality method of stealing content.  The victim is the consumer who’s only crime is that he couldn’t afford the latest HDTV set with an HDMI content-protected connector so he or she gets punished with quarter-resolution 960 by 540 output while paying for high definition 1920 by 1080 (1080p or 1080 progressive) content.

Copying high definition 1080p content over an analog signal is very expensive, time consuming, and prone to quality loss during the conversion even without ICT restrictions.  Even if there was no way to make a high-speed bit-for-bit digital copy directly in a computer because of some DRM mechanism, there will always be some way for determined crackers to intercept unprotected digital content before it’s delivered to the video output device.  It is simply naive to think that any music or video pirate professional or casual is going to use the so called “analog hole” to pirate content and even dumber to pass laws that make maximum quality analog connectors illegal.  Most new HDTV sets don’t even have HDMI connectors let alone older HDTV sets so if ICT enforcement is ever adopted, almost everyone will be negatively affected.  Most movie companies with the exception of Warner Brothers have already indicated that they would not initially implement ICT because they realize that they would have an uproar because so many people would be adversely affected.  But in the future when enough HDMI-capable HDTV sets are on the market, there is no guarantee that the movie companies won’t try to sneak ICT enforcement in to future releases.

You’re an early HDTV adopter? Sucks to be you. As far as the media companies are concerned you should be glad they let you see their intellectual property at all. They’re doing you a favor by “only” down sampling the output to a quarter of its usual resolution and, hey, it’s still better than standard NTSC, right? For the moment we won’t implement this new standard until we feel we can get away with it without killing our market, but that’s just because we’re such nice guys. Go ahead, kiss the ring.

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