Thursday, February 16, 2006

The "nightmare" of HD DVD copy controls

CNet has a downright frightening story about the copy controls bundled with the new DVD formats.
When the first high-definition DVDs finally hit shelves this spring, a mad scramble may ensue--not for the discs themselves, but to figure out what computers and devices are actually able to play them in their full glory.

Unraveling the mystery won't be easy. Many, if not most, of today's top-of-the-line computers and monitors won't make the cut, even if next-generation Blu-ray or HD DVD drives are installed.
Under the "good" scenario, this means paying more for HD DVDs only to see them in sub-DVD (euphemistically labelled "near DVD") quality. Here's the really bad scenario (read the article; I wish I were making this up): Vista, the (eternally forthcoming) new Windows, will shut down your DVI monitor output unless you install MPAA-sanctioned copy controls.
Studios have persuaded Microsoft to add a feature in the upcoming Vista operating system that can shut down that connection altogether, unless the computer has an Intel-created encryption technology called HDCP, or High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection, turned on to guard the signal all the way to the monitor screen.

Put another way--if the DVD doesn't like your plug, your monitor may go black.
With luck, the backlash here will echo the Sony rootkit fiasco. If we're unlucky, our digital freedom will just suffer another hit due to MPAA greed.


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