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Control is the issue...
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- Subject: Control is the issue...
- From: Kristian Köhntopp <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Fri, 11 Feb 2000 11:17:01 +0100
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As Robert Cringely might have put it...
Feb 11, 2000, 03:35 UTC (5 Talkbacks) (Other stories by
By A.J. Mayo
The fascinating developments in the DVD DeCSS affair
have been reported from several angles. However, two
points of view seem to have emerged to the exclusion of
other important realities. One side claims the other are
hackers, bent on pirating copyright DVD material and
misappropriating trade secrets in order to do so. The other
side claims that reverse engineering is a legitimate
expression of free speech, and that in any case, a disk can
be pirated simply by doing a bit-for-bit clone, without the
need for decryption.
It is quite clear, I think, that the motivation of those who have
reverse-engineered the inner workings of the content
scrambling system was that darn human curiosity which
marks us as a species. And the Internet has made it pretty
darn near impossible to pop the genie back into the bottle.
So why are the plaintiffs bothering?. At best they would
appear to create a bunch of martyrs, and at worst they will
lose control of a valuable trade secret.
What DeCSS lets the consortium do is determine who will
make players, and on what terms, and who will provide
content. If you can neither encrypt or decrypt the bit stream,
you are locked out of both markets. If you purchase a license
to use the technology, then the consortium has a way of
controlling your actions. Want to sell a player that doesn't
honour region codes?. Hmm, maybe we'll revoke your
license. Or maybe yes, of course, but you gotta charge three
grand for it. Want to produce content - well, you need a
license to produce the encrypted bitstream that will go on a
disk, or you'll have to deal with someone who does. This is a
handy way of exercising future control, is it not?. After all,
you might be allowed to produce content only playable in
region 1, thus controlling your distribution, or perhaps
competitors of the consortium members might find
unexpected 'capacity problems' in getting their product onto
But without DeCSS, this control vanishes and a great many
ricebowls are broken. The consortium always knew that
someone would break into the system. They probably
planned exactly what they'd do, ahead of time.
Kristian Koehntopp, Knooper Weg 46, 24103 Kiel, +49 170 2231 811
"Basically, the mere appearance of new technological forms of
have never been a reason to change the existing 'legal rules of play'."
-- WIPO rechtfertigt ein globales Trafficabhoer- und Filtersystem