I attended the 82nd meeting of the Copy Protection Technology Working Group at the Marriott Hotel at LAX on July 14. CPTWG was formed eight years ago by MPAA to develop and adopt technologies that are favorable to MPAA and the Motion Picture Studios. The motivation for the other industries to participate was that the MPAA would not petition Congress for restrictive legislation on technology if it could instead reach its own agreement with the other industries.
This sort of activity is sometimes illegal in the United States. We have strict antitrust laws that are intended to prevent collusion and other anti-competitive behaviors. CPTWG attempts to avoid breaking these laws by adopting operating rules that avoid illegal behavior. Certain topics, such as products and marketing plans, are completely off-limits. All information presented at the meeting is public. Confidential information is not allowed. The meetings are open to the public. MPAA hosts the meetings at local hotels, and charges the attendees $100 each.
Very little work happens at the Working Group meetings. The meeting begins in the morning. There are some reports and some presentations. CPTWG does not vote, and does not produce reports or specifications. At noon the meeting ends and lunch is served. In the afternoon, and sometimes for a day or two after, private groups have meetings. These meetings are not open to the public (I was asked to leave.)
Even though CPTWG does no work, the meeting was very well attended. The ballroom was full. I was surprised that a large number of people came from Japan to attend the meeting, representing companies like Toshiba, Panasonic, Sony, JVC, and others. I think that CPTWG's main purpose is to synchronize the calendars of people. If your job is to form alliances with other companies, then you know that the people you need to talk to will be at the CPTWG meeting.
So, CPTWG does no work. It does not produce specifications or standards, nor does it adopt or support standards. It is a place where useful information is shared, and where new groups can be formed.
I was happy to see three people that I know at the meeting. I was able to get good information from them.
CPTWG can form subgroups. A couple of years ago they formed a Broadcast Protection Discussion Subgroup. BPDS produced a report, which described the development and rationale for the Broadcast Flag. Some of the members of the BPDS also worked with ATSC to add the PSIP Redistribution Control Descriptor. BPDS presented its report to CPTWG. CPTWG did not vote on it or adopt it. They simply heard it. MPAA and others then took the report to FCC, and FCC made rules.
CPTWG did not create the Broadcast Flag, but it provided the context and connections that allowed it to be made.
4C announced that their audio specification will be finalized soon.
W69/DVD Forum announced that their next meeting is July 21 at Toshiba.
The Legislative/Regulatory Update gave information on the these bills:
S2560 Induce. Very controversial. No hearings scheduled yet.
S1932 ART Act. Waiting for House Action.
S2237 Pirate. Passes much of the cost and responsibility for prosecuting media piracy to the Government. Waiting for House Action.
HR107 Consumer Rights. Needs to go through a second House Committee, so probably won't pass this term.
There was also information on this regulatory activity:
Digital Radio. RIAA has asked for a Broadcast Flag.
FCC is working on the Certification of Table A. They are hoping to finish this month.
A gang of 8 companies (IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Panasonic, Sony, Toshiba, Disney, and Warner Bros.) announced AACS (Advanced Access Content System). It was developed for the next generation of optical media disc, but is format neutral, meaning that they want it to be in HD-DVD, BluRay, and other formats, prerecorded and writeable.
It is not a DRM system, but will interoperate with DRM systems. A new licensing entity has been created. The specifications are half finished. They hope to have them done and ready for evaluation licensing by the end of the year. They did not say why they are announcing early. Possibly this is meant to disrupt competing efforts.
Someone from Toshiba told me that most of the work was done by Toshiba, Intel, IBM, and Warner Bros.
AACS is intended to enable new business models. For example, it may make it possible to sell someone a disc and then charge them again later to use it. The Studios are very excited by this idea. Consumers do not like to be charged for stuff they think they already own. Clearly, the Marketplace will have to sort this out.
AACS divides the world into four groups:
The Technical Features include 128-bit encryption, revocation of compromised devices, enhanced drive authentication, support for "advanced" operations such as "move", use of network connectivity to enable enhanced uses.
They said that they are considering solutions to prevent the recording of illegal camcorder material, which is ridiculous. This fantasy comes from watermark advocates, who have wildly exaggerated the benefits of watermarking, and the studios who wish that it could really work.
Chris Cockson of Warner Bros proposed the formation of a subgroup to work through the issue of remote access technology. This would allow people to get a movie from the cable system and play it back for the kids in the car. WB thinks that this capability will be very important to Consumers, and that they should make sure that it will be possible. He got a surprising amount of resistance. The clearest resistance was from Disney. They considered remote access to be a form of redistribution, which they want the right to prohibit.
A proposed charter will be put on the web for markup and review. If there is sufficient interest, a subgroup will be formed.
A startup company called Freedom Software gave a presentation called "Convergence Technology for Secure Digital Content Distribution and Consumption". It was one of the worst presentations I have ever seen. They were not prepared, they made wild claims with little justification. Basically, they keep content in databases instead of in file systems.
I later went up to their suite to see if they had anything more substantive. If they did, I couldn't find it.