I attended the 90th meeting of the Copy Protection Technology Working Group at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel at LAX on July 13.
The amazing thing about this is that they intend to take HD-DVD to market this year in time for the holiday shopping season. That means that they should be building up inventories now. How can they still be making architectural decisions this close to launch?
There has been no action yet on Congressman Boucher's Digital Media Consumers Rights Act (HR 1201). This is a good bill for consumers. It is opposed by MPAA. There is the possibility of a deal: If MPAA will support this bill, then Boucher will support some form of Broadcast Flag Authorization.
The Public Domain Enhancement Act (HR 2408) will cause copyrights on abandoned works to expire after 50 years and revert to the Public Domain. The Studios are against this because in the past they have lost copyrights due to their own carelessness. They pushed for laws to make copyrights automatic. This bill is an attempt to find a more reasonable balance.
There was a lot of discussion on the Supreme Court's MGM v. Grokster decision. It was a narrow decision that left the Betamax decision intact, but that also weakened the defense of Grokster and Streamcast. The CPTWG lawyers agreed that there is a lot of vagueness in the decision. Such vagueness is always good for lawyers because the law is more difficult to interpret, resulting in more legal conflict.
There was a report on the Senate Commerce Committee hearings on July 12 on the subject of the DTV Transition. The Congress is again considering the matter of setting a hard date for the Analog Switchoff. Currently there appears to be agreement on either 2008-12-31 or 2009-01-01. Most consumers are still unaware of the issue. One Senator asked "Do consumers know what we're talking about here?" The same question could be asked about the Senators themselves. They seemed to be having a very difficult time understanding the complex issues. At stake are the estimated $4B to $28B in revenues from the auctioning of the reclaimed spectrum. Also at stake is an urgent need to allocate spectrum for Public Safety and Civil Defense uses.
Motorola testified that it can produce an ATSC STB that will cost $50 in 2009. They said that if all stations in a market are multicasting in SD, then consumers will have access to more free channels than they can get from Cable. (Motorola also builds cable systems.) There is a lot of confusion about who should pay for the STBs. Should they be free to everyone? Should they be free only to the poor? If so, who is poor? Should they be given to every home? Should they be given for every analog TV?
The interactions between broadcasting and cable are also very confusing, particularly with multicasting and must carry, and also with digital to analog conversion at the head end. The Senate is going to have a very difficult time with these issues.
There was a presentation by Zetus, a startup with a new kind of DRM system. It differed from existing systems in that there are no secrets in equipment, media, or tickets that are held by consumers. This eliminates a large class of attacks. The system is based on an ASIC core that could be built into DACs and other devices. Each device has a unique, non-secret identity. The ASIC core implements standard cryptographic algorithms. Media is encoded once for all players, so it works well for mass distribution. A ticket gives a player the right to play a specific program.
The security of the system depends on the claim that only a chip device would be fast enough to implement their system. The system needs international laws and inspections to prevent chip fabs from putting the ASIC core into unauthorized devices.
He gave no additional information on how the system works. The CPTWG people did not seem very interested in this.