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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Windows Vista vs the Video Pirates

Hollywood, Microsoft align on new Windows
Published: August 30, 2005, 4:00 AM PDT
By John Borland

The next version of the Windows [Vista] operating system [set to be released in 2006]... has unprecedented features for guarding against video piracy, as Microsoft seeks to assure Hollywood studios that their content will have extremely strong protection.
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For the first time, the Windows operating system will wall off some audio and video processes almost completely from users and outside programmers, in hopes of making them harder for hackers to reach. The company is establishing digital security checks that could even shut off a computer's connections to some monitors or televisions if antipiracy procedures that stop high-quality video copying aren't in place.
~~
"This is definitely being driven by Microsoft's desire to position Windows as a home entertainment hub," said Matt Rosoff, an analyst with research firm Directions on Microsoft. "They're walking a line, trying to please both sides (content companies and consumers) at the same time."

These changes are worrisome to some computer programmers and digital activist groups. They fear that increasingly high security levels will block off avenues of programming innovation, or even stop computer owners from accessing portions of their own machines--a little like walling off a room inside a private house.


FAQ: Vista's strong, new antipiracy protections
Published: August 30, 2005, 4:00 AM PDT
By John Borland

[The] type of antipiracy technology often called "link protection" is a critical part of Vista. This tries to keep audio or video from being copied while it is sent from one device to another, or between different components inside a computer.
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How does this work?
One of the biggest changes in Vista is a technology called "Protected Video Path." This will essentially keep video streams encrypted and inaccessible as video is being sent from a DVD (or other copy-protected source) to the monitor, TV or other display.... If it finds that there is a device that doesn't respect DRM [digital rights management] rules, or if it finds a plug that doesn't support transmission of those copy-protection rules, it might not let the video be sent through that output at all.
~~
The company has released information about this system to the computer manufacturers in hopes that the secure connections will be standard on monitors and TVs by the time Vista is released.


As long as most users are unaffected in their media-watching experience as Microsoft hopes, this technology could be helpful from a content producer's perspective. Protecting copyrighted material is obviously an admirable goal. On the other hand, the fact that elements of the system are totally off-limits could hinder hobbyist programmers' efforts; the impact of disallowing their access to certain media functions is not to be underestimated. They are a major force in computing today, collaborating to create powerful works such as Mozilla Firefox, a frontrunner in internet browsers.

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