Copyright

Every three years, the Copyright Office at the Library of Congress holds DMCA 1201 hearings to determine if exemptions should be made to the anti-circumvention provisions in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. In 2006, media and film professors successfully won an exemption from the DMCA to legally break DVD copy protection in order to use high-quality clips in the classroom. The 2009 hearings are in progress this week, and up for discussion is whether or not this same exemption should be granted to educators in all subjects, and if students should also be covered by the exemption.

Rrepresentatives of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) argue that there is no need to break DVD copy-protection, and went on to demonstrate at length that that for fair-use scenarios users should consider videotaping a TV screen to extract the video segments for use in the classroom. I’ll say that again, just in case you missed it…the MPAA suggests that videotaping a flatscreen television is an acceptable alternative for educators to capture and use video clips in the classroom.

Besides the sheer irony of this idea coming from an organization that has spent countless dollars and time trying to stop camcorder users in theaters, it shows just how out of touch they really are with reality. Do they really expect educators to go through the process of realtime analog workarounds for FAIR USE in today’s digital world? Unbelievable. An attendee to these hearings filmed and posted the MPAA’s video demonstration of their analog method of bypassing copy-protection. You can watch below. If you’re like me, you’ll be holding your jaw up off the floor.

MPAA shows how to videorecord a TV set from timothy vollmer on Vimeo.

To add to the irony of it all, I noticed that their demonstration appeared to be played from a computer using VLC, a media player software whose original featureset included the ability to DeCSS DVDs for playback over a network. Nice. Wendy Seltzer was also at the hearings and live-tweeted it as well as wrote a nice blog recap. You can read that here.

I say “NO” in this PVC blog post.

From the “if ya can’t beat ‘em, legislate ‘em department” comes this scary little bit of news on the MPAA’s latest petition to the FCC on the topic of Selectable Output Controls. In a nutshell, SOC is the ability for content owners to control not just WHAT you are able to watch, but HOW and on what devices you are able to watch it. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has the story.

You want to watch my new movie on that digital TV you bought a few years ago? No, sorry, I don’t like your TV (perhaps because I’m afraid of the analog component inputs it uses). You want to space-shift using your Slingbox (which lacks DRM-enabling controls on its outputs)? Oh, no, I don’t think that’s a good idea. You were hoping to TiVo that show that’s on this afternoon so that you can watch it when you get home from work? Hm, not unless you upgrade to a new TiVo, because I won’t allow the signal to make it to TiVos that don’t have digital outputs. You want to record that program so that you can make a fair use of an excerpt? Dear dear, we can’t have that.

Seems kind of crazy, no? That’s what the FCC thought, too, which was why the agency forbade use of SOC when it last addressed this issue, in 2003. The FCC concluded that multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs – companies like cable television providers) can’t “attach or embed data or information with commercial audiovisual content . . . so as to prevent its output through any analog or digital output authorized or permitted under license, law or regulation governing such covered product.”

It seems that the MPAA is now seeking a permanent waiver from the SOC ban. I’m a little unsure what consumers can do at this point to speak out against that petition, (if anything), but supporting the EFF would be a good first step.

For some related reading on home media and perhaps why the MPAA and others might not want too much control in consumers hands, check out this fine series of articles at The Collective Shelf. Part 1: Why we don’t care about Blu Ray, Part 2: Collectionism and the Digital Revolution, and Part 3: Why Are Digital Movie Downloads So Important?

Silicon Imaging SI 2K Digital Cinema Camera with P&S Technik Case DesignWhile much of the online community salivates over recent RED One announcements, Silicon Imaging’s proven SI-2K digital cinema camera has quietly gotten some very interesting upgrades. For starters, they have a film camera-style optical viewfinder option now, as well as an OLED EVF option (with secondary HDMI tap). There is a new MINI-Rig for handheld/shoulder mount use, and of course the beautiful (and upgradeable) enclosure designed by P+S Technik (shown here in our NAB Expo coverage).

Other new features include the option to frame-accurate synch multiple SI-2K cameras for multi-camera or stereo 3D applications. This feature would also be useful with multiple SI-2K MINI heads for Matrix-like effects and shots. There is also now the option to record CineForm RAW directly to QuickTime format as well as a few other handy user-configurable capabilities (like extended shutter durations).

The SI-2K currently lists for $28,500, the remote MINI head can be had for $17,500. You can obtain the optional new OLED viewfinder for $4000. This fall will see the release of the B4-mount optical viewfinder, with a PL-mount version coming early next year. You can find more info on the SI-2K at www.siliconimaging.com

A Lesson on Shooting Yourself in the Proverbial FootNBC announced the other day they they will be pulling their TV lineup from the iTunes catalog, citing Apple’s resistance to “better piracy controls” and the inability to bundle shows instead of the iTunes ala carte model. Scott Kirsner covered this over at CinemaTech. So NBC decides not to renew the contract in December, and Apple just upped the ante by dropping the shows now…

“Apple’s agreement with NBC ends in December. Since NBC would withdraw their shows in the middle of the television season, Apple has decided to not offer NBC TV shows for the upcoming television season beginning in September. NBC supplied iTunes with three of its 10 best selling TV shows last season, accounting for 30 percent of iTunes TV show sales.”

The best coverage by far I’ve read on this whole debacle is by Phill Ryu…in a article entitled “Welcome to Zuckerland” he picks apart NBC’s complaint with Apple, their ensuing followup damage control statements, and highlights “…the distinctive mix of paranoia, confusion and fear that is the mark of a corporation that doesn’t understand its customers, is backed into a corner, and is too chicken to fess up and apologize.” Foot, meet bullet. Bullet, meet foot.

Happy Fair Use Day!

Break out your DECSS t-shirt, July 11 is Fair Use Day! May I suggest celebrating your rights by making a personal backup copy of a DVD or two? This would also be a good time to snag a copy of Lawrence Lessig’s “Free Culture” and remind content creators of the Creative Commons licensing model. This short video explains it clearly and succinctly.

Spotted this one over at Ticklebooth. In a tongue-in-cheek nod to Disney’s oft-noted abuse of copyright terms, Professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University has created a instructional video on Fair Use. Funny, and informative. You can download the video in MP4 format from the Stanford page, or watch the Youtube version below.
Continue reading ‘A Fair(y) Use Tale – Copyright Primer from Disney Movies’

Revenge of the Nerds - AACS Encryption Scheme Owned yet againOn the tails of recent Advanced Access Content System volume key discovery efforts by the hacking community, the organization responsible for the AACS encryption on hi-def discs announced that next week new film releases and discs would feature a new (uncracked) volume key…which was then promptly cracked. This week. Before the revised keys have even hit shelves.

“AACS LA’s attempts to stifle dissemination of AACS keys and prevent hackers from compromising new keys are obviously meeting with extremely limited success. The hacker collective continues to adapt to AACS revisions and is demonstrating a capacity to assimilate new volume keys at a rate which truly reveals the futility of resistance. If keys can be compromised before HD DVDs bearing those keys are even released into the wild, one has to question the viability of the entire key revocation model (emphasis mine -MJ)

Why do I continue harping on this subject? To keep reminding FreshDV readers, many who are content producers and creators, that draconian DRM is not the answer. In this case it seems to be backfiring in a major way.

The guys behind movie fan site IESB recently snuck around the set of “Iron Man”, an upcoming film from Paramount starring Robert Downey Jr. They managed to get some video of the cybernetic Mark III suit used in the film, and posted the the video online (warning, take a dramamine first). Paramount lawyers didn’t even mess around with a takedown notice, but had the main site page taken offline immediately. (Strangely, the link to the video still works.) Anyway, just another indicator of how studios and content providers are becoming increasingly aware of the speed of information online.

We reported back in February on the latest HD-DVD and Blu-ray encryption cracking efforts by the Doom9 forum members. At that time a AACS encryption media key was discovered, a key that can be used by unapproved software to identify itself as a validly licensed player of HD-def discs. The argument is often presented that without such keys, users of linux and unsupported OS platforms have no options for playing the new AACS encrypted media. So there is a valid fair use argument, similar to the DeCSS issues of yesteryear. The AACS keys can of course also be used to decrypt discs and copy/redistribute them illegally. Personally, I believe fair use entitles you to a personal backup copy, but that’s another argument entirely…
Continue reading ‘AACS Issues HD-DVD Key Takedown Notices, Hilarity Ensues’

Two quickies from Scott Kirsner’s excellent Cinematech website…

*From the WSJ: ‘Hollywood Weighs Copyright Protections’:
“…Many movie executives agree that physical DVDs still need copy protection, but some are starting to discuss whether the heavy-duty digital rights management now on electronic copies is the right route.”

*Video Fingerprinting Overview: Who’s Doing What:
“The New York Times dubs it ‘content-recognition software’; others call it video fingerprinting. The idea is to create a kind of digital dragnet that would allow copyright owners to prevent snippets of their work from being uploaded to video-sharing sites, or circulated around the Net. Who’s developing this technology? Here’s my short list…”

Boing Boing is reporting that AACS processing keys in use by both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray video discs have been extracted by hackers, and a crack released by Doom9 forum member “Arnezami”. Both new High Definition disc formats were previously broken by hacker “Muslix64″when he/she found a way to extract the disc volume key. This new crack actually bypasses the volume key step and allows full access to the encrypted content through use of the processing keys, meaning in essence that ALL AACS “protected” discs are now vulnerable.
Continue reading ‘AACS Content Encryption for Blu-ray and HD-DVD fully hacked’

Steve Jobs on Music and DRM

Music wants to be free…and we all want a pony. Just a few days ago, Steve Jobs shared a few thoughts on music and DRM. His comments have fueled a maelstrom of responses from the likes of Mike Curtis, DVD Jon, John Gruber, and The Economist to name a few…it seems that everyone has a take on the issue. And some very insightful commentary at that. Read on for a few fresh links and commentary…
Continue reading ‘Steve Jobs on Music and DRM’