Cyberpunk Review » AACS Copy Protection: Years to Make, Weeks to Brake

February 15, 2007

AACS Copy Protection: Years to Make, Weeks to Brake

Hackers Screencap


An article on Boing-Boing detailed the plight of the Blu-Ray and HD DVD copy-protection crowd: after spending years creating an unbreakable code, a mere few weeks later, it is already OBE:


Arnezami, a hacker on the Doom9 forum, has published a crack for extracting the “processing key” from a high-def DVD player. This key can be used to gain access to every single Blu-Ray and HD-DVD disc.

Previously, another Doom9 user called Muslix64 had broken both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD by extracting the “volume keys” for each disc, a cumbersome process. This break builds on Muslix64’s work but extends it — now you can break all AACS-locked discs.

AACS took years to develop, and it has been broken in weeks. The developers spent billions, the hackers spent pennies.


Poor studio houses. Yeah, it sucks that all those evil law breakers have stolen your profits. And no, it just doesn’t look like your latest annoying copy-protection scheme is gonna work. Not only do we have to deal with the asinine sticky tape on the outside of the package, to get HD quality, we’re also forced to use a shoddy input standard (HDMI) which degrades its signal after 30 feet (component video/digital audio doesn’t have this problem) - worse, we put up with this so that your lagging business model can be saved by AACS Copy Protection (BTW - we won’t be buying ANY HD products until you pick a single format, Mkay?). After inflicting this approach on us, and after millions spent in developing this technology, arnezami describes how easy this was to crack in saying:


Hope you enjoyed the ride. I’m thinking about a concept of proof proggy which does all the steps (from Processing Key to C-value to Media Key to Volume ID to VUK). It would require a Volume ID as input (which might be retrieved/guessed in another program or extension whatever). But the most important part is done: we have a Processing Key.

I’m also thinking about doing a full explanation of the AACS protection system (or at least the subset-difference technique). But only if there is any demand for it .



PS. For the keen observer: I’m not telling which player I used (well you can guess but you might guess wrong) to retrieve the Processing Key because I don’t want to give the AACS LA any extra legal ammunition against any player company. Nothing was hacked, cracked or even reverse engineered btw: I only had to watch the “show” in my own memory. No debugger was used, no binaries changed.


The dynamics of the old market just don’t work that well any more. Blaming the hackers and immoral customers isn’t going to make it better, nor are the copy protection schemes. Steve Jobs, in describing the dynamics behind iTunes’ copy protection explains the problem perfectly - Universal, Sony BMG, Warner and EMI are demanding it, even though it’s nonsensical. And while its clear that copywright holders need to get paid for their work, as Boing Boing States:


There is no future in which bits will get harder to copy. Instead of spending billions on technologies that attack paying customers, the studios should be confronting that reality and figuring out how to make a living in a world where copying will get easier and easier. They’re like blacksmiths meeting to figure out how to protect the horseshoe racket by sabotaging railroads.


Now I’m generally an honest dude. I own over 900 DVDs and paid for them all (other than those given to me by directors to review - any more of those, send’em my way!). However, I do draw the line on the ridiculous region code crap. When a movie like Natural City gets released overseas years before coming to the US, I’ll be damned if I’m gonna wait to pay top dollar here. And if I can get an import of an anime like Serial Experiments Lain on Ebay for 10 bucks for all 13 episodes or buy them 4 episodes at a time for 20 bucks, guess where I’m goin? While I don’t have an innovative answer for how the future market could work, I’m guessin the studio houses and distributors rarely get their head out of the sand to even think about it.


X-Files Kill Switch Screencap


Note to the Studio Houses and Distributors: The market is global. Other countries sell products too. There are even movies produced overseas that some of us want to see here in the US the same day those in Europe and Asia watch them.” If you don’t give us a way to do that legally, we’ll find other options. If you want to slow the downloading issue, one obvious answer is to go for global releases. When Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society is released in Japan, it should be released in the US as well. And perhaps there might be a backlash when you screw the US citizens by charging higher prices here than other countries pay - just a thought.


Serial Experiments Lain Screencap


Note to Illegal Downloaders: Just a note to those of you engaging in illegal downloads - not all copyright holders are equal. You wanna stick it to Sony by downloading and then posting their entire catalog online? Fine - go ahead. Chances are they won’t be going bankrupt any time soon. But what about the Indie movie makers and underground music labels? You really think these guys are loaded? They ARE the little guys - there is no mega-corp backing them up. Most are living hand-to-mouth, and are working for the love of their craft. They aren’t planning to use your money to purchase a second Maserati; they’ll be using it to buy dinner and pay the rent. They WILL be going out of business if you illegally download the products of their labor. And then where will we be? I’ll tell you where - you’ll be stuck with bloated studio house monstrosities like I, Robot and The Island, while movies like Fragile Machine and One Point O start to disappear. Your choice…



February 15, 2007

Illusive Mind said:

Nicely put.

Com Wedge said:

Here here, buy dinner and pay rent! - That’s me!

Hollywood crap however DL as much as you want - Hehehehehe.


InnateMalk said:

Great post. I’m on the moral-yet-illegal side of downloading, doesn’t really make sense unless you do the same but it works for me.
When a movie/anime/whatever is released I usually get a fansubbed or illegitimate copy, then if it is any good I’ll go straight out and buy it.

I think that is what a lot of people do, only pay for what is worth paying for. And considering some of the material out there it isn’t surprising. That is why there are demos for games, so people can test drive their purchases, you can’t do that with movies, trailers don’t count.

Personally I hate people who just download and that’s it, I went to school with someone who downloaded over 300+ anime and it makes me sick to think that the people who made them won’t get what they deserve for their work. Even people who copy rented DVDs are more honourable than that, at least then the anime companies get royalties per-rental.

But in the case of people cracking codes; it’s going to happen one way or another. We have been living in the Neuromancer world for decades, people want to break the ice, not just for personal gain but because they can.
A bungee jumper doesn’t jump to get paid, but to prove they can, to beat the black ice of physics and become more than who they are.

When the button says “do not open” who here has the self-control not to have a peek inside?

SFAM said:

Hi InnateMalk, I’m sure everyone has their own strategy for when illegal downloads are acceptable, and their own justifications for why its OK. I’m really not about challenging that. My only point with illegal downloading regarded the indie film makers (such as Com Wedge above), and really the indie record labels as well - they really aren’t going to make it using the broken business model that’s in existence today. And unfortunately, they have no leverage to make innovative change - that’s up to the mega-corps.

So whatever strategy taken in making the decision whether to pay for something, I’m just offering the thought that perhaps you (meaning everyone) should consider the distinction between the large money pits and the small time crews just struggling to make a decent product.

Very articulate. Interestingly you seem to be advocating a common sense approach to buying and stealing which I’ve recently tried to articulate to people who I know in the film and music industries. But one wonders whether anything can really function in our society based on common sense.

It’s surprising to me exactly how slow things are developing with this copyright issue. And this is in the profit sector. Imagine how slow things are proceeding in the government sector!

As a fine artist I’ve also noted that no one seems very concerned with stealing single images much. There are watermarks but frankly these are rare and usually not very effective at blocking image usage. Artists have long realized that blocking this is almost counter productive. Admittedly, owning an original painting… has a value different from owning a CD. Bands like Tool however have realized that they should make their purchases more than just assembled songs… but entire packages which are harder to reproduce. I’ve never understood why bands don’t release CDs as entire media packages with videos and interviews and such. Sure the content could all be assembled seperately… but it’d be easier to buy the package all nice and shiny. Incentive to buy.

February 16, 2007

Mr. Roboto said:

The way I see it, putting DRM on anything is like wearing a t-shirt with a bullseye on the back; You just make a target out of it. If someone wants something that much, or finds the restrictions to… restrictive, they’ll find a way to break it.

They say Vista has some kind of DRM-style protection on it…

InnateMalk said:

You have a great point Neurotica Divine. One of my favorite bands, Angelspit, who are some of the most cyberpunkish people on the planet, make buying their CDs more than just an aural experiance. Their CD booklets are full of amazing glossy photos of staged scenes and that makes getting hold of their music even more worthwhile.

But then they are also smart enough to have free copies of a lot of their songs up on their site and not just samples, which shows that some bands do have common sense.

Mad Martha said:

Just my own person view here :

Boiling it down to it’s bare roots , I think it really comes down to PRICE - for whatever the product is.

Yes, there will always be pirating of some form - but if a product is reasonably priced *most* people would not mind paying to own a “properly done original” rather than a copy.

..and there in lies the problem.

The point I just made is that the big companies (who are SOLELY driven by PROFIT , every QUARTER !) have to take a drop in profit margins in order to seriously combat piracy , and NO Sony (et al.) accountant is going to back that line of thinking. (but will quite happily waste millions giving funds to developing a protection system that gets broken in weeks…go figure…).

It’s the continuing “short term” thinking from the “Big Fish” that has made piracy what it is today - that is : Rife and bordering on “Socially Acceptable” (rightly or wrongly the pirates have a “Robin Hood” appeal) - although the various exec’s out there profile us “public” as sheep/cattle (and at times we *do* act like them) they seem to over look that an increasing number of said public are realising they are getting charged too much for a product.

Here in my native UK this fact has recently been highlighted even further :

A discount store over here is now selling set top DVD PLAYERS for £10 - while a DISK to play in it will cost you £12~14 - even us cattle can see there’s something wrong with that !


SFAM said:

Hi Neurotica Devine, regarding whether anything can really function based on common sense, I’m not sure what else the alternative would be at this point. Until the market dynamics change, the best we can do is make sure people have a sense of the dynamics so they can make informed choices. If the majority still want to download everything for free, regardless of the implications to the little guys, the consequences are pretty clear. Hopefully, they are OK with it, ’cause it would suck if someone was doing this without realizing the implications.

Regarding the band idea - I agree - this sounds terrific. Stop selling the CD - start selling a package - only some of which are digital.

And I must say, I love it when you post ’cause it gives me an opportunity to browse your most awesome images on your website. I checked out that brief video clip you made as well - is there anywhere we can get ahold of this?

SFAM said:

Incidentally, there’s also a nice little conversation going on about this at the LiveJournal Cyberpunk Collective.

Com Wedge said:

Lets face it, hacking and dowloading are key characters of Cyber Punk. I like the theory of downloading and buying but its fatal floor is that it relies on the taste of the individual. So you could probably label that as Circumstancial CyberPunk Acceptance :P

I downloaded all the Firefly episodes years ago to see what it was about - becasue they didn’t show the series in Australia.

Next thing I know the Director is in Sydney and inviting some 2000 fans down to the pub for a drink. About 200 people show and Joss goes around to every table chatting to everyone.

My friend interviewed Joss Wedon and went to the pub and told me the story showing me the pictures. I went out for the next year searching for a copy of the series on DVD and fianlly found a copy and bought it.

Saw the movie Serenity, loved it, bought it when it came out on DVD.

Now I have all sorts of copies of films with trailers still being shown on apple trailers. Some of which I will buy when it comes to DVD.

Untill the industry openly ecourages and embraces downloading as a form of “try before you buy” then they will continue to loose money. In a way, from my perspective, independant films gain more of an audience through peer to peer than the normal distribution channels. So in part we are thankful.


InnateMalk said:

Circumstancial Cyberpunk Acceptance? I love that idea. Com Wedge, you sound like you have some strong views and ideas and I would love to hear some of them.

I’m trying to write a Cyberpunk book based in Melbourne and need some imput from Aussie Cyberpunks.

Same goes to everyone reading, I need concepts and ideas. The only way to write realistic material is to get opinions.

Com Wedge said:

You write the book I’ll do the Movie. We can call you Cyberpunctual for your quick reply :P

InnateMalk said:

Deal. We need to start looking for girls to play lead roles.
Is Milla available? I think she would appreciate being put in a decent cyberpunk film for once(I didn’t say anything about Ultraviolet, I just thought it)

Blaze one said:

Well said!!

SFAM… your brief mention about my videos… obtaining them (sorry, I realize this is not really on the DRM discussion!) …from the bands sites, of course! The Birthday Massacre has a DVD for sale and the full video Blue is on youtube as well. So are the Android Lust videos and on the band site.

Also: InnateMalk… ironically I’m talking to Angelspit about doing a video! Small worlds.

Com Wedge said:

I don’t know Milla personally but I have her on my myspace -

Though the only thing she has ever done that was of interest to me was The Fifth Element - She is not a leading actress not by a long shot. She would probably be better suited to French movies as her English acting sux. Oops did I say that out loud?


February 17, 2007

InnateMalk said:

She didn’t do too badly in Resident Evil (the original), but I agree with the Fifth Element comment, it is a good test of a person’s acting skill to pull of a main character role and only saying 3 sentences.

SFAM said:

Oh she’s not that bad. Mila may not be winning academy awards any time soon, but I must say I enjoy seeing her in hawt chick kicking butt movies. Even cheesy bad ones become watchable for me with her in it. As for Fifth Element, this is one of the movies I’ve seen more than 20 times. I just love it!

Mad Martha said:

Back to the whole AACS thing…

I just love these guys , they are always SO on the ball ;)


Mad Martha said:

Back to the whole AACS thing..

I just love these guys , they are always SO on the ball :)


SFAM said:

Wow, no kidding. These guys ARE on the ball. From solution to product in a month!

~All Related Entries Related This~


All News as Cyberpunk

<<--Back to top

Made with WordPress and the Semiologic CMS | Design by Mesoconcepts