The encryption method used to scramble DVDs to prevent piracy is ridiculously weak. Naturally, it has been cracked. 2600 magazine reported this and posted the cracking software. The DVD industry, which is rich as well as paranoid, has sent its lawyers after everyone who’s putting up the code, including 2600.
You can argue about whether the act of cracking the enryption scheme was legal or not. You can even argue about whether sites should be liable for posting the code, assuming it’s actually illegal.
But the industry has gone way over the line. According to a copy of the complaint, posted on a Web site protesting the industry’s moves, the lawsuit also attacks Web sites that merely put links to the code. This is an attack on the foundation of the World Wide Web, not to mention a broadside against free speech itself.
A court hearing will be held Wednesday morning in Santa Clara County, California. Several Web sites are calling for a protest. I don’t endorse piracy. I do endorse a protest of the DVD industry’s outrageous tactics.
To better understand the entertainment industry’s lunacy and arrogance in the DVD-encryption matter, read this solid analysis by cryptography expert Bruce Schneier. Bruce is founder and chief technical officer at Counterpane Internet Security Inc. You may also want to let the DVD Copy Control Association know how you feel. That’s the trade association responsible for this kill-the-messenger lawsuit. Here’s a link to the association’s “Contact Us” Web page.
Hard Disks and Home Audio
The blending of information technology and consumer electronics continues, anyway. The latest intriguing move is from a company called Request Multimedia, which just announced a deal with Quantum Corp. to create “the first component designed to store, organize and play up to 300 hours of CD-quality digital music.”
A Gift From Redmond
My colleague, Mike Langberg, got this piggy bank in the mail yesterday from Microsoft. It was part of a package that included Microsoft’s new tax-preparation software. As far as I can tell, it isn’t really made of silver, though. Not even Microsoft is that crass in the way it deals with journalists.
The accompanying software CD-ROM is interesting. It’s another copy of the tax software, and Microsoft invites the buyer to give it away to a friend. Looks like Intuit and its TurboTax product, which have a massive market share, are in you-know-who’s sights.
Given Intuit’s share — close to monopoly status by any measure — it’s good to see some competition here. If Microsoft manages to capture another market by giving away the product, however, it would bring to mind another little business tactic that got certain folks in trouble in federal court recently.
It’s not quite shades of Netscape, though. As far as I know, Microsoft hasn’t declared tax-preparation software to be an integral part of the operating system…
(Note: In the original version of this posting I mis-identified Intuit’s tax product — thanks to the alert reader who corrected me.)
My List of Not so Great Stuff
I’ve been compiling my 1999 “lowlights” in the technology world. They’re in my Tuesday column.