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DVD ripping to be rendered impossible?

DVD Copy Control Association ponders further restrictions

The next step in data security

Buying a DVD and then copying it for use on your PSP, iPod or laptop could soon become impossible, if the DVD Copy Control Association gets its way.

The association wants to amend the licence underpinning the use of its DVD copy-protection technology, CSS (Content Scrambling System). This would, if successful, oblige you to have the original disc in your DVD drive every time you watched it.

The proposed amendment states: "DVD products, alone or in combination with other DVD products, shall not be designed to descramble scrambled CSS data when the DVD disc containing such CSS data and associated CSS keys is not physically present in the DVD player or DVD drive (as applicable), and a DVD product shall not be designed to make or direct the making of a persistent copy of CSS data that has been descrambled from such DVD disc by such DVD product."

The amendment would force, say, DVD playback software from displaying ripped content. It would also imply the use of software built into PCs and optical drives to prevent ripping software from saving an unscrambled copy of a disc's contents for later playback on a device without a DVD drive, such as a PSP or an iPod.

However, the move is already prompting industry opposition. Michael Malcolm, CEO of Kaleidescape, a company that manufactures video servers to copy DVDs legally for use in multi-room display systems, has already written an open letter to the US Senate, claiming such a move could destroy businesses like his.

Kaleidescape could be forced to offer multiple-drive devices to take the original discs DVD owners may want to play in different rooms. That's unlikely to be as cheap as budget DVD player for each room, and a long way from the simplicity of Kaleidescape's current network-attached movie-streaming server products - all of which were found, in March this year, not to infringe the existing CSS licensing terms.

But it's the hackers that will have the final say, we suspect. Ripping regulations may get tougher and the hardware used to combat ripped discs may advance, but ways around the technology will still be found. Clever coders have already created a way of accessing crucial HD DVD encryption keys, allowing them to bypass the format's Advanced Access Content System (AACS).

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