At the dawn of the DVD era the movie studios and format developers made the mistake of touting the security of the format. This smug reactionary measure has been the folly of the content developers throughout technology’s history. Since the CSS copy protection was broken on DVD’s, and the subsequent release of ripped content over the internet, the movie studios have frantically tried to come up with a game plan. So, when HD-DVD and Blu-Ray DVD was announced they decided to use the same approach. The new HDCP hardware authorization, and AAS signal encryption, was lauded as the pinnacle of software security.

First to fall was HDCP. Early in 2006 Ed Felten, a Princeton mathematics professor, posted a look at the inherent flaws in the system. He explained how HDCP will be cracked. Less than one year later, HDCP has yet to be cracked. The AACS signal encryption, on the other hand, has been.

According to IGN, a hacker known as muslix64 posted on a forum site late last year that he had defeated AACS. Within the next week he posted up the source code for BackupHDDVD, which he developed. The program unlocks the AACS protection, but it does not allow an HD-DVD to be ripped. Later on, muslix64 revealed the potential to rip an HD-DVD using PowerDVD software, developed by Cyberlink.

So now the movie studios are once again caught with their pants down. Their misjudgment of the hacking community’s abilities is yet another chapter in this familiar story. AACS spokesman, Michael Ayers, acknowledged the attacks and the comparable situation faced by the music industry back in the early days of Napster. ”We want to make sure we address this now. It has a potentially limited impact now but some sobering possibilities,” Ayers stated.

The penultimate moment came not long ago when a 20GB, 1080p rip of Serenity appeared online. With this, the hackers have thoroughly defeated current AACS protections. There are systems in place to further safeguard the source data. By using Cyberlink’s program along with BackupHDDVD the content of the film and the key used to communicate between the disc and player can be extracted. The AACS forum (the governing body in charge of the encryption system) has the ability to revoke keys from players. This may solve the problem temporarily, but the feverish pace at which hackers work will most likely prove this plodding method to be mediocre.

Why would anyone hack HD-DVD? Cynics and critics claim that people who do this are pirates and wish to make money off of other people’s work. This is often not the case. Muslix64 does not sell his utility; he makes no money off of this program. Like many hackers, he wanted to take the challenge laid down so vociferously by movie studios. There is no moral obligation one way or the other regarding the development of such a tool. The freedom to enjoy your media as you see fit is important to many people, muslix64 and others afford the public that independence.

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