DRM licensing group presses on with plan to plug analog hole

June 12, 2009

The AACS Licensing Authority, which licenses the AACS content protection scheme (read "DRM") used in high-definition Blu-ray discs, has released the terms of its "AACS Final Adopter Agreement" online. Buried in its 188 pages of cryptic terms are details of what the AACSLA is calling the "analog sunset"—an eventual phasing out of analog output of AACS-protected content.

The goal of this phasing out is to plug the "analog hole," whereby digital content can be copied by redigitizing the analog output of a Blu-ray player, for instance. Digital signals transmitted over HDMI are already protected by the HDCP scheme, which provides encryption between players and HDTVs and monitors.

The terms of the agreement state that AACS licensees must limit analog output to interlaced SD resolution ("composite video, s-video, 480i component video and 576i video") for any device manufactured after December 31, 2010. Then, after December 31, 2013, no device that can decrypt AACS content can be made with any analog output whatsoever.

By 2014 the vast majority of TVs made are likely to be purely digital devices. But plenty of older, analog-only, perfectly functional HDTVs will still be around in a few years. And, as the EFF notes, discs can be encoded with an Image Constraint Token that can limit analog output despite a player being capable of higher resolution analog output.

Particularly puzzling is the fact that plugging the so-called "analog hole" won’t stop direct digital ripping, enabled by software such as AnyDVD HD. And even the MPAA itself recommends using a camcorder pointed at a TV as a way to make fair use copies, creating another analog hole.

All this time and effort to block means of casual copying, though, doesn’t really thwart commercial pirates, and serves mostly as an annoyance to paying customers. HDCP has already presented issues for users with newer Blu-ray players and older HDTVs, and for some users of newer Macs attempting to play iTunes content on non-HDCP-equipped monitors and projectors.

Further reading:

  • You can read all 188 exciting pages of the AACS Final Adopter Agreement via this handy PDF.

This post has been written by Chris Foresman on June 11, 2009 9:31 PM couresy of arstechnica.com.

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