Friends of Fair Use, rejoice: it appears that the encryption on high-def movies, Blu-Ray and HD-DVD has been broken.

Consumer content encryption is a fool’s game
This looks like a war the movie industry can’t win. Why?

  • Sell the consumer the encrypted content
  • Sell the consumer the de-encryption device, i.e. a content player
  • With access to the input, the output and the decryption device, it is only a matter of time before the encryption algorithm is broken.

This is analogous to the Allied breaking of the German military codes during WWII. When the Poles reverse-engineered the military Enigma, it was only a matter of time before a smart mathematician figured out how to recover the frequently changed encryption keys. The British, at Bletchley Park, turned this process into a computer-assisted industrial system for large-scale key recovery and decryption, but the essential math has been known for many decades.

The HD case is much simpler. With millions – eventually – of HD DVD players out there, the movie industry has no way of changing the encryption keys. Ergo, they have no hope of keeping the encryption system secure.

The StorageMojo take
I love movies. I have a collection of over 600 DVDs. I’ve bought a dozen DVDs in the last week alone and I’ve never bought a bootleg DVD. With the average HD movie file size 3000x that of the average MP3, it isn’t terribly likely I would any time soon, even if I could.

The movie industry’s challenge is to create content so compelling and priced so reasonably that the huge majority of the audience has no interest in pirate copies. Yes, there will always be revenue lost to pirates. The cure: give people a good product, reasonably priced and convenient. That, not encryption, is the long term solution.

Alert reader Wes Felter sent in this great link to an article describing the HD-DVD AACS systems. Well worth a scan! Naturally, I commented on the article in the comments section. Thanks, Wes!

Comments welcome, as always.