The folks at c’t magazine have discovered a simple tool for beating the content protection on Blu-ray and HD-DVD formats: the print screen button. By pressing the print screen button once per frame, you can capture an entire movie at full resolution. Of course, you’d want to automate this task, but c’t has shown that it can be done. They’re promising more details in the forthcoming print version of their magazine.
The few machines on which they’ve confirmed the hack have been running Intervideo’s WinDVD, though it’s likely that this hack isn’t specific to WinDVD. C’t also reports that Toshiba now has updates planned to disable the screen capture function while the software is running, and they may also update the AACS key in order to force users to either patch their software or be unable to decode the content.
I think it’s ultimately pointless for Toshiba to even bother to plug this particular hole. I mean, from a legal standpoint they’re clearly obligated to address the matter, because if a rightsholder lets stuff like this slide it will come back to bite them in court. But from the perspective of combatting so-called “piracy,” Joe User is not going to rip a DVD this way, because even if the process is automated it’s still going to be labor- and time-intensive to get a full movie using this method. The vast majority of unauthorized viewers of movie content prefer to grab a full DVD rip off P2P rather than do the relatively painless work of ripping DVDs themselves. The new HD content will still be available from unauthorized sources like P2P networks and bootleg dealers, one way or the other, because there’s just too much money in black market movie sales.
I read someone somewhere commenting on the US-Mexico border fence that was being debated a while back, and this person said, “a 10 foot wall will just create a market for 12 foot ladders.” This is a pretty good way of phrasing the point that many problems that we might try to solve with technology are really economic problems. People don’t use P2P because they’re immoral, or uneducated about intellectual property rights, or because they just enjoy wading through a sea of bad rips, trojans, and disguised advertisements for porn; they use P2P because content is either too expensive, or because it comes burdened with so much onerous and restrictive DRM “protection” that they can’t enjoy it the way they want.