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  • The biggest criminals wear suits!
    By Nicky Page

    Disclaimer: The information written in this article is my personal opinion. To the best of my knowledge everything contained in it is true. If you believe otherwise I suggest you research it for yourself. I do not wish to malign anyone in particular. I do not hate the MPAA even though I believe their DVD content protection and region policies are not in the interest of the public. Nevertheless I reserve the right to free speech and to voice my opinion. Your reading of this article absolves me from any responsibility or grievances you may hold against me in regard to anything written herein. If you do not agree with this you may not read this article.

    "I do not regret posting DeCSS. It's very important that we stand up against these multibillion corporate interests who seek to dominate with their proprietary standards. It's in consumers interest to be able to make a free choice from whom or where to buy products." - Jon Lech Johansen

     

    Some of you will probably already know who I am. You may have seen my name mentioned in a computer magazine or perhaps you have visited the Digital Digest website and read some of my guides on DivX, Digital Video or DVD ripping. Some of you may consider me a hacker or even a pirate! In truth I am neither of these things. But the reason I have chosen to write this article is in the hope that it will open the eyes of the public to the truth concerning the DVD and piracy issues now being disputed.

     

    CSS Encryption

    Most of you know that DVD's have been encrypted so that it becomes necessary for us to decrepit them if we intend on converting them to DivX or any other video format on our computer systems. This encryption system is called CSS and the teenager quoted above is Jon Johansen. He was arrested because of posting the code for a program called DeCSS which was designed for decrypting a DVD. He did this in order to help design a DVD player for Linux. After putting the code on line 2600 magazine (so called for the frequency tone used to make free long distance phone calls) is still fighting for the right to publish this code.

    But what you probably didn't know is that in spite of what the MPAA* claim, DVD encryption was not designed to prevent piracy! This myth was merely a smokescreen designed to hide the truth. What they have been doing with DVD's is actually illegal!

    * The MPAA or Motion Picture Association of America is an organisation that includes Sony, Universal, MGM and Warner Bros.

    Most people don't seem to understand that a DVD can be copied with all the encryption still on it. Its analogous to a secret code written on a piece of paper, you do not need to understand the code in order to copy it. Any photocopying machine would do the job. In actual fact we already have our own computerised photocopying machine, its called Windows! All you need is a DVD player such as PowerDVD to copy the contents. Start your movie playing, then go to your DVD drive (using Windows Explorer) and copy the DVDs contents across! All the contents are still encrypted of course. But anyone with a DVD writer should be able to burn them onto another disc. But before you panic thinking I've let the cat out of the bag, you should know that this is very common knowledge - it's not a secret.

    In their own defence the MPAA have their own little propaganda page (http://mpaa.org/). It tells people their reasons for creating CSS and why they are trying to stop people from decrypting it. But what it doesn't tell you is why they really created CSS. When Jon Lech Johansen was found with the decryption code on his computer claimed he was trying to develop a DVD player for Linux. As many of you know Linux is the major contender for Windows, where reliable operating systems are concerned. The beauty of Linux is not only that is it more powerful and bug free than Windows, but it is also completely free software! Microsoft have been so frightened by it that they have been trying to figure out ways to turn people off of it, which resulted in the so called "Halloween Documents" that accidentally slipped out. They detailed how they intend to malign Open Source software such as Linux. Microsoft admitted these document were genuine but said they were they were taken out of context. The only real failings of Linux so far are that, since Windows was the Monopoly, it is not a very well supported Operating System because it has very little software developed for it.

    At the time Jon Lech Johansen made DeCSS there was no DVD player planned for Linux by any company. Jon knew that given the choice people would choose Windows instead of Linux if it were the only operating system with a DVD player. Those who know the history of Linux also know that it was built with the help of the Internet community, all devices built from it were usually done in this manner, by exchanging information (such as DeCSS) for free.

    Decrypting the DVD code to make a DVD player comes under the legal aspect of "reverse engineering". According to the 1998 US Digital Millennium Copyright Act section 1201(f) 'reverse engineering of a copy-protection encryption system is legal for reasons of "interoperability" between computer systems.' Which means Jon didn't need authorisation to try and figure out how DVD's were encrypted. Technically he had the right under both American and Norwegian law. Nevertheless they arrested poor ol' Jon over it.

    The MPAA propaganda page claims that "the De-CSS utility was written for Windows-based software, not Linux". They are trying to cause doubt by implying Jon was lying about his Linux claims and was in fact just a wannabe DVD pirate. Jon explained long ago why he did this, he says: "Linux did not have UDF support [the filesystem used on DVDs]. It was thus natural to implement it under Windows in order to test if it actually worked. Yes, I've used Windows, nobody's perfect".

    This is obvious to any programmer. If you are going to reverse engineer a DVD you need to be able to read it to see if it works! And since the Linux OS cannot read a DVD to decrypt it, it was not possible to even start development. Since there was no Linux DVD players, he was forced to reverse engineer a Windows DVD player, hence a Windows DeCSS. The MPAA now claim that a fully licensed Linux DVD player exists as another argument. In truth none exist! I know of one big DVD company that has claimed to be developing it, and I'm sure they will. Other companies apparently claim to be doing so too and perhaps one has appeared but I can't find one. But that's besides the point, when DeCSS was made none were announced anywhere!

     

    Why do DVDs use Encryption?

    There are two main reasons why DVD's were encrypted and both are designed to get more money. The CSS encryption system uses region codes, these are:

    • Zone 1: United States, Canada
    • Zone 2: Europe, UK, Japan, South Africa, Middle East, Greenland
    • Zone 3: Hong Kong, East & Southeast Asia
    • Zone 4: Australia, Pacific Islands, New Zealand, South America, Caribbean
    • Zone 5: Russia, Indian Subcontinent, North Korea, Africa, Mongolia
    • Zone 6: China

    These zones prevent anyone from importing DVD's from other countries. Unless the DVD CSS region code is set for that country the DVD will not play! Since the MPAA usually control the release of movies so that they are released half a year later to the rest of Europe than they are in the USA, they are able to control the prices people pay for their movies.

    Believe it or not we are actually being charged much more than a DVD costs after normal video profit margins. If we don't count studio mastering, the actual manufacture per unit price of a DVD's is about one fifth that of a VHS tape! But I have no right to complain the quality may be twice as good as VHS.

    The problem is encryption allows them to introduce a method of sale known as 'price discrimination'. Price discrimination is considered illegal according to U.S. and international law! As a result poorer countries (such as India) are only charged a fraction of the price the rest of Europe. Unless a CSS encryption system was incorporated into DVDs it would be possible for someone in Europe to import a load of Indian DVDs and not need to pay the extra money! But if the movie industry can convince the world that CSS is only to stop PC pirates then this offers a grey area that prevent anyone from noticing it! This whole marketing scam alone is destined to give rise to DVD piracy. People buy pirate movies for two main reasons.

    1. They want to watch or have copies of movies from the cinema before anybody else. It's more of an ego thing - to be the first!

    DVD encryption will never prevent this kind of piracy since DVDs appear in the shops after the Cinema has long stopped showing the movie. There is then no need to be the first. Most cinema-pirated movies are done with camcorders. If the person liked their pirated camcorder movie they will almost always buy the DVD when it comes out because of the extra quality, nice packaging and cut scene extras.

    2. The second reason people will buy a pirate movies is because of the cost of the real release. If the pirate movie is quite good and the real release is expensive they may opt for the illegal one.

    Usually this will only happen if they were not really intending on ever buying the legal shop release. The movie industry moans about piracy as though it's making them really poor. But in fact they know darn well that sales have increased over the years. If someone really likes a movie they will save up for a commercial boxed copy. If they are not too bothered they may pay for a cheap pirated movie just to see if it's any good. Very often someone will watch a cheap pirate movie to see if it is any good and end up buying it on that basis. Since they would have never done this unless they watched the pirated movie it has increased sales of that movie.

    So what am I saying, that Piracy is okay? Of course not! It's illegal to sell pirated movies and it certainly should be illegal. But I am saying it is a very small problem. At the moment it's far too costly for anyone to pirate DVDs. The DVD-R technology needed is so new that it cost more than a commercial movie to copy one! This will not always be the case, but if DVD's were reasonably priced then people would be much more inclined to buy a high quality commercial copy rather than a cheesy quality bootlegged one.

     

    The Plot Thickens

    But price fixing is only part of the reason DVD encryption was used. The next major reason concerned the licensing of DVD players. Remember that Jon Johansen was arrested when he tried to make a Linux DVD player. If DeCSS got loose who knows how many rogue DVD players could have been produced without the say so of the MPAA. Since the DVD consortium did not hold all the patients over Mpeg-2 or Video CD technology it was impossible to stop any manufacturer from making a DVD player. Nowadays anybody can make a VHS video player and it looked like the same would apply to DVD. If the MPAA couldn't control who made DVD players then they also couldn't keep the region zone scheme going. So they invented another little trick, the licensing scheme. They invented a standard for DVDs and patented it. If anyone in the world wanted to make a DVD player they needed to pay them for the privilege. With a licence agreement they could then demand you keep to their region codes. In fact they can demand anything they like, which is why, for example, DVD players cannot fast-forward past their adverts.

    This problem is a serious one. Two years after the first release of the DVD format the Chinese government reject DVD and created their own standard of MiniDVD called SVCD (Super Video CD). Why would they spend so much money on a new video format? Because they didn't like how DVD's were controlled. China didn't want foreign countries demanding so much for a technology that was little more than a CD upgrade. It was insulting to them because China had been leading the way in Video CD's long before DVDs had even existed!

    DVD licences are expensive! For the Linux community to create a DVD player like they had created Linux would probably have proved impossible. A licensee must pay a security payment of between $750,000 and $1 million, which would be forfeit if the license was ever breached. Additionally, it is said that the DVD CAA (a supposed non-profit industry association) would also require a 6% royalty fee on all sales!

    The MPAA have also refused certain people the right make DVD players because they were too small companies. This gives the MPAA far too much control over the market. If, for example, they liked Microsoft, they could just deny a Linux DVD player licence. As a result this would give Microsoft a distinct advantage. Their blatant insistence on control of who can and cant make DVDs is another thing that should be illegal under the Sherman antitrust act. As far back as 1948 the US Supreme Court outlawed this practice (United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc, 334 U.S. 131).

    Make no mistake the creators of DVDs are not worried about common home piracy. No doubt their marketing experts can see it poses no real threat. They are merely trying to tighten their monopoly over the world and make as much money as they possibly can. It's no wonder they say that the 'biggest criminals wear suits!'

     

    The DMCA & WIPO

    The movie industry's seems to pale in comparison to how basic human rights have been trampled on in order for publishers to make more money! It may start with the arrest of an innocent teenager for having DeCSS but it certainly doesn't end there. There are huge problems with current copyright and patent laws that are making publishers rich at the expense of the common person. In America the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was passed by Congress on October 12, 1998, and signed into law two weeks later by President Clinton. The DMCA is designed to implement World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaties signed in December 1996 in Geneva.

    Unfortunately these laws are being used by publishers to try and enforce just about anything you could imagine. Publishers want total and complete control over absolutely anything related to their published works. For example, Warner Brothers who make loads of kids movies and cartoons threatened a 15-year-old fan of Harry Potter with legal action over her website. It contained no illegal content or copyrighted material that they were concerned about. They claimed the website was "likely to cause consumer confusion or dilution of intellectual property rights". They were trying to use the World Intellectual Property Organization act of 1998 to steal her domain name. Neither was it a common domain name it was: http://harrypotterguide.co.uk. They said people might be confused by it even though she had a link to the official website on the homepage! I'm not kidding! By twisting recent copyright laws this type of crap is going on all the time! It is not just Warner but I must say I've heard more stories like this concerning Time-Warner than anyone else! They have a "we are your god" kind of attitude - it's totally disgusting!

    As you can imagine the DMCA is one of the laws that the MPAA are quoting to stop people from decrypting a DVD too. By their standards using the contents of the DVD for anything but playing in a fully licence DVD player is the same as piracy. DeCSS was a special case because a DVD player was reverse engineered to find out the decryption codes. The MPAA claimed this is stealing their codes! But stolen codes were never really a big issue with DVDs. A DVD decrypter program existed long before DeCSS was made. It used a converted DVD player to feed the contents of a DVD one frame at a time to a computers hard disk. This allowed you to convert the video contents to just about any other video format you wanted. It didn't compromise any codes because they were not needed. Nevertheless, the DVD encryption codes are amazingly simple to break. One tool called VobDec is able to break any DVD in seconds by firing random numbers at it until the code is broken! This method doesn't use any stolen codes and many consider this a completely legal way of accessing the DVD contents.

     

    Exercising our Fair Use Rights

    No matter how well they encrypt something we will always find a way to get to the contents. So the real issue is: 'do we have the right to use the contents of a DVD or for our own non-commercial reasons?' Let's use their beloved DMCA against them. It states at section 1201b2:

    "No person shall manufacture, import, offer to the public, provide, or otherwise traffic in any technology, product, service, device, component, or part thereof, that is primarily designed or produced for the purpose of circumventing protection afforded by a technological measure that effectively protects a right of a copyright owner under this title"

    Then it says:

    ''(c) OTHER RIGHTS, ETC., NOT AFFECTED.-(1) Nothing in this section shall affect rights, remedies, limitations, or defenses to copyright infringement, including fair use, under this title".

    "Nothing in this section shall enlarge or diminish any rights of free speech or the press for activities using consumer electronics, telecommunications, or computing products".

    Did you see it? In bold (theirs not mine) it clearly states that other rights are not affected including "Fair Use"! So what is Fair Use? The U.S. Copyright Statute says:

    "107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use

    Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A[exclusive copyrights], the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include--

    (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
    (2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
    (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
    (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

    The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors".

    When videotapes were first introduced the movie industry were in a panic fearing that they would loose money since no one would go to the Cinema to watch a movie. As it turned out instead of loosing money they actually made many millions of dollars more by releasing movies on videotape after they had already made millions at the box offices!

    In 1984 Universal and Disney sued Sony for selling Betamax video recorders. They claimed that non-commercial copying of movies was the same as the "theft of a necklace". The US Supreme Court reasoned that stealing a necklace stops the owner from wearing the necklace, but videotape "does not even remotely entail comparable consequences for the copyright owner." They decided that "Fair Use" of video recording should be permitted for non-commercial purposes and even "commercially significant noninfringing uses"

    Fair Use is a copyright law that applies to just about any published work, be it a book or a digitally encoded and encrypted movie. According to 'Fair Use' anyone can, for example, quote lines from a book in a review without fear of incurring copyright liability. A soap opera fan can tape an over the air TV shows during the day to watch later that night. Under the Betamax decision even a scrambled cable broadcast can be recorded provided the decoder used to watch them is legal.

     

    Encryption the loophole in the Law!

    Ever since VHS video recorders became commonplace some publishers have wanted to stop us from exercising Fair Use rights. A method was developed of encoding extra information into a video recording that would degrade any copies made from it. For this to work copy restriction circuitry was added to a video that affected its automatic gain control (AGC). The most common system used was called Macrovision and is used extensively in Disney movies. When a Macrovision movie is copied the picture will jump from dark to light once every second spoiling it! The DMCA say that all video players (including DVD) should have an appropriate AGC protection scheme.

    As soon as all the video companies started putting in AGC restriction, a whole host of people started selling bypass modules that could get around it. Many of these companies were taken to court and banned from making them. This was the first attack in fair use rights. Some still exist of course but they are always on shaky ground legally speaking. It is quite easy for people with basic electronics skills to make their own Macrovision bypass circuit. An Internet search will bring up diagrams for this purpose.

    Notice how the loophole crept in. Since they are making any kind of encryption illegal to bypass, they are also making using the content impossible too. You may think, 'so what if they restrict it, what other reasons except piracy could bypassing it be used for'. This is just narrow mindedness. There are many reasons you could want to make copies. One example from personal experience was when I started creating music videos based on clips from Star Trek episodes for a friend (yes, I'm a Star Trek fan). That's just one artistic use of the Fair Use laws. Other uses may be as simple as making a back up copy so the kids can watch it without the risk of damaging it in the video player. Or it could be as complex as making a composite video of parts of movies for a media study class. Perhaps you want to create your own music video tape with your favourite songs on it. There is no end to the legitimate uses that are stopped because of content encryption such as Macrovision and CSS. Putting in such protection is like saying that they believe you are a thief and do not deserve to be treated as an honest human.

    There is another growing trend with content or hardware providers that provide audio or video solutions! They keep inventing devices that degrade the quality if you attempt to copy any part of it. Fair Use requires that we are able to make use of the content in its original form. There would be an uproar if Fair Use laws were changed so that you could only used copyrighted text provided that some of the words had letters missing! But this kind of degradation is being accepted with everything else.

    Fair Use doesn't state that we should only be allowed to make inferior quality copies of the material. The MPAA add Macrovision protection (which was designed for VHS) to make it impossible to even record sections of a DVD to low quality VHS!

    It is certain that if the MPAA win, all fair use rights will be banished at least when it concerns DVDs. Because although you have a right under American law to use the contents, there is this weird loophole called "copy protection" stopping you! As long as they do not give you the rights to decrypt or bypass it you cannot exercise your rights to the content. Neither are just fair use rights blocked, it breaks the basic idea of copyright! The reason for the copyright law was and I quote:

    "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts...by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

    This right only lasted 14 years originally since they considered the public more important than commerce. If after 14 years the author wanted for some reason to renew it they could for another 14 years. Then there was no more right to keep copyright for themselves. People could use the published work and resell it if they wished. However, DVD encryption has no expiry date. Even if it was 100 years old and the move was rare and hard to get, decryption (at least in the MPAA's eyes) is still not permitted. What a loophole!

    Reasonable fair use and copyright laws make it possible for both libraries and schools to exist. You can go to any library and get free almost any book. You can also get video and audiotapes free in libraries. Libraries offer photocopying facilities so you can make copies. Audio stores offer blank takes so you can copy music. CD companies produce CD writers and software designed solely for copying digitally perfect music. TV give movies free and video recorders let you record them. The movie industry doesn't complain about them like they do DVD decryption. As we get into the new century there will no doubt be many more restrictions placed upon digital content. Make no mistake these new laws will not be written 'by the people for the people'. They will be written by the publishers for the publishers - money always wins! Copyright laws are getting to the point where they no longer "promote the progress of science". It's more like they 'promote the progress of commercialism'.

    Money is far more important than the public interest now. Multimillion dollar organisations get away with almost anything these days because they have the money to do it. Small business would be put in jail for the kind of stuff they get away with.

     

    Money the root of all Evil!?

    So the MPAA are doing a dirty on the public. So what am I going to do about it? What are you going to do about it?! The best we can hope is that enough of you find these issues important enough to email your local newspaper about it! But to be honest I do not believe much can be done about it! Why? Because nothing can be done about any multi-billion dollar industry, short of a revolution!

    Okay, I know, by now you are probably thinking the ol' geezers lost it, and perhaps you're right. But I'm gonna share with you my little pet hate, and perhaps it will open your eyes a little better to how the world really works or just confirm your theory that I am mentally unstable. I must apologise in advance for using this article to express my own political opinions but it's my article and perhaps it's my only opportunity to speak out what's on my mind.

    You see the problem with almost every big organization or indeed anyone with a lot of money is the power the have as a direct result of that money. For example, if the same evidence was set against any other human that was set against OJ Simpson, they would have been convicted of murder? I don't know if OJ did it but I am absolutely sure his money saved him. I think any financially challenged person would be on death row by now.

    The same goes for just about anything else you can think of, its all money driven! Behind any war in the third world you can almost guarantee there will be a world power behind it. The UN and NATO's so called piece keeping forces are not exempt from this! NATO is little more than America's secret army. For example, what did the United Nations official in Mogadishu say as the US marines came ashore to on 8 December 1992? I quote: "The operation stinks of arrogance. All this bullsh*t about 80 per cent of food being looted and all that - it's all very stage-managed by the United States....This whole operation is a test case for future conflict resolution. It's as if the US had a new vaccine they wanted to test. Now they have found an animal to test it on."

    Everyone knows about the attack on Iraq! If Iraq had had nuclear weapons like Russia they would never have attacked them. The only reason the UN attacked Iraq was to secure and control the oil produced there. The UN ignores countries more desperate who actually ask for help! The UN's sanctions and economic isolation of Iraq brought about 1.5 million deaths by lack of food, medical supplies and clean water! Why? I'm sorry to say it boils down to Money!* The peace keeping forces that have entered Bosnia and Kosovo and Iraq have all been on the same mission, to secure the UN oil interests. The world's richest countries are basically ganging up on the poorer ones in order to steal oil (oil=money). Yep, very little has changed, war is still motivated solely by greed and has nothing to do with peace keeping. In this case the UN are shooting to control the key oil production around the Caspian Sea from Bosnia to Turkey and beyond - money rules again!

    *Note: I've used these well known event to illustrate my point. But I think it's important when speaking about Wars to separate the actual individual soldiers from the causes they fight for. Soldiers should certainly be honoured, since they are trying to protect the citizens of their country. However, I think they should feel angry and insulted that they could be asked to fight for money! What high morals, American children who are not old enough to vote or drink alcohol are considered old enough to die in order to make their country economically richer.

    I'm not isolating NATO or America in particular. I don't dislike American citizens or indeed any other nation; in fact I like them very much. But it's a strange system of democracy that asks everyone to vote when in fact all the voting is fixed anyway. Citizens are asked to vote on everything from banning abortions to coca cola, but they are given no choice when it comes to war campaigns.

    But I'm not just talking about wars. Money is the new law in regards to every large organization you can think. Today the agricultural industry practice destroying crops just to keep prices high. Yet in a world were we burn food millions still starve because of food shortage. So we must ask ourselves a scary question. If they invented a machine that could make infinite fresh food and clean water from nothing, would they let anyone use it?

    Just as the video industry have been able to scam us because of their great riches, so too have the music industry. Or did you think the music charts were not fixed? Yes of course they are fixed. There are only around seven record companies that can get you into the charts. The charts themselves are little more than an exclusive advertisement board for these record companies. It's a business like any other; money needs to be paid for advertisements and airtime. Rather than risk money loss most of these companies have resorted to creating their own shake-n-bake boy and girl bands. This is another complex subject to explain and each and every one of these points I have made above requires entire articles to explain them in a convincing way. I do not have the time or really feel the need to explain them since it's not too hard to research. If you are a musician then studying this may help you learn to work the system better. In that light I have provided a few links at the end of this article in regards to everything mentioned in this article.

    As for the Internet, digital video and so on, the future is scary. There is a growing problem with all kinds of content protection for reasons that would take too long to explain here. It's nothing to do with piracy and everything to do with cornering the new markets that are opening. The Internet is changing fast, the big bucks are in who controls the streaming media. The difference between TV and Internet will soon grey and the internet/cable TV and all that will be all part of the same thing. The arguments for and against copyrights are merely used to make laws and patents that give those with the money the legal facade needed to corner their little markets at the expense of everyone else.

    As you can see, I'm not really the young upstart hacker type that I appear to be. I am strongly concerned with world affairs but since my hobby is digital video my focus has been directed towards the issues involved in DVD ripping and Internet video. I consider myself more of an idealist. But I guess I'm also a defeatist, because even though I probably could do a lot more to make things like this better known I don't honestly think it will help at all!

    As promised here are some related links you may wish to check out for now:


    Duplication of links or content is strictly prohibited. (C) NICKY PAGE 2000