One of the things Windows Vista will be bringing with it that I’m very concerned about is a DRM content protection system. Microsoft has really bent over backwards to try and please the Hollywood studios by implementing a very draconian DRM model that will have some pretty serious impacts on not only what high-def media you can play on your PC, but how well your system performs and who can develop hardware and software for your PC.
Security Researcher Peter Gutmann has written a very good article that’s been making the rounds for awhile now called A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection that’s worth reading if you want to be filled in on what Vista has in store:
Windows Vista includes an extensive reworking of core OS elements in order to provide content protection for so-called “premium content”, typically HD data from Blu-Ray and HD-DVD sources. Providing this protection incurs considerable costs in terms of system performance, system stability, technical support overhead, and hardware and software cost. These issues affect not only users of Vista but the entire PC industry, since the effects of the protection measures extend to cover all hardware and software that will ever come into contact with Vista, even if it’s not used directly with Vista (for example hardware in a Macintosh computer or on a Linux server). This document analyses the cost involved in Vista’s content protection, and the collateral damage that this incurs throughout the computer industry.
Executive Executive Summary
The Vista Content Protection specification could very well constitute the longest suicide note in history.
If you prefer to listen rather than read about this topic then you’ll be interested in a podcast by Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte over at Twit.TV in which Leo and Steve interview Peter Gutmann about his paper. Actually it’s a pretty good podcast so check it out even if you’ve read the paper.
The PC I built this past year will not be able to play high-def content under Windows Vista at full resolution because my card is not HDMI compliant nor is my monitor and it’s unlikely that I’ll bother upgrading either one of them anytime soon just to play high-def content. I’d love to be able to play high-def content on my PC, but I’m not that enamored with it that I’m willing to spend the extra money on the hardware it would take to be able to do so. The irony, of course, is that all this DRM is likely to actually increase the number of people who turn to pirated content in the long run. The simple fact is that high-def protection will be cracked—in fact some aspects such as HDMI already has been—so unprotected high-def content will invariably end up on the net. None of this is going to stop pirated high-def content and the people it’s most likely to hurt are the folks who actually try to play by the rules.
What’s particularly ironic about all of this is that in a recent interview Bill Gates pretty much said he doesn’t think much of DRM himself:
Gates didn’t get into what could replace DRM, but he did give some reasonably candid insights suggesting that he thinks DRM is as lame as the rest of us.
Gates said that no one is satisfied with the current state of DRM, which “causes too much pain for legitmate buyers” while trying to distinguish between legal and illegal uses. He says no one has done it right, yet. There are “huge problems” with DRM, he says, and “we need more flexible models, such as the ability to “buy an artist out for life” (not sure what he means). He also criticized DRM schemes that try to install intelligence in each copy so that it is device specific.
His short term advice: “People should just buy a cd and rip it. You are legal then.”
He ended by saying “DRM is not where it should be, but you won’t get me to say that there should be usage models and different payment models for usage. At the end of the day, incentive systems do make a difference, but we don’t have it right with incentives or interoperability.” – Source: TechCrunch
One is left to wonder why, if Gates thinks DRM in its current form sucks, Microsoft has been so gung-ho on implementing DRM in Windows Vista.