Lost in Antipiracy Translation

A number of high-powered tech companies have banded together to create a “common antipiracy language.”

Ignoring the reality that if you can hear it, you can copy it, members of the Coral Consortium want to come up with a set of technology specifications “that will let different kinds of copy protection be translated into other varieties,” CNET News has reported.

Supported by HP, Matsushita Electric, Philips, Samsung, Sony, Twentieth Century Fox and DRM firm InterTrust Technologies, the consortium will try to do what no one has even come close to doing before.

And it all boils down to control.

Control Issues

Consumers who have shelled out for corporate product want to be able to play it anywhere, on anything, without hindrance. But the various heavies want punters to buy their stuff over everyone else’s.

“Content owners, including record labels and movie studios, have been pushing hard behind the scenes for interoperability,” says CNET. “They like the idea of industry-wide standards such as the DVD or CD, which allow one product to be played on hardware produced by any manufacturer.”

That might be better phrased as, “hardware produced by any approved manufacturer.”

As the Internet gains users, the world shrinks and so does the ability of the international corporate community to maintain control over markets and product.

A common DRM standard should fix that, the corporate interests hope and pray.

From Hackers to P2P

It might work among the (for the moment) majority of people in the world who’ve never heard of the Net and who still go to stores for their music and movies. But the balance is changing as more and more people get ISP accounts — and discover that the online world is a very different place from the offline one.

A few years back, P2P wasn’t the problem. Hackers were. They were into everything, changing index pages on government Web sites, doing weird stuff with telephone systems. And they still are, although no one talks much about it any more.

Were these people a bunch of evil-minded fiends bent on wreaking havoc and sowing destruction?

Nope. They were youngsters, for the most part, consumed with curiosity. Hacking was and is largely about peering into the abyss — and hoping it won’t peer back at you.

Bragging Rights

DRM, too, represents a kind of challenge, albeit nowhere near as interesting or complex or exciting as phreaking, say.

“The point … is to spread the word of their exploits and earn praise from the rest of the groups, which is the main reward for 99 percent of the people involved,” wrote Jon Healey of the Los Angeles Times in his story “Secret Movie Moguls,” in which he discusses a 17-year-old high-school student who’s “trying to make a name for himself as a film distributor.”

The student and his colleagues were members of MysticVCD — “one of dozens of ‘ripping’ or ‘release’ groups that obtain, prepare, package and feed movies, songs and games into a secretive and complex distribution scheme that functions a bit like the illegal drug trade — minus the bloodletting…. Instead of cash, the online underground is powered by bartering — admission to these elite circles is granted only to those with something valuable to offer, such as computer parts or a pre-release copy of a DVD,” said Healey.

Their discoveries don’t stay secret for very long.

Floundering Corporations

Then you have a coterie of individuals — many of them extremely clever and very technically minded — who believe they’ve been ripped off by the labels and studios and aren’t going to put up with it any more.

While all this goes on, the multinationals are floundering, trying to use technologies such as DRM to regain control and dominance.

Enter Coral. But while it gets ready to do its thing, the Moving Pictures Experts Group has been working since last summer to find an interoperability standard, and “neither group includes Apple or Microsoft, the two most prominent makers of copy-protection technology for consumers,” CNET points out.

None of this bodes well for “interoperability.”

Jon Newton, a TechNewsWorld columnist, founded and runs, a daily peer-to-peer and digital media news site focused on issues surrounding file-sharing, the entertainment industry and distributed computing. p2pnet is based in Canada where sharing music online is legal.

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