Digital Anti-piracy Agreement by Sony, Intel, Toshiba
Technical details of the encryption scheme were not released, but company representatives said its effects will be transparent to both computers and consumer electronics. The process will scramble digital signals, and only devices with the proper decoding software will be able to use them. For example, encrypted HDTV signals will be dedicated to authorized HDTV receivers.
No "clean digital output" will be available for recording directly onto computer hard-disk drives or recordable DVD-ROMs, a predictable development likely to anger many among the "friction-free economy" fringe who believe that intellectual property is an antiquated concept. Various news reports on the agreement have implied that some system for enabling authorized (i.e., paid-up) consumers to make copies for their own use will be developed later.
The rapidly approaching possibility of instant entertainment downloads has spooked many in the entertainment industry. Digitally recorded media have the potential of being reproduced ad infinitum with no loss of quality. A recording transmitted over the Internet could be intercepted, copied, and resold---or given away---thousands or millions of times, causing huge financial losses for its owner. The threat of widescale piracy has made "the industry," as it is known in Los Angeles, extremely reluctant to embrace new forms of digital technology. DVD, the film medium, has had a slow roll-out, and DVD-Audio is still in limbo.
Integrated-circuit maker Intel, whose chips are found in more than 85% of the computers currently in use, has worked long and hard behind the scenes to get consumer electronics manufacturers, cable operators, online service providers, and software companies to agree to some basic digital security for copyrighted properties. Intel's diplomacy has apparently paid off: Warner Brothers executive vice president Chris Cookson recently told a press conference, "We welcome the progress the computer and consumer electronics industries have made in bringing this proposal . . . and look forward to its rapid review."
David Stebbings, senior V.P. of technology for the Recording Industry Association of America, echoes Cookson's sentiments. "The recording industry looks forward to evaluting the proposed solution and working to achieve the robust digital security that we need . . . We are pleased that this joint proposal brings us one step closer to realizing that goal."
Jonathan Taplin, co-chairman of Intertainer, a digital programming service, predicts that digital video on demand could be available to consumers as early as mid-year. "This is really going to help the video field," he says. Soon, ordering and receiving movies could be faster than ordering in from your neighborhood Chinese restaurant.