Electronic Design

An Example Of Broken Security

As DVD popularity grew in the 1990s, the Content Scramble System (CSS), a digital rights management scheme, was implemented within the DVD format for protecting DVD media content from piracy. The CSS system was designed to prevent the copying of material via encryption. DVD content, including extra features and menus, may be encrypted with CSS at the manufacturing plant when the disks are created. DVD players then decrypt the encryptionprotected content when the feature is viewed.

In 1999, a teenager named Jon Johansen and two other hackers cracked the CSS code and posted the decryption software, DeCSS, on the Internet for anyone to download. This made it possible for a large segment of the global public to make illegal copies of DVD movies, which could be viewed on either a PC or standard DVD player.

When the courts legally blocked the posting of the source code, the code was subsequently posted as “art” or “artistic expression” (for anyone with a compiler) to get around legal injunctions against distributing the program as illegal software (see the figure). This series of events evoked the wrath of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and resulted in legal actions against Johansen. The most serious damage to movie and media content creators occurred in countries where IP protections are weak, if non-existent.

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