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Alternative Video Copy Protection Proposal

843 Views 27 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  trbarry
Inspired largely by discussions on this board and AVS Forum, I have come up with an alternative idea for copy protection of HD video that still respects consumers' rights. I would be interested to hear thoughts on this,

especially drawbacks or why this system would be better or worse than the contemplated restrictive system, or feasibility. I will modify it accordingly, with the eventual goal being drafting this proposal, starting a petition for it or something similar, and sending it to all members of Congress and industry leaders.


1) Allow first generation consumer copying for time shifting

2) Prevent copying of first generation copies

3) Prevent all copy protected content from being digitally copied

4) Continue indefinitely to provide analog HD component output for legacy HD monitors


1) Encode a “copy protect signal†in actual television picture that is invisible to naked eye, but which will be translated properly from digital to analog by the STB

2) Allow STB to output full resolution HD analog component video in 1080i or 720p

3) Equip HD-VTRs with ability to recognize “copy protect signal†in the television picture

4) When video containing “copy protect signal†is recorded to HD-VTR, record with “first generation copy flag,†distinct from the “copy protect signal†but of the same nature, indicating that the recording is a copy of protected content

5) Prevent HD-VTRs from recording content flagged with the “first generation copy flag†to prevent further copies of first generation copy

6) Prevent all future HD computer video capture devices from capturing HD video containing the copy protect signal OR the first generation copy flag.

7) Allow “trusted†HD digital video recorders, such as TiVO, to digitally record content flagged with the “copy protect signal†but to output that content, in HD analog component video in 1080i or 720p, WITH the “first generation copy flag†so that it cannot be captured by HD computer capture cards or HD-VTRs.

8) Require HD-DVD players to output analog component video in 1080i or 720p with “first generation copy flag†to prevent capture from HD computer capture cards or HD-VTRs.

9) Continue to allow unlimited copying of NTSC 480i signal from composite outputs by VCRs or computer video capture devices


1) Consumers can still make first generation copies of television shows using HD-VTRs which will become less expensive as they become widely accepted

2) Would be pirates cannot make multiple HD copies of television programs without having a HD-VTR for every copy desired – copying off of the initial copy will be impossible.

3) Would be Internet pirates will be completely unable to capture HD video that is copy protected

4) All existing HD monitors with analog component inputs will be usable for HDTV and for HD-VCRs without the need for downconversion.


1) Requires compliance by every manufacturer. Solution: Legislative mandate, similar to Audio Home Recording Act’s mandate of similar system for Digital Audio Tapes

2) Requires uniform agreement of “copy protect signal†and “first generation copy flag.†Solution: FCC mandate

3) Opens door for “cracking†or electronically eliminating “copy protect signal†or “first generation copy flag†by illegally modifying equipment or manufacturing illegal devices. Solution: This would still be a problem even with digital copy protection. DMCA already prohibits trafficking in any such device. Such devices could not become widespread.
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There are only minor differences between what you have proposed and a subset of what is already in the process of being built. Proving that great minds think alike, right? ;)

Some things you may not know: #1 in your solution is the "consensus watermark." Two methods are being considered. Soon, one will be adopted and then they'll seek Macrovision-like legislation to guarantee that analog video recorders or anything capable of doing A/D on hi-def video will respect the CCI (copy control information) in the watermark (your #3, #5 and #6). Analog HD outputs are permitted as long as they carry the CCI in the watermark (your #2). The encoding is similar to what you describe, but they call the flags "copy never" (your #8), "copy once" (your "copy protect signal") and "copy no more" (your “first generation copy flag†- your #4). Digital and analog I/O are treated similarly and use the same CCI - there's no need for different rules in each domain (your #7). Your #9 is also supported, and then some (though "copy never" video is given the Macrovision treatment on 480i outputs).

As to your "Drawbacks," thanks to the DMCA, encryption and licensing, there is no further need for legislative action to ensure compliance by all manufacturers. The standards are already set and there is wide industry acceptance.

Digital is key. If you don't support digital, you can't do any recording. The technology to do real time compression of a hi-def video signal is ultra-expensive. That's why all hi-def recording is likely to be digital compressed video in/out.
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Thanks for the reply. Wow, this is the first I've heard of that. So does this mean that as long as the STB can output the "consensus watermark" that our existing analog component HD monitors will still be usable to watch the 1080i video?

Also, what will happen with existing STBs? Will they replace them, force a trade in, or some kind of software upgrade, or what?

Yes, you heard me correctly. Not many people here seem to believe me when I say this, but that's probably because not many of them have studied all the industry documents I have. Clearly, watermarking was in the original plan and provisions for it are in all the copy protection system licensing agreements. I've recently learned that the industry working groups are evaluating two different watermarking technologies.

I'm also curious about what will happen with existing STBs. OTA STBs will continue to work as they do. My guess is that satellite and cable STBs will eventually be broken, forcing a change-out. They have the luxury of deciding exactly when to do this. There's no hurry as long as there are no commercial grade analog-in HD-VTRs. So, they can probably get most people changed out before throwing the switch.

There will also be an analog output problem with equipment that is released before the consensus watermark is adopted. When the switch is flipped, these devices will output constrained images on their analog outs for protected material. The same boxes will work fine if you have a digital display. This seems like a manageable problem, if not ideal.
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So you think that OTA broadcasts will never be protected? If you ask me they shouldn't be - they all have network logos, commercials, etc. By the time a movie goes on network TV, it's long past its point of profitability. Same with TV shows - there's no market for pirated TV shows.

As for satellite or cable receivers, as long as they replace them for free, I have no problem. My biggest issue is with forced obsolesence - if they force existing equipment that I purchase to fail to function the way it's supposed to, that's when I have a BIG problem. Beyond that, I respect that there should be some limited controls on copying.

I'm very glad to hear this - as I said it's the first I've heard. Is any if the info you're citing on the Internet? I'd like to read it myself and direct other people to it.

Thanks alot.

It's all out there on the internet. Some search keywords to use: HDCP HDMI DTCP 5C PHILA DFAST CPTWG BPWG

OTA will not be encrypted. The industry BPWG (Broadcast Protection Working Group) is announcing a plan on May 17th. It is controversial. Some CE companies are opposed to the plan and the whole process that was used to generate the plan. It's not a consensus decision, which hopefully means it is doomed. Basically, they leave analog STB output alone but, for digital, they require all the copy protection systems I've described. Even though they allow recording, removable media must store the data in encrypted format, etc. etc. All of this just to keep people from re-broadcasting the content on the internet (presumedly stripping the commercials or replacing them with other commercials). I really don't understand why they need all this. If they cleverly change the way advertising is delivered, so that it can't easily be separated from the content, they should be able to ride unrestricted re-distribution all the way to the bank.
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Not to mention, how many people have the online storage space to store these things, let alone the bandwidth for people to download them!? As it is, even with DeCSS widespread, you don't see too many DVDs on the Internet, and even when you do they're in DivX format. Well, DivXing an HDTV program is not going be any better than DivXing 480i. It's so ridiculous.
Take no prisoners. As inferred elsewhere, this is an industry conspiracy to establish an unbreakable control over what we watch and do. Consumer A/D conversion for internet distribution is an imaginary evil they are falsely using to advance their agenda. They must not use our government to treat us as criminals. Protection of digital PVR's is a minor issue compared to what they are proposing. BTW, how many of you have ever seen an illegal digital HD copy of anything? Unequivocally oppose HDCP.
1) any water mark that is not removable will be visable. If it is not visible, some nonvisable distortion could be added to remove it.

2) any copyprotection scheme will quite often prevent you from viewing things you have every right to view when the devices don't interoperate properly.

3) every copyprotection scheme I've seen assumes everything is intended to be copy protected. There is never a provision for consumers to create their own content, or distribute it. It seems to be designed to prevent the creation and distrobution of GNU liscensed content.

4) copy protection makes hardware more expesive and less usefull even if one has no intention of pirating content. It assumes we are guilty & punishes us with no possibility of our proving our inocence.

The way I'd like to see this handled is to have a copyright notice embeded in the digital data INCLUDING information on how to leagally purchase a copy of the content, and any rights the copyright owner is willing to forgo (eg "you are allowed to copy & distribute this as long as it is not modified" etc.). A large part of the copying going on is due to it being difficult to find leagal copies. (ever try to find & buy a CD published only in another country? it's not easy). Encripted content should be banned except for pay per view (eg pay channel sattilite & cable).
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"1) any water mark that is not removable will be visable. If it is not visible, some nonvisable distortion could be added to remove it. "

I truly doubt this is true. Do you have video engineering expertise to back this statement up?

And even if it IS visible, it could be small, unobtrusive, and transparent, on the bottom corner of the screen next to the network logo.

As for the rest of your points, they are not toally invalid, but the problem that I see is that the companies think we have a right to do nothing except what they want us to do, and people here tend to think we have a right to do everything. Well, neither is true. Despite popular belief to the contrary, fair use rights are limited, especially when we're talking about total copies of the the highest possible quality content. We have no legal leg to stand on here.

With a plan like the one I described, or the one Bob says they're implementing, we do have a leg to stand on. Those are reasonable demands that conform with the Supreme Court's decision in Sony v. Universal, the VCR timeshifting case that said we have a right to timeshift television. But some people here want to go WAY WAY further than the Sony case. That's not going to happen. We need to compromise, not "take no prisoners." The only place that approach will get us is having no right to copy anything ever.
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Cambridge Bob has raised some alarming questions. On a personal note, will owners of digital receivers built into their HDTVs (RCA 38310 and others), also, be forced to junk/replace their hardware to receive premium HDTV programming once HDMI is implmented?
The only answer to this madness is a video viewer's bill of rights.
The only alternative recently suggested that pleases me is the one from Mark Cuban.

We don't need any more stinking copy protection schemes. The whole concept of copy protection is a waste of time and money.
If the intent is to prevent digital piracy, keep the video analog. There are alternatives, e.g: for HD DVD's and VTR's, they can put the protection onto the media - i.e. the disk or tape are watermarked, only those will play, and blanks are not made available to the public so they can't be duped on a computer. Or make them read only - limit time shifting to non-removable media PVR's. Keep the outputs analog. This would prevent casual digital piracy. Nothing will prevent professional piracy.

Since industry wants to go with digital outputs, we have to oppose HDCP. If we are successful, they will drop digital outputs. HDCP will give absolute control on what you see. I wouldn't be surprised to hear from the networks that they can't afford upgrading their local stations unless they charge for the HDTV signal. HDCP will let them do that. It will certainly allow the studios to charge as much as they can get away with. Why should they charge the same for a HD copy as a DVD when the HD owner has a level of disposable income that allows him to spend 10 times the norm on the display device.

They have put us in a win-lose situation, and I don't think they should the ones to win. Totally oppose.
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Cam Bob, Ok I could live with what you said. But as far as the STB's, how about the same deal as the TV industry got. Give us some 6 years to comply, 85% satuaraton level with new STB's, and then we can apply for an extension, if we cant afford to buy the equipment. Then we will turn over our boxes to them, and they can auction them off! Fair enough?
6) Prevent all future HD computer video capture devices from capturing HD video containing the copy protect signal OR the first generation copy flag.
In the end result the success of Hollywood in keeping control of consumers is going to depend upon keeping prime media off all general purpose home computers.

And that is not going to happen. All they can do is stall.

- Tom

Another way of looking at it is this. There are eight beef quality grades. In order of highest to lowest quality, they are:

U.S. Prime

U.S. Choice

U.S. Select

U.S. Standard

U.S. Commercial

U.S. Utility

U.S. Cutter

U.S. Canner

If general purpose home computers do not provide any external control to limit duplication and networking, they will be prevented from receiving prime media. The best they can expect is "commercial."
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Originally posted by Cambridge Bob
The technology to do real time compression of a hi-def video signal is ultra-expensive. That's why all hi-def recording is likely to be digital compressed video in/out.
SD real time MPEG2 encoders went from $10k to

The main point of what I said was that digital I/O is essential for recording HD for now, if not forever. You're correct about prices of real-time MPEG2 encoders coming down, of course. But there has to be a large demand for the technology to force the prices downward. Consumer HD video recorders? Maybe someday. For the forseeable future at least, compressed-digital-I/O-only storage units will be much cheaper than units that have to compress coming in and de-compress going out. They will always be better, too.
What about analog tape? Seems to me existing video tape would only have to be more dense/wide/whatever to store an analog HD signal.
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