Thursday, July 5, 2007

Entertainment industry, copy protection and DMESE

Back in January of this year I made a post of an idea for copy protection on one of my other blogs, and as time goes by I like it more.

Simply enough I figured that when you make a copy, say of a DVD--wait, let's shift to CD's now because the music industry's flagging sales of CD's are in the news--so you make a copy of a CD, then if it's a music CD you bought from a store with some artist, like say, Celine Dion, then your copy is automatically encrypted by your own pc's CD player as it makes the copy. That copy is its own, like its baby, so it can read it with no problem, but no one else can, without a key, which you can pass by a flash drive.

May sound silly, why should your computer's CD drive encrypt your copy?

Simple, so no one else can easily use the copy while you can use it without hassle or even caring that it is encrypted. Flash drives can fit into USB ports, and that part of the idea is so that you can play the CD on some other device you own, but yes, it also means that if you must you could give the copy to someone else, but they have to have the flash drive with the decrypting code as well and the copy has identifying information about you.

That means the point of this idea is that you the end user are unlikely to be able to take your CD player apart, pull the chips that encrypt it and solder in new chips re-programmed to give you unencrypted copies so that you can widely distribute to your friends and family.

I christened the idea Digital Media Equipment Self-Encryption or DMESE for short.

It has been on a blog of mine since January of this year.

For the sake of argument let's attack the idea with some questions:

1. Why can't anyone just figure out a way to get around this like they seem to do with every other copy protection idea?

Ans: Sure, experienced hackers with electrical engineering degrees might be able to re-program their digital equipment like take apart their CD drive or their DVD drive, but can you if you're not one? And will you go find that local guy to do it for you so that you can make illegal copies to give to lots of your friends, or will you just settle for legal copies that you can still give to your friends anyway if you really want?

2. Doesn't copy protection just suck anyway? Why have any?

Ans: Because illegal copying cuts into profits for people who control the production and distribution of entertainment media and while the system may suck in many ways, it is the system we have, so why not get a solution that helps everyone? This idea lets you make copies, say, of Transformers when it comes out on DVD without worrying about some studio hating your guts, as they can figure, sure maybe you'll give a copy to your daughter, your Dad, or your Mom, but you will not supply the entire neighborhood, and all your co-workers, and total strangers who you meet on the street, etc. with copies of their movie.

3. Sounds great, can I expect to copy my movies and DVD's legally by Christmas?

Ans: Probably not. I call myself one of the most successful failures in human history because I have quite a few spectacular ideas--mostly ignored by the mainstream--where I am in this arena where money matters (I hope) because my other big ideas are mostly in mathematics. Being an idea person I know how hard it can be to get institutions to look for ideas from unexpected sources, so despite the millions in losses from the industry, I know that this idea can just sit, without anything being done.

4. Wait a minute, if it's such a great idea and you think you're so smart, why not patent it and get rich?

I tried to patent an idea once. After over $4,000 U.S. ( I got an attorney) and silly objections from a patent examiner, I gave up--no patent. I have no interest in repeating working at a broken system, and besides, this is more fun! I estimate this idea is worth possibly over $100 million U.S. over its patentable lifetime, and I'm giving it away! For free!!!

Who can do that? Who else? No one but me, and it's kind of a fun thing to contemplate as I am an idea person and ideas intrigue me.

Besides, it allows me to feel quite a bit smarter than an industry full of arrogant people and I get a kick out of the idea of, say, some music executive whining in some meeting about flagging sales around people who may know this idea, and quietly smile to themselves...

James Harris
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