Digital rights management - drm video

The DRM graveyard part 2: A brief history of digital rights management in video and TV

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A few months ago, we outlined a few of the major moments in the history of digital rights management (DRM) in the music industry. This time, we're talking about TV, video, and the events in the ongoing fight over copying. We're still calling it the "DRM graveyard"--but as you'll see, the failures that DRM has seen in the music world aren't quite yet as plentiful when it comes to video.

June 1934
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Communications Act of 1934, creating the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate broadcasting.

November 1975
Sony introduces the Betamax video recorder, which Sony founder Akio Morita describes as enabling consumers to "time-shift" their television watching.

November 1976
In what becomes known as "the Betamax case," Universal Studios and Walt Disney Productions file a lawsuit against Sony for copyright infringement by the Betamax device, seeking to prevent its sale. The court rules in favor of Sony, stating that private recordings are fair use. Annual sales of VCRs are around 30,000 for the year.

October 1981
The US Court of Appeals reverses the decision in the Betamax case. Annual sales of VCRs have reached 1.4 million (and shifted largely to VHS format over Betamax).

November 1981
The Home Recording Rights Coalition forms on October 22 (the day after the decision that makes selling the Betamax VCR illegal) to "preserve consumers’ rights to record and to share in the benefits of technological advances."

April 1982
Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) testifies to Congress that, "[Charles] Ferris, [lawyer for the Home Recording Rights Coalition], has said that the VCR . . . is the greatest friend that the American film producer ever had. I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone."


Macrovision forms. This company develops anti-recording technology for VHS (Betamax is unaffected by their technique).

January 1984
The Supreme Court rules in Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc. that recording TV shows to watch later does not constitute copyright infringement and that the makers of the recording devices--i.e., VCRs and Betamax--cannot be held liable for infringement.

The film The Cotton Club is the first video to be encoded with Macrovision protection.

August 1986
The motion picture industry pushes Congress to enact legislation to require anti-recording electronics in VCRs as a part of a larger anti-recording effort that is mostly related to DAT recording and devices.

May 1991
Senator Herbert Kohl (D-WI) and Representative Howard Berman (D-CA) introduce the eventually unsuccessful Motion Picture Anti-Piracy Act, which would amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to make it illegal to manufacture devices or do anything to "avoid, bypass, deactivate, or otherwise circumvent the process, treatment, mechanism, or system used by the owner of a copyright to prevent or inhibit recording."

September 1995
The National Information Infrastructure (NII) Copyright Protection Act of 1995 (H.R. 2441 and S. 1284) is introduced. It would make it illegal to import, make, or sell any device whose primary purpose is circumventing anti-copying measures and effectively reverse the Betamax case decision. It fails in October 1996.

Content Scramble System (CSS) is introduced with a 40-bit key size. It has long been used on most commercial DVDs, although newer DRM techniques are now often employed.

December 1996
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty is signed, creating additional copyright protections not covered previously due to technological advances. It becomes effective in March 2002.

Intel, IBM, Matsushita, and Toshiba join together as 4C and create Content Protection for Recordable Media (CPRM).

January 1999
ReplayTV and TiVo unveil their digital video recorder (DVR) products at the Consumer Electronics Show.

October 1998
President Clinton signs into law the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), making DRM circumvention and circumvention tools illegal.

October 1999
Jon Lech Johansen ("DVD Jon") and two anonymous collaborators ("mdx" and "the nomad") reverse engineer CSS and create DeCSS, releasing it on the Linux Video (LiViD) mailing list.

December 1999
President Clinton signs into law HR 3456, the Digital Theft Deterrence and Copyright Damages Improvement Act of 1999. It increases the minumum statutory damanges for copyright infringements from $500 to $750 and the maximum from $20,000 to $30,000. For willfull infringement, the maximum increased from $100,000 to $150,000.

January 2000
One of the earliest lawsuits testing the DMCA is filed: Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Reimerdes. Universal, Paramount, MGM, Tristar, Columbia, Time Warner, Disney, and Twentieth Century Fox sought an injunction against the publishers of 2600: The Hacker Quarterly for distribution of DeCSS.

August 2000
Studios awarded an injunction in Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Reimerdes. The decision is affirmed by the US Court of Appeals in 2001.

October 2000
The DMCA's prohibition on circumventing access control becomes effective. The Library of Congress (with direction from Congress and the Register of Copyrights) in the first of its every-three-years rulemaking sessions, declares two classes of works exempt from this anti-circumvention provision. The two classes are "compilations consisting of lists of websites blocked by filtering software applications" and "literary works, including computer programs and databases, protected by access control mechanisms that fail to permit access because of malfunction, damage, or obsoleteness."

November 2001
The Broadcast Protection Discussion Group forms to create a proposal for how electronics manufacturers can build in protection for digital boradcasts. The result comes to be known as the "broadcast flag."

November 2001
Scott Crosby of Carnegie Mellon University with Ian Goldberg, Robert Johnson, Dawn Song, and David Wagner present a paper at the ACM-CCS8 DRM Workshop titled "A Cryptanalysis of the High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection System." In it they examine the weaknesses of HDCP and explain how to eavesdrop on data, clone devices, and more.

March 2002
Senator Ernest Hollings (D-SC) introduces the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (S. 2048), which requires electronics that receive, record, or even store copyrighted data to honor the copy protections on that content. Penalties for manufacturers or consumers could include up to five years in jail or $500,000 in fines. It fails after significant opposition from the IT industry, led by Intel.

April 2002
By the DMCA, all VCRs must be manufactured with Automatic Gain Control circuitry, and thus be affected by Macrovision copy controls.

May 2001
The European Parliament passes the Copyright Directive to implement the WIPO Copyright Treaty, similar to the DMCA in the US, with narrow exceptions to anti-circumvention measures.

"Hollywood executives have long maintained that they will not release their most valuable programming in digital format until they can ensure that viewers cannot copy those programs to the Internet." - New York Times, June 2002

December 2002-January 2003
Jon Johansen tried and acquitted for charges related to DeCSS. The case is subsequently appealed.

January 2003
RealNetworks unveils Helix DRM, which supports MPEG-4 and MP3 formats, competing with the Microsoft DRM offerings.

May 2003
AOL Time Warner reaches a deal with Microsoft allowing the former to use the Windows Media 9 Series technology, including its DRM.

July 2003
SlySoft releases AnyDVD, a Windows driver that allows DVD decryption and circumvents Macrovision's analog copy prevention.

November 2003
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approaches the transition to digital TV by approving the broadcast flag. This involved the "flag" itself, which is data that notes the protection level of a given piece of content, along with regulations about TV receiver technology and how they would have to treat the content with flags.

Jon Johansen works further on various video formats and programs, including DeDRMS, FairKeys, and support for FairPlay and WMV9 in VLC.

January 2004
Norway and the DVD CCA both choose not to further pursue the case against Jon Johansen.

February 2004
In 321 Studios v. MGM Studios, a California federal court concludes that 321 Studios' products DVD Copy Plus and DVD X Copy violate the DMCA. The former let user copy DVDs to CD-ROMs; the latter enabled DVD-to-DVD copying.

April 2004
Time Warner invests in Content Guard, a DRM technology created by Xerox that Microsft already invests in.

June 2004
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduces the Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act (INDUCE Act), which targeted peer-to-peer filesharing, stating, "Whoever intentionally induces any violation identified in subsection (a) of this section shall be liable as an infringer." It is shelved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in October after a lack of agreement on the language in the bill.

"We couldn't get the (entertainment industry) to follow through with what the committee told us to do, which was to punish bad acting. ...What we ended up with was a bill to punish bad technologies, whatever that means.

The technologies don't infringe, people do. ...Content owners should not be permitted to dictate the structure of dual-use technologies unless they are doing something to actively induce a third party to infringe."

- Andrew Greenberg, vice chairman of IEEE-USA's intellectual-property committe, on the INDUCE Act


August 2004
The FCC approves Intel's High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) as a "digital output protection technology."

September 2004
ReplayTV and TiVo agree to use Macrovision DRM to limit the time that pay-per-view content is stored.  

January 2005
Intertrust, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, and Sony form the Marlin Developer Community, which sponsors the open standards Marlin DRM platform.

January 2005
The European Information, Communications, and Consumer Electronics Technology Industry Associations (EICTA) declares HDCP a required component for the European "HD ready" label.

January 2005
Readers of IEEE Spectrum vote the in-progress Advanced Access Content System (AACS) as a technology most likely to fail.

February 2005
Macrovision introduces RipGuard, a technology that alters the format of DVD content to cause problems with ripping the video.

April 2005
The AACS standard (created by a consortium that includes many major media and technology companies, such as Disney, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Sony, and Warner Brothers) is released and then adopted by both Blu-Ray and HD DVD for access and copyring restriction.

May 2005
In American Library Association v. Federal Communications Commission, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit rules that the FCC doesn't have the authority to require manufacturers to honor the broadcast flag.

"The broadcast flag regulations exceed the agency's delegated authority under the statute. The FCC has no authority to regulate consumer electronic devices that can be used for receipt of wire or radio communication when those devices are not engaged in the process of radio or wire transmission."

- The three-judge panel in American Library Association v. Federal Communications Commission

July 2005
Original deadline for new TV receivers to incorporate the broadcast flag.

August 2005
Sun creates the Open Media Commons initiative for "open, royalty-free digital rights management and codec standards" to "ensure intellectual property protection."

"DRM doesn't sell hardware, software, or movies. The only reason to build DRM is to trade your users' freedoms for a bit of favor from the entertainment companies, a promise that they'll generously allow your record player to play their records--provided it meets with their approval. If Sun wants to ship technology that competes with Microsoft DRM, it should start by asserting that copyright holders never get to design the record players their records play on."

-- Cory Doctorow, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's European Affairs Coordinator


September 2005
“If consumers even know there's a DRM, what it is, and how it works, we've already failed." -- Peter Lee, Disney executive in The Economist

October 2005
Akamai launches Akamai Media Delivery Service, which integrates Windows Media Digital Rights Management for license delivery.

December 2005
Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and John Conyers (D-MI) introduce the Digital Transition Content Security Act of 2005, also known as the "Analog Hole Bill." It's a variation on the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act introduced in 2002 and would impose legal controls on analog-to-digital video convertors "manufacture[d], imported or otherwise traffic[ked]" in the United States.

February 2006
Google Video launches, offering some videos for sale in a DRM-locked format.

May 2006
The Marlin Developer Community releases its first set of DRM specifications, which become the basis for the IPTV standard in Japan and sharing on the Playstation Network, among others.

September 2006
Amazon launches Amazon Unbox (later renamed Amazon Video On Demand, then Amazon Instant Video). It uses Windows Media DRM.

October 2006
The Free Software Foundation and its campaign declare October 3, 2006 an international Day Against DRM. More than 10,000 people join in with 200 events around the world.

October 2006
The TiVo Series3 HD is released without the content portability available in the TiVo Series2's TiVoToGo1. Because of DRM restrictions, users lost TiVo features by upgrading to HD.

November 2006
The Library of Congress announces the results of the third of its anticircumvention rulemaking proceedings. The exemptions now include "audiovisual works included in the educational library of a college or university’s film or media studies department, when circumvention is accomplished for the purpose of making compilations of portions of those works for educational use in the classroom by media studies or film professors" and "sound recordings, and audiovisual works associated with those sound recordings, distributed in compact disc format and protected by technological protection measures that control access to lawfully purchased works and create or exploit security flaws or vulnerabilities that compromise the security of personal computers, when circumvention is accomplished solely for the purpose of good faith testing, investigating, or correcting such security flaws or vulnerabilities."

December 2006
A program called tivodecode is released on Sourceforge. It breaks TiVo's DRM and resaves the .tivo files as MPEG-2 files.

December 2006
"Muslix64" posts how-to video and decyrption codes that enable unrestricted access to AACS-protected HD-DVD content on a forum at Doom9. When AACS revokes the cracked processing keys, new cracked keys are released.

“The adoption of BD+ as part of the Blu-ray disc specification…was a key factor in our decision to publish on the format. This added layer of content protection gives Blu-ray yet another distinct competitive advantage.”

-- Mike Dunn, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment executive in a 2007 press release. “

January 2007
Protected Media Path DRM appears for the first time in Windows Vista. It protects DRM content from copying and prevents you from watching HD content on non-HDCP outputs.

February 2007
Microsoft announces PlayReady, DRM for portable devices.

February 2007
SlySoft releases AnyDVD HD, which decrypts AACS-protected discs.

March 2007
Kaleidescape, which created a DVD jukebox that licensed CSS from DVD CCA, wins in a case brought by the DVD CCA (DVD Copy Control Association, Inc. v. Kaleidescape, Inc.) in which it is accused of breach of contract because the jukebox didn't require the DVD to be in the machine during playback.

May 2007
AACS has spent months issuing letters demanding sites that publish the HD-DVD key to remove it and links to it. Digg began revoking user account and taking down posts about the key. Its community had an overwhelming response. (Digg stopped deleting users and stories about the keys.) The key then made its way into art, comics, t-shirts, tattoos, and more, in a popular example of the "Streisand effect".

July 2007
Richard Doherty of the Envisioneering Group tells HMM magazine that BD+ won't likely be breached for 10 years, and if it is, "the damage would affect one film and one player."

August 2007
Google announces it will no longer sell or rent content through Google Video. They offer Google Checkout credits equal to what customers spent in the Google Video store, as those customers will no longer be able to view what they purchased.

October 2007
Fox releases the first discs using BD+ Blu-ray protection. Consumers find that many of their older players couldn't play the discs.

November 2007
Macrovision announces it will acquire Self-Protecting Digital Content (SPDC) technology from Cryptography Research Inc.

November 2007
Software company SlySoft says that it has cracked BD+; however, the success is mixed. It continues updating its AnyDVD HD software frequently to continue to allow copying BD+-protected discs.

February 2008
A class-action lawsuit is filed against Samsung claiming that the company knowingly sold defective Blu-ray players, possibly because of the problems playing discs protected with BD+.

March 2008
Adobe announces Adobe Flash Media Rights Management Server software, i.e., DRM for Flash content.

August 2008
Doom9 forum members begin a project to create an open source implementation of BD+.

September 2008
RealNetworks launches RealDVD, which lets you save a copy of any movie you own on DVD.

November 2008
The Doom9 BD+ project group announces that BD+ discs from before May of that year can be played back using only open source software.

August 2009
US District Court holds that RealDVD violates the DMCA.

August 2009
California Court of Appeals overturns the DVD Copy Control Association, Inc. v. Kaleidescape, Inc. decision, finding in favor of the DVD CCA and issuing an injunction against the sale of the jukebox product.

"In my view, its product was clearly not designed or intended to facilitate the theft of intellectual property; nobody buys it for that purpose; and if it has that incidental effect, it is no worse in most respects--and better in others--than an ordinary personal computer with freely available DVD-copying software.

The disk-in-machine clause is at most a contract term. It is not a moral imperative,"

-- Judge Conrad Rushing's separate opinion in DVD Copy Control Association, Inc. v. Kaleidescape, Inc.

March 2010
RealNetworks and DVD CCA reach a settlement regarding RealDVD, in which RealNetworks agrees to the injunction against its sale, refunds payments from users, and pays $4.5 million in legal costs to the studios.

May 2010
Netflix chooses Microsoft's PlayReady DRM for Netflix-ready devices, as it already uses it for instant streaming services to computers.

June 2010
The Library of Congress announces the results of the fourth of its anticircumvention rulemaking proceedings. The exemptions now include DVD movies legally made and acquired, but protected by the Content Scrambling System, if the circumvention's purpose is clips for criticism or comment, university educational uses, documentary filmmaking, or noncommercial videos.

September 2010
Engadget posts that HDCP has been cracked. Intel confirms it two days later. The company threatens legal action against anyone manufacturing hardware to circumvent it.

December 2010
Google acquires Widevine Technologies, a DRM and copy protection company.

July 2011
Irdeto acquires BD+ Blu-ray protection from Rovi (formerly Macrovision).

August 2011
The FCC eliminates the broadcast flag regulations.

December 2011
Louis C.K. posts his latest video DRM-free on his website and makes more than a million dollars in five days.

February 2012
Microsoft, Google, and Netflix propose to the W3C an anti-copying extension for HTML5.

May 2012
Terry Hancock launches a successful Kickstarter project called Lib-Ray to "establish a basic standard for HD video that used existing open standards and would give all of the benefits of DVD or Blu-Ray videos (menus, extras, alternate audio tracks, subtitles, and so on) with none of the restrictions."


About the author

Ruth Suehle - Ruth Suehle is the community leadership manager for Red Hat's Open Source and Standards team. She's co-author of Raspberry Pi Hacks (O'Reilly, December 2013) and a senior editor at GeekMom, a site for those who find their joy in both geekery and...