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Tuesday, November 15, 2005 

Keepin' It Simple

void listen()
{
Currently listening to:
DJ Inphinity
'Euro Temptations'
}

int main()
{
Jumping right into the topic of this post, I'd like to first say that I hold all those involved in detailing the AACS (Advanced Access Content System) specification in high regard. I can certainly understand how challenging it is to create a system to hinder the systematic ripping of future high definition content (if you haven't heard, look up the Blu Ray vs. HD-DVD battle currently going on in the electronic media community).

However::

As someone who tends to take the obviously simple path to achieve a goal, I will have to say that there is very little the industry can do to protect against ripping in general. Regardless of how much money and/or legislation you throw at the problem, you wont be able to prevent it from happening. I will present a very simple 5-step process to rip any VHS, DVD, HD-DVD, Blu Ray and (probably) any other future electronic media (excluding games). Using Blu Ray as an example and assuming you have a decent computer (err 2 GHz or so, gig of ram, windows something-or-other):

Step 1: Buy a Blu Ray player.

Step 2: Buy a Blu Ray disc (movie).

Step 3: Buy a capture card w/ component (RCA) input (most come with this).

Step 4: Plug the component output of the Blu Ray player into the component input of the capture card.

Step 5: Play the movie and record with the capture card.

Voila! You will have a (not so perfect) ripped version. Who cares if its not 100% reproduced? Who cares if there is randomization in the output? Who cares if the quality is lower than the original?

If I'm only going to download a movie to watch it once, I sure as hell wont want to pay good money to rent it from Blockbuster. I'll download a divx version and watch it at home for free. Divx isnt 100% DVD quality, but that doesn’t stop people from downloading copies from the net. The only reason movie pirate’s rip straight from DVDs is because the software is there (and free), it’s easy to do, and they get the best quality for the effort. But if it were easier to rip it off the wire (as I showed above) rather than wrestle with AACS then I'm sure people will do it that way instead. Or how about people with money to buy a transcoder or a switch and ripping it straight from DVI (or HDMI)? Even better, how long before capture cards just plain out support DVI as an input (this may even already be available)? In which case, it would be even better quality. Rip it, encode it to MPG-2 like current digital video recorders do (TiVO, etc) and watch it later. I've never heard of people complain of the quality of TiVO. They are just happy to watch something whenever they want.

A good quality capture card can reproduce a received A/V signal just as well as (or better) than the TV can. So if I don't have a HDTV, I might as well download a wire-ripped MPEG 2 version of The Matrix 4 from my buddy Risky the Ripper.

If you can see it or hear it, you can put it on a disc and give it away later.

Same with CDs. Forget DRM. I'll just play it on a regular CD player and record it off the wire. Loss of quality? Not too much. Not enough to really notice. After all, it’s free anyway. MP3s are compressed, meaning there is some loss of data from converting a CD track to MP3. Clearly people are willing to live with a little loss of quality. Especially if it’s so little you don’t notice.

Of course this won’t work with interactive content (like video games). But then again, new good video games are actually worth the price. You won’t finish with a good video game in 90 minutes. You can enjoy it for years. I still play F-Zero for the SNES. But you wont see me pick up Home Alone 1 anytime soon.

return 3;
}

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