AfterDawn: Tech news

Microsoft defends Vista's integrated DRM

Written by James Delahunty (Google+) @ 22 Jan 2007 19:50 User comments (24)

Microsoft defends Vista's integrated DRM Microsoft Corp. has defended the included Digital Rights Management (DRM) software on the Windows Vista operating system. In particular, the copy protection built in for high definition content has received criticism from experts. Vista has the ability to downgrade the video quality and the audio quality of content if the hardware does not have required copy protection technology in place.
Specifically this means that a user with a video card that contains a DVI or component output and no High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) may receive downgraded quality while trying to play back content from HD DVD or Blu-ray Disc titles. Microsoft has insisted that the DRM in place would only be put into effect on "premium content".

Peter Gutmann, a computer science lecturer at the University of Auckland, recently referred to Vista as "broken by design" and intentionally crippled the way it displayed video. He he described Vista's Content Protection specification as "the longest suicide note" in history. "The sheer obnoxiousness of Vista's content protection may end up being the biggest incentive to piracy yet created," he wrote.

Dave Marsh, lead program manager for video at Microsoft however, defended the systems in place on Vista and pointed out that they were common on many playback devices. He said that while Vista has the ability to downgrade video quality, it would only perform that action "when required by the policy associated with the content being played".

Gutmann told BBC News that it was "re-assuring" that only the ability to playback high definition content could be revoked, but he said that consumers who have paid thousands of dollars for high quality display devices will not be happy when they realize they are getting downgraded or no video. "Some of the feedback I have been getting indicates that HD-DVD discs are not playing on some PCs." he said.

He also criticized how the DRM would use up more CPU cycles and said it was insincere of Microsoft to lay the responsibility for the extra copy protection at the feet of content providers. "Saying 'we were only following orders' has historically proven not to be a very good excuse. If you have got the protection measures there, the impulse is to use the most stringent ones at your disposal." he said

"In general, some sort of DRM is necessary, but we need to strike a balance. It's very consumer-hostile technology that is being deployed." Gutmann added.

BBC News

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24 user comments

122.1.2007 20:56

wow this doesn't surprise me at all just microsoft trying to be a monoply again first it is against the law to rigg software because it doesn't like your graphics card second DRM protection can be bypassed so microsoft has some work to do to keep hackers at bay which isn't going to be easy because the beta version of vista has caused a surge in illegal versions of vista all over the internet now if that wasn't bad enough the DRM protection in vista is selective in booting certain pieces of software and installing certain pieces of software so if you want full control of windows have fun because the DRM protection wont allow you to even in the beta when i tried to install world of warcraft the stupid security DRM protection wouldn't let me access the hard drive at all because the game didn't have a DRM signature

223.1.2007 3:14

More DRM stupidity. Mind you, we were here before with XP but every time they layer on the levels of DRM they just make the whole thing so unweildy. If only security was as big a priority.

323.1.2007 4:02

Another reason not to get Vista. I like what MS has done to help Toshiba win the HD world but this crap has to stop. Also you dont need Vista t watch HD stuff. Ive downloaded like 4 HD DVDs and they plsy fine with my none HDCP set-up. I hope Vista fails and fails hard.

423.1.2007 4:11

Vista is just a gig version of XP Professional with a bunch of eye candy. I ain't upgrading until support for XP runs dry.

523.1.2007 5:16

If people don't want DRM, just don't buy Vista. Stop complaining and don't give in to DRM. Is it that hard to say no?

623.1.2007 6:11

Hmmmmmm. Time to switch to Mac maybe? (I've been looking for a good excuse; this may be it, unless Apple follows suit and caves too.)

723.1.2007 7:06

"If people don't want DRM, just don't buy Vista. Stop complaining and don't give in to DRM. Is it that hard to say no?" There aren't enough of us that know (or understand for that matter) the truth behind Vista, and when we've got money hungry retailers like Best Buy supporting Vista as if it were the rebirth of Christ it will be kind of hard to convince the public otherwise. Did you know that every Windows PC bought since Novenmer received a rebate for a free copy of Vista and once the 30th of January rolls around all PCs in retail stores will come standard with Vista? No matter what happens, even if we boycott, M$ is comming out on top because they are forcing their OS on consumers that buy new PCs.

823.1.2007 7:49

I'm not too concerned. I won't be "upgrading" to vista anytime soon, my computer runs great. By the time I do "upgrade", I am positive the hackers will have made patches available to remove DRM from vista. I bet they are just itching to take a crack at this. First one to do it gets all the fame.

923.1.2007 9:42

No matter what happens, even if we boycott, M$ is comming out on top because they are forcing their OS on consumers that buy new PCs.
In your case, it isn't that hard to take off a preloaded OS and install a different one (win2k, xpPro, etc)
But for all the regular people buying new computers, they might be in for a shock when, after a few months, they find a lot of stuff not working properly.

Hmmmmmm. Time to switch to Mac maybe? (I've been looking for a good excuse; this may be it, unless Apple follows suit and caves too.)

I wouldn't consider this a good excuse. Apple is no angel when it comes to DRM either.
This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 23 Jan 2007 @ 9:44

1023.1.2007 10:25

I think that lawsuits ARE doubt in my mind about it! Why? Because when indivudials and companies start to get "locked out" of their computers by vista for stupid reasons, there will be hell to pay. The lawsuits against Microsoft over Vista's DRM are comming...of that I am sure.

1123.1.2007 11:45

the personwho writes the patch that removes the DRM from vista will go down in history like dvddave or that dude who cracked the hd encryption. i wont upgrade untill i absolutly have to, or i know for a fact ill still be able to have total control over my pc.

1223.1.2007 13:14

I hate DRM and the only reason I will be made to purchase Vista is because of DX10 and gaming. So the options I see are as follows: (1) Get a pirate version of Vista for games and dual boot XP for everything else. (2) Buy the most basic version of Vista for gaming and dual boot with Xp for everything else. (3)Don't buy VistaDRM. DIE VISTA DIE!!!!!!!!!!!

1323.1.2007 15:35

yeah ...... I have a friend of mine thats undergoing a lot of training for microsoft to get certified for a new career. He is attending one of the Vista release parties and he is recieving 2 copies for free due to all his training. Its just another way that they can get the greedy tentacles absorbed into the system as fast as they can. He offered me a copy and i told him i'd take it, but I would wait till all the hacks were available for it.

1423.1.2007 20:43

Some of the feedback I have been getting indicates that HD-DVD discs are not playing on some PCs
Thanks for this info. I am attempting to go to Linux. I am not a gamer so it is not going to affect me for what I do. I will have to buy Linux compatible hardware to do this so the hardware options will be more limited but my computer will be free. I never liked being told what I can and can't do and my computer serves me, I do not serve it.

1524.1.2007 7:59

Sun is giving their Solaris 10 for free... just go to Sun site, fill a form and they send you a disk... I already asked for mine, will give it a serious try...

1624.1.2007 8:09

Sun is giving their Solaris 10 for free... just go to Sun site, fill a form and they send you a disk... I already asked for mine, will give it a serious try...
Can you give a link to the site?

1924.1.2007 8:28

yep, you can download it too...

2024.1.2007 11:47

There is much more at stake than DRM in vista. It will be on every disk, and every media file.. Unless you are using "approved" software or hardware you will be knobbled.. That's anti-competitive and illegal in the EU. Except France, which is now in breach of EU regulations by bowing to US big business pressure and allowing it.
We must fight it for all our sakes. Not buying vista won't stop them, and you will be forced to use it sooner or later if you want to watch films or do anything with a computer at all!! It's a conspiracy against the end user, to remove freedom of choice. That's what it's all about.


So, what will happen if the Microsoft vision comes true?

* If you have recently bought a high-end sound card you may be surprised, since in Windows Vista you won’t be able to play any “protected content” due to the incompatibility of interfaces (S/PDIF).
* Significant loss of quality of the audio may be common due to the need to test every bit of streaming media for the use of “protected content”
* The idea of open-source drivers will be abandoned since the whole DRM thing is based on the fact that the content decrypting takes place in a “black box” and only a few selected corporations may have a look at it. Security through obscurity, that’s what it’s called. Open source stands in complete opposition to this concept.
* Removing any standards from the hardware world is one of the Microsoft goals. According to the Microsoft theory, each device will need to communicate with the operating system in a unique way in order for DRM work as required. This will enforce the incompatibility of the devices, killing the existing interface standards.
* Denial of Service attacks will be a common place. The new era of DoS attacks will be more harmful than ever before. This is connected with the tilt bits introduced in Windows Vista. The malicious code will be able to use the DRM restrictions in any suitable way and the detection of this activity will be almost impossible if not illegal (sic!) thanks to the infamous DMCA act that prohibits the use of any reverse engineering techniques used to either understand or break DRM.
* The stability of the devices will be decreased due to the fact that the devices will not only have to do their job but also “protect” (who? obviously not the user…) against the illegal use of the audio and video streams. This “protection” requires a lot of additional processing power and of course a lot of programmers man days. Who’s gonna pay for that? Of course us — the customers.
* Issuing the specification by Microsoft seems to be the first case in the history when the software producer dictates the hardware producers how their hardware should be designed and work. Seems dangerous, especially when we all realize the intentions of Microsoft.
DRM and freedom, or what says Richard Stallman and FSF

According to Stallman,

DRM is an example of a malicious feature - a feature designed to hurt the user of the software, and therefore, it’s something for which there can never be toleration.

Stallman is not the only person respected in the IT world who believes that DRM is pure evil. Another known DRM-fighter is John Walker, the author of the famous article “Digital imprimatur: How big brother and big media can put the Internet genie back in the bottle”. Walker compares the Digital imprimatur with DRM in the Internet and computing in general.

In Windows Vista it has been decided that the most restrictive version of DRM ever known will be implemented. If the Redmond dreams come true and the large hardware producers also decide to implement the DRM bits in their chipsets, it may lead to the situation in which we — the users, practically won’t be able to decide about our own software of legally purchased media. And this is actually only the beginning of what we can expect if a massive consumer protest against DRM does not begin. In the near future it may turn out that we will not be able to run any programs that violates one of the absurd software patents in the US or any kind of so-called intellectual property (just as if the ideas could have an owner!). And almost everything will be patented or “owner” in some way by that time.

I have a science-fiction vision of the IT underground, where the only hardware not tainted with DRM is made in China and using it is illegal in most of the “civilized” countries. And the only software that allows users to do anything they want with it is (also illegal) the GNU software, developed in basements by so-called “IT terrorists” — Linux kernel hackers, former Novell and Red Hat employees and sponsored by the Bin Laden of the IT — Mark Shuttleworth. Sounds ridiculous? Well, hopefully so. But I don’t think Microsoft and Apple would be protesting when this ridiculous and insane vision comes true…

For anybody who still thinks vista is the way forward.. some food for thought.
This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 24 Jan 2007 @ 15:07

2124.1.2007 18:47

From what i read from this article and many others Vista has never had a good report. Maybe Ms has to take it back and look at it again cause by the sounds of things it is reminding me of Windows ME and all the buggs in that OS.

2227.1.2007 16:26

When did MS decide to stop making OPERATING systems, and start making CRIPPLING systems???

2327.1.2007 21:22

Goodbye Microsoft and hello Linux here I come!

2428.1.2007 2:58

Hehe, Windows doesn't wort to be payed already. Now Microsoft are just doing that it's good in: fighting with piracy by hitting a level that doesn't even worth to be cracked! I'm only uising Windows because I want to stay compatible with others knows only it. I hope this will solve it for ever, so good luck Microsoft!

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