Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Who pays the DRM man?

When Al Gores 'An inconvenient truth' was released on DVD it featured a bio-degradable box. Yes, the industry really cared for the environment. It brought tears to my eyes. To my surprise I found the very same DVD a few months later in an ordinary box. What had happened. Had the danger been averted in these few months? Had the news agencies missed this remarkable fact? No. For the simple reason that the industry never cared for the environment, not now not ever.

Even playing this documentary adds to the problem it is trying to solve, because the hardware burns 25 to 30 percent more energy than it actually needs to. Why? DRM. All this decoding needs cycles, more cycles means more power – about 15 watts on an average computer, more power means more carbon dioxide. And in the end, who pays for all that? You, the consumer.

Microsoft - and all its DRM buddies - continue to claim up to this very day that DRM won't affect the consumer too much, "given that cost (..) is most heavily influenced by volume". However, behind closed doors the bird is singing quite another song. The following is taken from a presentation at the WinHEC 2005. Read this and shiver.

Encryption logic
  • When content crosses 'user accessible buses' the compliance rules require it to be encrypted
  • This requires additional encryption/decryption logic thus adding to Visual Processing Unit (VPU) cost
  • This cost is passed on to all consumers.
Encryption and CPU
  • Since this uses CPU cycles, an OEM may have to bump the speed grade on the CPU to maintain equivalent multimedia performance
  • This cost is passed on to purchasers of multimedia PC’s.
Board Design
  • One way to avoid encryption for discrete graphics is to solder the VPU to the motherboard
  • This increases motherboard design costs, increases lead-times, and reduces OEM configuration flexibility
  • This cost is passed on to purchasers of multimedia PC’s and may delay availability of high-performing platforms.
  • Broadcast flag requirement for analog high definition broadcasts
  • Encryption logic is required
  • Costs are passed on to consumers
  • Cable Labs approval for cable high definition broadcasts
  • High initial development and certification costs
  • Certification gates design improvements, including cost reductions
  • Costs are passed on to consumers, especially early adopters.

And for what? AACS has already been broken, like CSS, just as I predicted. I'd love to give you the link, but several blogs have been banned for doing this. And because I want you to read this, I can't help you more than I just did.

But next time Al tries to convince you to trade in your car for a bicycle, to invest in renewable energy and to walk to your vacation instead of taking the plane, be sure to tell him he has to convince his political buddies not only to accept the Kyoto protocol, but also to discard an ill-conceived law that has polluted and continues to pollute our environment. Yes, you guessed it, the DMCA. And while you're at it, mandatory use of Linux would be nice too. Vista uses too many resources, don't you think so?


c't "Machtsmisbruik"
- September 2007, Patrick Smits


Anonymous said...

We should collectively sue DRM supporting companies for wasting our resources. For some, all this DRM decryption might add up to serious extra energy costs without any benefit.

In a way, we pay double for DRM: once for the encryption scheme factored in the product costs, and many times for the wasted decryption resources every time we play what we bought.

Anonymous said...

don't you mean DMCA in that last paragraph?

Anonymous said...

Of course, you're quite right. It's consumers who pay for it all in the end, and by increased costs to the environment all humans pay eventually as well.

What I find interesting, however, is how DMCA obstructs freedom of speech. It strikes me how you have to avoid explicitly linking to something because of fear of having your blog banned.

Well, here is a suggestion. Host your blog yourself and get off Google's Blogger or anyone else who will be susceptible to shutting you down on basis of DMCA.

And as you do so, on your new blog, write an entry describing why you switched from Google. As a rather influential person I think you will catch some attention and perhaps influence a good deal of other people to do the same.



Anonymous said...

I have read the an earlier report about the cycles used for decrypting HD-DVD movies and i was shocked but not surprised ;-)

Came to the same conclusion you did: waste of energy..

CSS was actually enough: the majority of consumers could not copy the movie (to transcode it to the almighty iPod or sumthing) so mission accomplished no?

People are still buying dvd's so something must be right.. (price?)

Too bad i will buy those crap HD-DVDs since i want the quality ;-)

Maybe stick with the less using HD-DVD rather than BluRay which i presume will waste even more energy since it also uses BD+ and has the encryption mandatory (HD-DVD does not, so documentary makers won't have to buy a 5000 usd key for their 15.000 usd production cost movie).

The only thing you could do now is NOT buying it, consumers only weapon is their wallet ;-)

Anonymous said...

we could just not buy the nonsense hollywood productions and stick to proper films from european studios, and fuck the 3 pixels extra you get on HD.. who wants to see al gores pimples anyhow?

Wizard Prang said...

My MP3 collection is 27GB (all legal). My wife has an iPod, and we have bought three songs on iTunes. So I am obviously no fan of DRM.

For the same reason my machines run Windows 2000 and Linux - I have avoided XP (I have a free copy of XP pro that will remain in its box until MS drop support for 2000) and don't even think of Vista...

Not sure that I agree with the cycles argument though - all computers wait at the same, and unless the CPU has power-stepping functionality the extra power drain will be trivial.

Also, since hearing that Al-Gore's electric bill is about $3000/month (20x the national average), I tend to take his pronouncements with a battleship-sized grain of salt...