August 9, 2005 | By Derek Slater

Your General-Purpose PC --> Hollywood-Approved Entertainment Appliance

Edward Felten has an extraordinary post detailing how Microsoft is giving Hollywood explicit veto power over the functionality of the upcoming Windows Vista operating system (formerly known as Longhorn). How explicit? Check out this excerpt from the Microsoft white paper:

"Other companies are free to invent their own [encryption for outputting video content] ... but security considerations mean that there is a high bar to meet before a new cipher can be approved for use....

The evidence must be presented to Hollywood and other content owners, and they must agree that it provides the required level of security. Written proof from at least three of the major Hollywood studios is required."

With its entertainment industry accomplices, Microsoft is turning your general-purpose computer into a toaster -- a content-vending appliance that obeys copyright holders, not you. As Felten explains, your PC will cost more and do less.

It will also make criminals out of more and more legitimate technology tinkerers and average users. To modify practically any part of your PC and use the software or hardware of your choice, you'll have to circumvent DRM in ways that may violate the DMCA.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's new DRM will do nothing to prevent widespread infringing distribution of copyrighted content -- the illegal activity that the restrictions are supposed to target.

The white paper discusses only a handful of ways Microsoft intends to make DRM ubiquitous. If you haven't already, check out Staff Technologist Seth Schoen's recent four-part series on Microsoft's security and lockware strategy, exploring the dirty details of the latest developments and their impact on your ability to control your own computer, create or use interoperable products, exercise your fair-use rights, and protect your privacy and computer security:

Part 1: "Microsoft Trusted Computing Updates"

Part 2: "The Dangers of Device Authentication"

Part 3: "Protected Media Path, Component Revocation, Windows Driver Lockdown"

Part 4: "Microsoft Sells Out the Public on CGMS-A"


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