The Most Exciting Numbers Since Lost

The last numbers that generated this much excitement were “4 8 15 16 23 42” from the hit TV show Lost . What is it about the code “O9_F9_ll_o2_9D_74_E3” when coupled with “5B_D8_41_56_C5_63_56_88_CO” that has everyone so riled up? A fascinating question for the uninitiated. That code (at least through 1 May 2007) would unlock any HD-DVD or Blu-Ray movie ever produced. It’s the master key for the supposedly unbreakable encryption these disks are wrapped in. Isn’t that illegal one might logically ask? Well thanks to the DMCA it very well may be illegal.

However, don’t believe for a minute that there aren’t some perfectly legitimate uses. For example, someone with a Linux box owns a film in these HD formats and wishes to view it. Because there is no DRM in Linux, you can’t view it. The only way is to hack your legally purchased item. Has anyone lost a dime? No. Is it illegal? Possibly so, and that’s clearly wrong. Another example, my older Sony Plasma TV has a DVI input. However supposedly only HDMI carries the special security codes needed to play true HD — and many newer players will not play true HD content without that signal, so does the AACS-LA and MPAA plan on buying me a new TV? Of course not.

The DMCA is one of the worst laws passed in recent memory — it’s right up there with the Patriot Act as laws that do nothing to help anyone on the planet but lawyers and people who want to take away your rights. I firmly believe in intellectual property rights, however there are sane ways to do it and stupid ways. This was a really stupid way. It also proves the most uncrackable systems are easily broken — this crack was done by some kid on an unmodified Xbox 360 almost by accident. Yeah, it was that easy and it was done using a video game? How stupid is the AACS-LA?

How big is this story? Well it’s made every major news service around the world. Read one example on the New York Times . There is no reason these numbers wont expire and be replaced by newer keys, but let this be a lesson to you: never have a master back-door key, because some kid is smarter than you are. Especially if your organization is obscenely arrogant. What goes around, does indeed, come around.

I already own a number of Blu-Ray movies — the format I hope wins the war — and I play them using my PS/3 and a newer Sony TV so I have no motivation to try and hack them. First of all, I’d have to use Windows to do that and everyone knows I’d rather chew my arm off. And I don’t encourage anyone to do this without a damn good reason, but I resent being told that I can’t do that.

If I can rip my CD collection and store it on my hard drive so I can listen to it in iTunes, who the fuck are the AACS and the MPAA to tell me I can’t do the same with my movies if I wanted to. A great quote from Josh who runs the Blu-Ray website — the AACS-LA, he says, “has proven to be as effective as a screen door on a submarine.”

Will I get a cease-and-desist letter for posting this? I suppose it’s possible but I have altered the code slightly so it doesn’t work. It’s really crap this whole DRM thing — as a consumer you’re being shafted. You buy something and you should be able to do whatever you want with it (within reason). What’s next? A movie that will only play on your DVD player and not on your friend’s? Movies will end up like software — you’ll have to jump through hoops to use them. Maybe the MPAA is taking lessons from the RIAA? At least it would explain their stupidity.

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