Iíve described DRM, digital rights management, as the holy grail of the movie and music industry before; it is generally perceived as their ticket to safeguard their inflated profit margins and a tool to breathe new life into their obsolete business models. DRM protected content allows them to control exactly how this content is used, distributed, and above all, can be tracked right down to the individual end user. DRM protected content is protected by an elaborate encryption scheme and can only be unlocked and played back if you follow and adhere to the requirements set forth by the producer exactly. This could mean that he only grants you the right to playback the DRM protected DVD you bought once, or dictates that you can only do so a set number of times. For DRM to work however, especially on the PC, youíd ideally need hardware support, so that both hard- and software work together to make sure the protection scheme is in no way circumvented.
Up until now the movie and music industry has been unable to partner with the likes of Microsoft or Intel to make this a reality. Microsoftís Windows XP featured DRM, but only on a software level and Intel has hinted at a platform with DRM for a few years now, but never followed through with the concept. With the arrival of Microsoft Windows Vista and Intelís VIIV home entertainment concept both Microsoft and Intel have however sold out to the music and movie industry and their unbridled greed. Microsoftís Vista will, amongst other things, feature something thatís called the Output Content Protection, which is a first implementation of the NGSCB, Next Generation Secure Computing Base, the infamous platform formerly known as Palladium. This prohibits the output of protected video content unless you have HDCP, High bandwidth Digital Content Protection, support on your display. Currently a very small percentage, less than 1%, of shipping monitors support this and hence will allow you to view such content.
Intelís VIIV is the proverbial icing on the cake, a home entertainment concept adding the needed hardware support to supplement the features as found in Windows Vista. And unlike the concept platform Intel has shown us in the past, VIIV Fork will start shipping in the first quarter of 2006, quite in time for the release of Windows Vista. The combination of the two will mean that you, the end-user, will be royally screwed in every way, shape and form. Thatís right, once VIIV Fork and Vista ship you can forget about exercising your fair-use rights, no more converting songs to MP3, no more music downloads to- and from friends and family, no more DivX movies, and the list goes on. But more disturbing is the fact that new content will only be able to playback on the new platform, there, for example, will be no (legal) Linux support or support in other operating systems. Simply because any such media player, able to playback this content, will circumvent the protection scheme that is DRM, which is illegal. Basically fair use and your rights as a consumer are out of the window when VIIV Fork and Vista arrive.
With VIIV Intel has given the music and movie industry the tools to force the consumer to give up its rights and abide by their rules and has handed the keys to unlock the protection scheme to Microsoft. Looking at the track record of the music and movie industry and their watchdogs the RIAA and MPAA you can rest assured that when this platform is introduced theyíll use any possible legal avenue to further limit how you can use their content. And more importantly theyíll also make sure you pay a substantial amount of money for any use of their content that before was labeled as fair use, such as converting songs to MP3 for example. So thanks Intel and thanks Microsoft for selling out, youíve now clearly shown us that these new features are meant to better your revenue and profits, not the computing experience of the end user. Or rather, youíve sided with the music and movie industry and their unbridled greed and clearly donít care one bit about what the end user wants. I guess money talks after all.