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back to article How gizmo maker's hack outflanked copyright trolls

When the master encryption key locking down millions of Blu-ray players and set-top boxes was mysteriously leaked last year, Hollywood moguls worried their precious high-definition movies would face a new flurry of piracy. Instead, it spawned the Chumby NeTV, a tiny, Wi-Fi-connected box that sits between a television and a set- …

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Anonymous Coward

Brilliant!

I would love to see some lawyers try and take this to court., would the DCMA even count since there is no decryption?

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Unfortunately

Lawyers have a way of 're-interpreting' law and past cases to bring people to court, (Or at least threaten to)

Many small innovators will surrender before then as they don;t have the resources to fight this kind of bull.

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Unhappy

Would DMCA count?

That would depend on how big the kickback on offer from the MegaCorp was.

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Anonymous Coward

Having just had...

about a year's worth of dealing with lawyers, all I can say is they'll find a way.

I've found that, with a smile on their face, a spring in their step, a song in their heart, and, most importantly with their bloody meter running they'll quite happily argue;

black == white,

white==black,

legal == illegal,

illegal == legal,

criminal == civil,

civil==criminal

and that's just before breakfast

Give them food (or the promise of fees++, sorry ++fees) watch their minds go into legalistic gobbledygook overdrive...

Thy'd probably tackle it along the lines of, hey, he's still using a circumvention enabling device (the leaked key) to make monies even though he isn't circumventing the copyrighted material, the key belongs to our clients, we wants the monies...with the right judge/legal system, they might stand a chance.

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Anonymous Coward

Won't stop them.

Smart as it is they'll probably still try.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that copyright or patent actions are always about recompense for damages, they're often used to destroy a competing company by removing their market and/or financially ruining them.

Sad fact of life, the courts are used as a business tool these days.

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Maybe, maybe not, but that doesn't stop someone claiming that you need a license to join their party.

ISTR that HDCP also uses the keys to verify that the device connected at the other end is OK to talk to? If his box is in the middle, and convinces the source to talk to it because it is a valid receiver then I'm sure some lawyer can wangle something. After all, if they can claim that executing a program is copying, because the content is read out of a ROM chip into the processor, then they can claim anything.

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One can only hope.....

....that a measure of common sense will be used. However when lawyers and big tech. are involved it's not likely.

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Anonymous Coward

Bunnie has previous form

Been following his blog for years. He's prepared expert testimony for several DMCA cases. I doubt if there are many more expert in the bleeding edge of decryption legalitles and I reckon that ought to make potential suers think twice.

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Boffin

a measure of common sense

>> ...However when lawyers and big tech. are involved it's not likely...

I disagree. The British/American legal sytem generally results in common sense winning the day. That's why we have independent judges and juries (not appointed by government). Juries can even disagree with the law, and find someone "not guilty" where it's obvious that they actually did commit the crime. Judges don't have this privilege, but can make it obvious that they disagree with the law by saying so, and by allowing appeal to a higher court.

Unfortunately, the triumph of common sense may have to wait a long time for a ruling of the supreme court, or even for a legislative change (where the supreme court is forced into a decision it doesn't agree with).

This is where the lawyers for the massive corporations make their money - not in obtaining the desired verdict, but in delaying the undesired ultimate verdict for as long as possible, while their clients continue to cream the market.

Life's a bitch, innit? Keep hoping, though. It might work one day.

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@BristolBachelor

Read the article again. Neither device performs an HDCP handshake with the NeTV box, since it passes the signal through. From the description, it sounds like it snoops on the handshake to determine the session key used to encrypt the video data.

From that point, all it does is encrypt the video overlay using the session key and overlay it on the encrypted video stream. Because it is a streaming cipher, the changes to the data do not corrupt the original video data.

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Anonymous Coward

Black, round-cornered rectangle

Clearly a violation of Apple's patent...

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Anonymous Coward

Requires knowledge HDCP

So somewhere in the chain there's someone who's signed up to the HDMI license and has broken the licensing agreement.

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Not necessarily.

Everyone owns a copy of the key -- or at least everyone with HDCP equipment. The key is in the displays as well.

So one way of getting it would be to break into the tamper-proof hardware where key origination is done.

Miind you, protecting a secret with licence agreements with multiple players, multiple jurisdictions and (of course) multiple employees, is totally for the birds.

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@umacf24

Devices only contain a device key, which is derived from the master key. Around the time HDCP was deployed, a paper was published showing that it was possible to derive the master key from a relatively small set of device keys ( 40 under favourable conditions). So not everyone has the master, but it's only necessary to break 40 or so devices to be able to derive it. Presumably some hardware implementations are/were weaker than others in protecting the key material, leading to the break.

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WTF?

All jolly clever and all that but...

Are people really that sad that they cant even watch a movie without having to be fed tweets throughout?

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Anonymous Coward

The inability to see the bigger picture reflects badly on you.

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Go

Actually...

...maybe be good for businesses, say someone like tesco's showing a BluRay while overlaying it with pricing, what isle it's located in etc etc....

Or maybe you're bidding on something on the tat bizzare and don't want to check evey five mins for an update.

Or your waiting for an important email, but don't want to keep running off to check your pc....

Also,

sod the Yanks, just sell it everywhere the DMCA doesn't apply (yes we all know USA law = World law)

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I suspect

That people will be buying NeTV for the hardware than the software it runs out of the box. With a little repurposing this becomes an HDMI stripper / video capture device.

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cooler than you think

Ever watched 'event' TV while paying attention to the hashtag? Try it, Question Time is miles better. With one of these you can watch a movie with your mates in various locations and chat about it like you can during multi player games.

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Really..

I can't be arsed to have tweets and stuff on my screen while I'm watching a movie.. But I'll be damned if someone tells me that I couldn't if I wanted to.

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Re: I suspect

> With a little repurposing this becomes an HDMI stripper

From the analysis linked to by the article: "It can’t easily be turned into an HDCP stripper since that would require a lot of rework of the internals. "

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Devil

It does not have the CPU power to strip. Throw 4-5 times the CPU power and then... maybe... But at present - nope.

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Well but they probably need to encrypt

Encryption probably also is covered by patents.

What I don't understand is where the use of this is supposed to be. HDCP is, apart from niches like BluRay, all but dead.

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HDCP is dead?

Virtually every high definition box which shows premium content is REQUIRED by the content providers to support it.

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Is this available yet?

I really hope this little fella doesn't get pancaked by the lawyers, because I would definitely want to check it out. Sadly, as Mat Child says (06.30), if the Big Players want to put a stop to a product which threatens their world view, they often have the cash to find a way.

I wonder how much Chumby are asking for the NeTV - if they can bring it in under £100, that moves me into the "definitely interested" bracket...

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I wonder how much it will be...

Lacking an HDMI projector, and having not had a TV for years, I don't have a use for this, but I want to reward this kind of creativity - even better if I don't have to cause the creator to go to the expense of actually building and shipping me something, so perhaps a "happy to accept cash-based recognition for this kind of creativity" approach.

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Thumb Up

I have no interest in having one of these, but unlike many shiny gadgets it's really innovative.

If the other end of the WiFi link though was a box monitoring the cooker, doors, freezer etc to put up alerts I might be interested though.

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If the developer's smart...

...and I think it's fairly clear that he is, then he'll have the unit set up with a simple API allowing any old feed to be processed by the device. That would cover the supermarket use case, the home monitoring use case and any number of others...

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That sounds like a really useful device, and the solution is really elegant.

I hope that the device manufacturers buy up licenses for this so that they can put it in their boxes.

ttfn

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WTF?

Why?

Very clever stuff, no doubt, and an impressive demonstration of a concept.

But WHY would I want to watch a DVD with a twitter ticker scrolling along the bottom?

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Because

you can?

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Anonymous Coward

re: because you can....

as if one add-ridden ruined medium isn't enough.

How long will it take to have continuing useluss adds rolling on your movie for stupid made-in-china-crap.

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Just because you can...

...Doesn't mean you should

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I can think of several uses...

How about in the 24 hours petrol station to tell the numpty, who is in a semi coma watching a film, that the guy by pump number 2, who is jumping up and down and waving his arms, would like the magically locomotion potion to pour from said pump into the containing vessel cunningly built into his 4 wheeled tin box?

That would be useful until they legalise connecting an HT circuit to numpty's family jewels.

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Big Brother

Your remarks are doubleplusgood, citizen!

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Risk to anyone bringing the case

I reckon taking these guys to court would be a difficult case to prove and open up anyone making a claim to allegations that they are using the courts to prevent innovation rather than protect their rights.

Doubt any one will go to court though as probably cheaper to buy them than pay the really expensive lawyers.

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WTF?

Copyright

Does this not though actually still break copyright?

IANAL but surely the picture that the user sees at the end is still modified even though it is an overlay?

But then because it is a user actively using the device does that mean that the user wanted the overlay and therefore does not break copyright?

Headache, this is why IANAL :)

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Anonymous Coward

.. but not as we know it Jim ...

Are subtitles and even PiP not counted as overlays as well - they modify what the user sees but without breaking copyright?

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Anonymous Coward

Arguably

it doesn't change content, it conceals part of it. Any two pieces of content are interchangable from that point of view. Which surely *ought* to make copyright irrelevant?

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The DMCA criminalises production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent DRM measures, and the act of circumventing such DRM measures and controls.

The Chumby doesn’t do any of that, and the security of the original HDMI signal is still intact. The only issue I can see is that Chumby have not received an HDMI licence.

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Anonymous Coward

The Chumby definitely doesn't infringe copyright or require a licence for HDCP or anything to do with HDMI as it's an Internet connected alarm clock whereas the NeTV might well require one and that's the device that adds content to an HD stream.

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What big player wouldn't give this a legal challenge.

"The Chumby definitely doesn't infringe copyright or require a licence for HDCP or anything to do with HDMI"

I would think that the lawyers would be poring over this. Take their time and get it right. The outcome if they were successful would be to ensure that anyone who wants to send data compatible with X, in any form, must be licensed. I would have thought a precedent like this would be worth billions to any of the big players.

Hell, It would be worth getting a Chinese clone of this, importing it, and then throwing a legal hissy at the straw man company you setup, take that to court in Texas. Your out of pocket for more than the legal fees (you need to hire loosing lawyers), but you have a hell of a chance to structure things so you get that precedent.

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Go

Great little device. If the lawyers scare him off, isn't there any provision for him to license a patent for "Method of injecting video overlays onto encrypted HDCP streams" or is that just a blatantly stupid question?

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Legal fund?

Is it too early to be setting up a legal fund for him? Personally I have no use for the hardware but this looks like something that might go to court where the small guy might actually win.

And that I would like to see.

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Anonymous Coward

"something that might go to court where the small guy might actually win."

If there's ever a risk of that happening, the big guys settle out of court, preferably with a confidentiality agreement. E.g. Murdoch vs selected 'celebs' (eg Gordon Taylor, Max Clifford) in recent years. Obviously the relevant Met high-ups didn't tie that one down as hard as they should have, and consequently it ain't over yet.

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Bronze badge

It's rare the small guy wins, but it happens

Lucasfilm v. Ainsworth, No. [2011] UKSC 39, U.K. Supreme Court

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Trollface

It's UK court, it doesn't count.

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WTF?

Explanation needed

What exactly is a "copyright troll"

"Patent troll" I understand because patents can be a very, very grey area. But copyright is hard and fast, either it's been broken by the unlicensed and unapproved reprodiction or duplication of copyrighted material or it hasn't.

Does the author really see no difference between the actions of the likes of Lodsys and those of film and record companies?

Incidentally I'm not making a judgement on Chumby with this comment, it's just the bias of the headline that concerns me.

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Copyright is grey as well.

Similar to Patent trolling, copyright trolling is using the threat of legal action regarding copyright to prevent or dissuade someone from doing something, or to directly extract monies from a victim.

In many cases copyright has not actually been infringed, the troll is simply trying to scare the victim into doing (or not doing) something - the case almost never gets to court.

Intellectual Property is a grey area pretty much by definition.

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Silver badge

There are quite a few.

CoS is well known for bullying critics with "copyright infringement" lawsuits, which is why Anonymous came to be well.. Anonymous.

Anyone pimping off dead author's works is potentially one of these; the one that screwed over The Verve for "Bittersweet Symphony" being one of them (the Rolling Stones are still alive, but the one with the rights who sued isn't one of 'em)

It might also apply to anyone holding copyrights for works not made by them; they can and will do things against the spirit of the original author.

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