Cease and desist letters backfire horribly against MPAA/AACS

Posted by Humphrey Cheung

Hollywood (CA) - Lawyers for a high-definition video licensing authority have opened up a Pandora’s box of Internet fury after serving several websites with cease and desist letters in an attempt to block the spread of an encryption key.  The MPAA and the Advanced Access Content System consortium, which is responsible for protecting HD DVD and Blu-Ray discs from illegal copying, is trying to stop the spread of a processing key that unlocks high-def movies.  The group has ordered several blogs and even Google to stop publishing or linking to the key, but those efforts seem silly now because thousands of creative hackers and web designers are currently replicating the key through blog posts, forum comments and even entire websites.

The HD DVD processing, short for high definition content protection, key was found a few months ago and posted on the Doom9 forums, a popular site for those interested in backing up and copying movies, games and music.  A key specific to certain HD DVD players leaked out yesterday and as you would expect websites began posting links and even copying the key to their own postings, which attracted the ire of the MPAA lawyers.  The association responded by sending out dozens of cease and desist letters and threatening a DMCA website take down.

Copies of the cease and desist letters started appearing on the web yesterday and as we’ve seen in so many previous cases it was “Game On!” for the hackers.  The processing key in its full hexadecimal glory  sprouted like a weed all over the Internet.  Users of popular websites like Digg and Slashdot thumbed their virtual noses at the MPAA by posting the key into the comments sections, often using decimal, binary and other permutations.  Some users have also been creative enough to make up a shopping list using the numbers, 9 oranges, 9 fruits, etc.

The leaking of the HD DVD processing key isn’t a complete doomsday for the high-definition movie industry because the key only affects some players and presumably the movie companies could push updates that would prevent copied movies from playing.

It’s interesting to note that many of the websites that are currently hosting the key are based outside of the United States and cannot be taken down with a DMCA notice.