This story was written by Keith Dawson for the Industry Standard's Media Grok email newsletter. It is archived here for informational purposes only because The Standard's site is no more. This material is Copyright 1999-2001 by Standard Media.

Whose Hard Drive Is It, Anyway?

Feb 23 2001 08:39 AM PST

A group of companies wants to stop illegal file-sharing by making your disk drive incapable of executing it.


Hollywood and the recording industry would love to make sure that every time a piece of media they produce is played, they get a cut. One way to do this would be to outlaw all file copying. Congress is unlikely to go along, so the intellectual-property lobby has been trying to do the next best thing: make disk drives themselves enforce copy-protection restrictions.

Last December, the Register broke the story of an initiative sponsored by the same companies that brought us CSS copy-protection for DVDs. Working through the technical committee of a disk-drive manufacturers' association, a coalition of companies led by IBM (IBM) proposed including the scheme for copy protection now used on some removable media into the standard for computer hard disks.

The proposal drew fire from technical insiders, who said that Content Protection for Removable Media (CPRM) would break existing software for many necessary (and legal) functions, such as backup, disk defragmentation and disk mastering.

The Register's Andrew Orlowski has been doggedly pursuing this story for a couple of months. Yesterday the Reg and CNET reported that IBM, the key sponsor of CPRM, had withdrawn the proposal it had placed before an industry coalition of makers of hard drives and flash memory.

The story has not been much noted in the mainstream press. Several of Orlowski's postings have chided ZDNet for falling for IBM/Intel (INTC) "spin" on the CPRM story. Independent commentators have posted pieces that have been widely read in the tech community. The Electronic Frontier Foundation's John Gilmore penned an analysis called "What's Wrong With Copy Protection?" and noted cryptographer Bruce Schneier explained why CPRM would not accomplish its goals. This month's Scientific American featured an essay by Wendy M. Grossman titled "To Protect and Self-Serve" that skewered the proposal from a social perspective. Grossman signed herself "Proud she bought a hacked DVD player."

IBM Pulls Digital Tagging Plan
CNET

IBM Withdraws CPRM for Hard Drives Proposal
The Register

Will Phoenix Keep Your Disks and OS CPRM-Free?
The Register

Stealth Plan Puts Copy Protection Into Every Hard Drive
The Register

What's Wrong With Copy Protection
Toad.com

Hard-Drive-Embedded Copy Protection
Counterpane.com

To Protect and Self-Serve
Scientific American