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Verbatim DVD media are among the most trusted brands in data storage. Starting with magnetic tapes and floppy diskettes way back in the first days of microcomputing, the company has now upped the technological ante with flash drives and high performance optical media. Verbatim DVD media were one of the first to hit the market, allowing consumers to create their own content or, even more popularly, backup commercial content to which they own the rights.

Anti-copying mechanisms on DVDs is big business. Indeed, the format had been enthusiastically adopted by the movie studios in large part over the promise of copy-proof content. Yet, to borrow a phrase from the internet’s early years, information wants to be free, and it was only a few years before DVDs were about as copyable as videotapes had ever been. Today the rise of Blu-ray Disc brings with it a new, even more robust set of encryption schemes, which the following discussion shall examine. Thus Article Twenty-one in our series continues with the recently-begun foray into Digital Rights Management and the DVD.

The Blu-ray Disc format calls for several layers of copy protection schemes, such as the Advanced Access Content System, or AACS, standard developed by a consortium of consumer electronics giants, movie industry titans, and computer technology behemoths from Sony, Panasonic, and Toshiba to Microsoft, Intel, and IBM along with Disney and Warner Brothers. However, it has been breached several times since its debut in 2006, sometimes through the extraction of its encryption keys from weakly protected playback software such as WinDVD. But because such encryption keys can be changed with a software update, a continual cat-and-mouse game has now become the normal state of affairs.

Another layer of anti-copying protection employed by the Blu-ray Disc format is BD+, developed according to the philosophy of Self-Protecting Digital Content, which acts as a small virtual machine embedded inside complaint players that runs executable programs on Blu-ray Discs. These programs check the host environment to ensure against tampering by various means, such as verifying the encryption keys on record, patching any insecurities found, and unscrambling content so that it may be viewable. Should a Blu-ray Disc player’s manufacturer find its products hacked, BD+ code can be released that detects and then circumvents the vulnerability. Such programs will then be shared across the industry and included on all new Blu-ray Discs made. Naturally, an eternal cycle of cat-and-mouse goes on, with hacked code being patched only to be successfully hacked again.

Finally, BD-ROM Mark is cryptographic data that’s stored apart from other Blu-ray Disc data, the theory being that copies which do not replicate the BD-ROM mark cannot be unscrambled – and a specially licensed piece of hardware is needed to burn the mark onto a disc during the copying process. Because special equipment is required, and that equipment needs to be licensed first, BD-ROM Mark is believed to be particularly secure.