The AACS consortium last Friday published the Final Adopter Agreement and a revised set of specifications for its standard content protection technology for Blu-ray players. This development has been a year in coming and in “any day now” mode for the last several months.
Two pieces of functionality that were missing from the AACS interim agreement and specs were audio watermarking and so-called Managed Copy. Both have made it into the final documents. The former is the Cinavia watermarking scheme from Verance Corp. Its inclusion in the final AACS agreement is a lifeline for the vendor, whose previous installed base was mainly limited to the not-very-successful DVD Audio format.
Managed Copy is the other big piece; this is functionality for enabling users to make copies of AACS-protected video for their own use, thus bringing AACS more into line with most DRM schemes for downloaded digital content. The spec for Managed Copy has evolved from the previous version (from November 2007), as have the related portions of the Adopter Agreement.
It’s evident how much effort had to go into pushing Managed Copy over the goal line. Many terms, conditions, and minutiae had to be added to satisfy the parties involved. For example, licensees have to agree to restrictions on adding advertisements to copies made under Managed Copy, in order to preserve the user experience. As another example, the agreements contain language meant to define a “home network” for the purpose of limiting copies to other devices within it.
The list of DRMs into which managed copies can be made has grown; it now includes CPRM, Sony MagicGate Type-R for Memory Stick, VCPS, Microsoft Windows Media DRM 10 or later, and Microsoft PlayReady. Outputs to link protection schemes DTCP, DVI, HDCP, and Windows Media DRM/PlayReady display output are also permitted.
Managed Copy is quite a complex bundle of features. It mainly involves a Managed Copy Server, to which an AACS-compliant device must connect in order to receive a list of Managed Copy offers (which could come with prices) and permission to make copies. The spec does not actually cover how the copies are made, other than that the process must satisfy the Robustness Rules in the Adopter Agreement.
Managed Copy functionality was one of the key features that player makers hoped would differentiate Blu-ray from DVD and induce more people to buy the new format. It remains to be seen to what degree service providers will take advantage of this capability and offer the kinds of functions that users will welcome in ways that are simple enough to use. If that doesn’t happen, then all of the effort that went into Managed Copy will be for naught, and the Blu-ray format’s future prospects will be dimmed.