Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

Vista Doesn't Add DRM To Unprotected Content

Of all the FUD that's out there about Vista, the false information about Vista's DRM is the FUD that frustrates me the most. I read this article from Peter Gutmann, and was infuriated. I wanted to write a point-by-point rebuttal, but was overwhelmed with the sheer number of glaring inaccuracies, as well as the overwhelming feeling that I was in danger of being hit in the head by a piece of falling sky. It wasn't so much of a research paper as it was a ridiculous story full of melodramatic hyperbole.

Well, I'm glad someone finally called it out for what it was. George Ou, an IT blogger on ZDNet, blasts security guru Bruce Schneier for quoting Peter Gutmann in his anti-Vista tirade. He even sheds new light on Mr. Gutmann:

[Update 4:25 PM - The researcher who Bruce Schneier cites who in turn is widely cited in the media as an expert on why Vista DRM is so evil actually admits to never actually even touching Windows Vista.  That's the level of "research" he did.]

I guess that's how research is done at the University of Auckland.

I had two or three people come up to me during my launch day stint at Best Buy and ask me if Vista added DRM to unprotected content. I had to have one individual break out a personal DVD of unprotected MP3s, and play them on the demo computer, before he was convinced that Microsoft wasn't having a threesome with the record companies and the Feds.

FOR THE RECORD: "Vista DRM simply gives you the choice of playing back DRMed content and it does not prevent you from playing back non-DRMed content." It also doesn't add DRM to your unprotected content. PERIOD.

Thanks George. Very well put.



  • I am not sure if this is 100% true.

    Recently at CES I spoke with someone at MS about CableCARD support in Vista and he explained to me that if I record a show via the CableCARD device and even if that show is not encrypted on cable (like network TV) that I still couldn't transfer this show to my Zune or otherwise supported transfer by Vista Media Center. His suggestion to me was to record NBC and the likes with a OTA tuner instead of the CableCARD to avoid this.

    To me this contradicts your claim since the cable company isn't protecting the content yet, the Vista Media Center is.

    February 27, 2007 7:08 AM
  • Someone said:

    The guys name is BRUCE Schneier... ;o)

    February 27, 2007 8:18 AM
  • February 27, 2007 11:40 AM
  • Ben, that's a function of the CableCard, not of Vista. If you by an Digital Cable Tuner, and want to make sure you can move the show, no matter what, then pull the CableCard out of its slot. That turns the DCT into a high-quality analog tuner that you can use to record your shows with.

    The reality of the situation is that the Open Cable Labs are so hell-bent on DRMing everything that Microsoft had to make some concessions on that front to get the technology out the door. The plan as I know it is to get the products out there, and then start opening them up a bit once the technology is more proven.

    There are ways to get around that anyways. You could always use Orb or WebGuide to stream it, and then record the stream.

    February 27, 2007 2:09 PM
  • Colin Theys said:

    ah yes. This one annoys me too. My personal favorite was someone before RTM who was spreading this rumor. I responded by saying that I was, right then, watching a HD movie I had with no DRM on my HD display with no difficulty and no HDCP. His response was a) no you're not because that's not possible and b) how do you know they're not just letting you do it in the betas so that they can trick you into buying the full version and then screw you. sigh. people are so paranoid.

    February 27, 2007 3:49 PM
  • Patricia T. Russo said:

    If anyone is to be infuriated, it should be everyone buying Windows Vista! This is because first and foremost Vista is all about DRM, that's digital rights management folks.

    It's obviously Robert McLaws didn't even read the article, for which he slanders! Peter Gutmann is a proven expert, whereas Robert earns his money by selling Microsoft software. We all can see why he did it, at a time when Vista isn't selling well. to boost sales. But the point remains, Microsoft’s Windows Vista includes an extensive reworking of core OS elements in order to provide content protection for so-called "premium content". That is what Peter Gutmann wrote about, and it's as clear and plain as the nose on your face, unless you an online pundit who's barely old enough to legally buy alcohol.

    As for Bruce Schneier, his records is established unlike Robert who obviously is promoting only deception against Peter for saying and I quote his words above, "It wasn't so much of a research paper as it was a ridiculous story full of melodramatic hyperbole".  Non of this is called for, had Robert given any proof what's so ever to his story. Show us the facts, show us the code, doesn't it seems the same FUD as before?

    The truth is Peter Gutmann hit right on the nail, and nobody yet has proven him wrong about Vista DRM. Does Vista uses DRM, 1005 positively YES! Does Vista uses HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) that uses HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection), again 100% YES. To the extent DRM interferes with perfectly legal uses of digital media, it's plenty bad enough. But thanks to the lobbying of the major media companies MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), DRM is now backed up by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The DMCA has been a disaster for innovation, free speech, fair use, and competition.

    Don't take my opinion for it, get the real truth, get the facts about, for yourself.

    Here is a link to Peter Gutmann's webpage: Let the facts speak for themselves...

    February 27, 2007 4:31 PM
  • Sallie Krawcheck said:

    "Windows Vista includes an array of "features" that you don't want. These features will make your computer less reliable and less secure. They'll make your computer less stable and run slower. They will cause technical support problems. They may even require you to upgrade some of your peripheral hardware and existing software. And these features won't do anything useful. In fact, they're working against you. They're digital rights management (DRM) features built into Vista at the behest of the entertainment industry" -Bruce Schneier

    Bruce Schneier's Webpage

    February 27, 2007 5:12 PM
  • John said:

    @ Patricia: Robert did not deny that Vista has some DRM in it.  Robert said Vista does not add DRM to non-DRM'd content, which it does not do.

    Of course Vista uses DRM, HDMI and HDCP and all of that other alphabet soup.  If it did not you would not be able to play DRM protected content on a Vista machine.  Anything Vista, OS X, a DVD player, etc that plays protected content will have to use it too.  Lets not blame Microsoft (or at least not just Microsoft) but the RIAA, the MPAA and the studios who insist on using DRM.

    February 27, 2007 5:16 PM
  • Ray said:

    @ John: The fact that Microsoft CHOSE to protect CONTENT companies instead of it's customers is a deal breaker for me. Who is Microsoft working for? Apparently, it does not value it's CUSTOMERS as much as partnerships with content companies. Or maybe it thinks content companies are it's customers, and the average Joe is just a chump waiting to "consume content'? Purposeful degradation of un-DRMed outputs? It's ridiculous. It wasn't needed! It's neither required by law, or technical issues. Microsoft sold us out to get a piece of the content producers pie.

    February 27, 2007 5:39 PM
  • Wayne said:

    @ John : Unbelievable, How do you explain Vista's content protection mechanism only allows protected content to be sent over interfaces that also have content-protection facilities built in (HDMI/HDCP). Since S/PDIF (digital output) doesn't provide any content protection, just like composite cable, Vista requires that it be disabled when playing protected content.

    Your focusing on the wrong topic, unless your claiming you want to supposely upgrade to Windows Vista to "only" be concerned about what you already media you have, rather than what this means ahead...

    You might ask yourself how does Vista determine what it considers to be protected content?

    DRM encrypts everything, so what will be left to be open, fair share ahead? Even your old media could become a liability to DRM (Digital Rights Management), HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection), UDI (Unified Display Interface), AACS (Advanced Access Content System), and so forth.

    Society functions when it can build and share upon prior work and innovation, right?

    I always thought a good society depends on the free availability of facts and opinions, and on the growth of vision and consciousness - the description of what individuals have actually seen and known and felt.

    Any restriction of the freedom of individual contribution is actually a restriction of the resources of society, right?

    February 27, 2007 6:19 PM
  • John said:

    @ Ray: I understand where you are coming from, but my understanding (I could be wrong) is that if MS did not do the DRM dance they would not be able to play any of the protected content, as they would not have access to the keys.  So the choice is basically (1) say screw you content guys and then we (the consumer) can't play the stuff at all or (2) do the DRM dance and we can play protected content.

    That said I would love to see MS (Apple too - they are one of the largest provider of DRM'd content via iTunes) take a tough stand and say look all this DRM stuff is BS, it gums up the OS, and doesn't work anyway and try to break the content providers of their DRM habit.

    I hope more people get in on this debate and we can get ride of DRM for good.

    February 27, 2007 6:23 PM
  • George K. said:

    Patricia, it's funny you say nobody has proven Gutmann wrong, yet Gutmann had to revise the report you linked to many times as various programmers refuted his claims point by point on their various blogs.

    He said playing protected content on a non-HDCP compliant system will cause all content to be downsampled. This has been proven wrong. You can play a 1080p wmv and a protected HD movie side by side and have one movie downsampled (as per HDCP guidlines) while the other movie (or any content for that matter) plays at full resolution.

    He also said that Vista can revoke gpu drivers. This was a gross misunderstanding on his part. Vista can not make your gpu driver stop working, The player can refuse to play if your gpu driver is blacklisted, but everything else (ie. games, non-protected video, composited desktop) will work fine.

    He also made errors about the inability to create open sorce video drivers.

    February 27, 2007 6:39 PM
  • Patricia, thanks for the comments, but I don't make a dime on "selling copies of Vista". I barely make any money off of my ads.

    You say that I didn't post any proof, but the quote from George said that Gutmann as never even touched Vista. I've been actively testing Vista for over 3 years. So who are you going to believe? I'll post the proof, but something tells me you wouldn't believe it anyways.

    And as for the dig on my blog title, I put it up there because that's what Paul Thurrott called me in a blog post questioning my intelligence while agreeing with me at the same time.

    February 27, 2007 11:18 PM
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