[linux-elitists] Monkeywrenching DRM (fwd)

Eugen Leitl eugen@leitl.org
Mon Jun 24 09:22:30 PDT 2002

-- Eugen* Leitl <a href="http://leitl.org">leitl</a>
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---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 24 Jun 2002 08:47:33 -0700
From: Tim May <tcmay@got.net>
To: cypherpunks@lne.com
Subject: Monkeywrenching DRM

On Monday, June 24, 2002, at 01:47  AM, Lucky Green wrote:
> [Tim: do you recall when we had the discussion about the upcoming
> "encrypted op code chips" at a Cypherpunks meeting in a Stanford lecture
> hall? Was that 1995 or 1996? It cannot have been later; I know that I
> was still working for DigiCash at the time because I remember giving a
> talk on compact endorsement signatures at the same meeting].

Around that time. Someone (Markoff?) was reporting that Intel was 
devoting a few percent of its transistors in an upcoming CPU to op code 
encrypting. I remember pointing out that Intel had previously released, 
in the early 80s, a "KeyPROM," which was an EPROM with encryption so 
that the internal state could not easily be read. The ostensible market 
was for arcade game makers, who were heavy consumers of EPROMs at the 
time and who wanted ways to not have their games copied by competitors.  
(The product flopped. Left as an exercise is to think about how 
pointless it is to try to make a tamper-proof chip, especially without 
any of the expensive countermeasures being possible. Anyone who can make 
the chip wiggle with a logic analyzer and o-scope could learn a lot. We 
used our Dynamic Fault Imager to image internal microcode states, thus 
bypassing the crypto junk.)

Back to the rumor. The supposed encrypted CPU has not yet appeared.

One theory, one that I find plausible, is that Intel got freaked out by 
the firestorm of derision and protest that met its attempt (around the 
same time) to introduce processor/user ID numbers which companies like 
Microsoft could use.

(As it turns out, there's enough readable state in a PC, with various 
configurations of memory, drives, etc., that Microsoft can do a crude 
registration system which makes it difficult for users to run a product 
on N different machines. The Intel ID system was anticipated to make 
this _much_ more robust than simply counting drives and slots and 
attempting to map to one such configuration...which has the headaches of 
requiring customers to re-register, if they are allowed to, when they 
swap out drives or move cards around.)

Anyway, a major reason Intel got freaked is that AMD, a competitor of 
course, announced with much publicity that they would NOT, repeat NOT, 
include the processor ID feature!

As an Intel shareholder of many years, I'm not happy that AMD is as 
strong a competitor as it is (which isn't very, to be honest). But in 
other obvious ways I am happy to see them out there, keeping Intel from 
implementing such schemes.

This is the key, no pun intended. Any single vendor, like Intel, who 
imposes such a scheme will face harsh criticism from the rabble like us. 
We will write essays, we will monkeywrench their boxes with "Big Brother 
Inside" stickers, we will laugh at their failures, we will be energized 
to find hacks to defeat them.

So any effort to put "DRM" into hardware will have to be a mandated, 
directed, antitrust-exempted procedure.

(Aside: And possibly unpatented. Rambus is now getting smacked around by 
the courts for participating in JEDEC memory chip standards committees 
without disclosing their patent interests. A standard _can_ involve 
patents, pace Firewire and USB, but the issues get complicated. 
Something to keep your eye on, as a wedge for attack.)

If one vendor doesn't put the DRM in, he has bragging rights a la AMD 
with Intel's processor ID scheme.

For a DRM scheme to have any hope of succeeding, it must happen with all 
vendors of VCRs or PCs or whatever.

And since companies are not allowed (in the U.S. and most statist 
countries) to meet secretly or even quasi-secretly to plan features, the 
DRM planning must be done either publically under a guise of "industry 
standards." Or exempted by the law, possibly a secret ruling (e.g., a 
letter from the AG exempting AMD, Intel, Nvidia, and VIA from antitrust 
laws for the purposes of implementing DRM).

In summary:

-- expect more such attempts

-- use laughter, derision, and slogans to monkeywrench the public 

(I talked to a person from Intel at this year's CFP...got the 
confirmation that the firestorm over the chip ID scheme had scared Intel 
badly and that there was little support within Intel for repeating the 
mistake...could be why senior Intel managers have testified in Congress 
against mandated DRM schemes...cf. testimony of Les Vadasz, IIRC.)

--Tim May
""Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who 
approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but 
downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined." 
--Patrick Henry

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