Friday, May 18, 2012

Cinavia: interesting and profoundly trashy DRM

Today I was reading Slashdot and learned for the first time of Cinavia.  I have to admit--it's a really technically interesting form of DRM, and they have finally rendered Blu-ray discs completely worthless with this stunning innovation.

What they basically do is encode information about the media into the soundtrack.  The interesting thing about it is that it is encoded as actual sound--it's just done in such a way that, theoretically, a human cannot perceive it.

So for example, when the soundtrack is played in a movie theater, it has a Cinavia "watermark" in it that indicates that "this is the version for movie theaters".  Or, the Blu-ray version will have this subtle watermark indicating "this is the version for Blu-ray discs".

To work, of course, the DRM has to be embedded in every part of the tool chain--including players.  All new Blu-ray players (and updated PlayStation 3's, for example), have the Cinavia software in them.

So, for example, if someone brings a camera into a movie theater and records a movie, it won't play on a Cinavia "enabled" player because it will detect it as the "movie theater version".

Or, if a user legitimately rip's a Blu-ray disc that they own for backup purposes, the file won't play on one of these trashed out devices.

Of course, it will play just fine on a non-crippled device, such as a PC.

The tedium of even typing this is just mind numbing.  Obviously, you don't want to buy a device with Cinavia in it, if you don't want to deal with media you've legitimately purchased not working as advertised.  Trust me, they do fuck this up--a lot.  For example, if you were insane enough to purchase a Microsoft Zune after buying their "Plays for Sure" content--well, it won't work on it.  And it's their own damn format.  Or of you've ever tried stringing HDMI cables together, there's a good chance that one of them won't pass muster according to one of the other ones, and the chain will fail.  And you can take it from me--Sony devices are only compatible with each other in name only, and Blu-ray is a Sony product.  They are mind numbingly incompetent these days, technically.

So this is a another good example of why piracy is a better product.  Why on earth would you want to pay for this?

But I have to admit--kinda clever, in its own suicidal sort of way.


  1. And that's the obviuos part of Cinavia.

    once it gets into all plaback and recording capable devices (which is what "they" want), you will:

    - if you make a number of recordings in your home, with a children's movie playing on the tv, you have to be carful when you compile it - you can only play 20 minutes of such sound then you have to wait like 20 minutes before you can continue. This will be valid for so called smart tvs as well, even if you use a usb stick to store the movies for the grand parents :-)

    - Not be able to call 911 in a movie theater.

    - A not-so-democratic regime will use cinavia to prevent people to film what's happening in the streets

    I could go on... you just have to think a little to see the implications of the technology.


    1. That is a really interesting point. If a Cinavia-enabled movie is playing in the background while you video tape something, the video you make will fail to play on a Cinavia-enabled (disabled?) device.

      Not sure about your 911 comment though, how that works.