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The Internet

The Read-Once, Write-Never Web 177

grub points to this TechWeb story about a software tool (NetRecall) from a company called Athentica which they claim can selectively allow viewing, copying, and forwarding of online materials. The idea is to maintain control of content on a per-person or per-category basis -- something which could have good or bad applications, but which sounds difficult to implement effectively no matter what use it's put to. (Will the required plug-on also block all screenshot utilities? If not, exactly who is it intended to stop?) Of course, since circumventing even simple methods used to "protect" copyrighted materials is illegal under the DMCA, perhaps that doesn't much matter.
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The Read-Once, Write-Never Web

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Protecting sensitive information on the web seems like a contradictory endeavor.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I was thinking the same thing, but more like just taking a screenshot and saving it out as a png or something. Let's not stop there :) Screenshot + OCR would do wonders for retrieving most anything you can display "securely" on a screen. In all seriousness, do we really need to look at every one of these companies whose business is based on ignorance of the simple rule: "If I can see it or hear it, I can record it."? Who comes up with these ideas? Your problem isn't the 80% female over 35 audience. I doubt this has any security value at all. In the practice of tolerance, one's enemy is the best teacher. Quick -- must forget-- the cops are coming.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I run an X desktop on Windows and use the X cut buffer. Adobe does not seem to interfere if you allow the X-win manager to control things but if the Native Windows manager is in charge, the adobe protection works
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Usually this is humorous but off topic, however i find in this incarnation it is actually insightful.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Obviously(read: hopefully), the people who made this know that this kind of protection is a joke. I assume that using a system like this is intended to sasisfy the DMCA's definition of "reasonable content protection". This isn't really a content management system, it's a large wooden sign that says "Beware Of DMCA!"
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Didn't XP also break most of the 3rd-party tools? A review I saw (maybe CNet?) suggested that all of the 3rd-party tools they tried failed to work under XP--even tools that worked fine in 2k. Now, since XP and 2k are based on the same code base, I fail to see why a program that works fine on 2k wouldn't work on XP unless functionality it relied on was specifically targeted for change (perhaps ASPI mods to prevent ripping? That's where I've had the most problems under Win2k).

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Or it could be similar to - the lyrics you can view (which are owned by the Fox Agency), can only be viewed through a java applet that won't allow you to select the text to copy (surprise). == Paper Tiger, albeit an obnoxious one.

    E.g., use Netscape to look up lyrics for a song. Right click and select "View Frame Info". You'll see a couple of JAR files: SPDEN2Controls.jar and one of the form X12345.jar. The former contains the applet, and the latter contains the lyrics for the song you looked up.

    The applet will proceed to read the lyrics out of this X12345 JAR and draw them as image text, which gets wiped away the moment the applet window loses focus or you hit a key, etc. The better to tantalize, and enrage, you!

    However, there is nothing to stop you from downloading X12345.jar and, for example, displaying its content with strings.exe (from You could also download the other JAR, decompile it, and modify it to supply suction to an automated lyric spider. You could, but that would be wrong (to paraphrase a dead president).

    By the way, SPD = Self Protecting Document. It's part of the Xerox ContentGuard system. They've come a long way since PARC.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Bruce Schneier wrote this [] about Authentica.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Hmm, exactly how do they keep me from reading it more than once. ?

    What if I memorize it and just keep reading it in my mind ?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    God. I hate reading this blatant misinformation on Slashdot at such frequency. Microsoft doesn't prevent mp3 recording in XP. Windows Media player will only encode at a low bit rate. This does NOT mean that you can't use a third party utility and acheive higher bit rates. You make me sick. Please check your facts before you spew this gibberish. I know that its anti-microsoft, and so its ok...But come on, think about it this way..We(by we I mean open source advocates) are constanly bitching about microsofts unfair FUD against our preferred programs. Yet we are not above doing the same thing, and in a blatantly incorrect way. Please think.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    comet cursor is spyware
  • by Anonymous Coward
    IS it really about corporate applied constraints or a challenge to the open community to create a better information system?

    Last I checked, I do believe we still have freedom of choice in the market place. But when packaging all turns to the same shade of gray, then maybe it's time to become seriously concerned.

    Could this be the beginning of something more restrictive?

    There is China and the cyber cafes that are becomming a concern to the government. Concern about the need to apply censoring methods. So it seems to me that the real value in overcomming organized constraint efforts is in support of freedom of speech and education of the real world more so than gaining access to corporate selected restricted information.

    Maybe this is apporaching the matter/topic from the other side. Perhaps there is a bias against the Chinese due to the political issues at hand. But when did promoting censorship or restriction of the real world ever achieve genuine solutions?

    Besides it's not the chinese people responsible for the political issues at hand now, but governments playing the game of war. The sort of thing that gets removed thru education of the real world of adverage people.

    Maybe it's not so much what is restricted but who such restrictions are to apply to, directed at?

    Clearly there has been enough supporting comments to our ability to get around such restrictions, but if a whole country is restriced from access then who's gonna know there is something there to see? Unless someone outside tells them?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I hope this is never used on Slashdot.
    I am, quite frankly a comment thief.
    You call me by many names...troll, imposter.
    I do a search on whatever topic the story is on in the slashdot archives. I then pick highly rated posts, and simply copy and paste them into the new story.
    I have amassed great amounts of karma in a short time doing this.
    If I could only VIEW old comments...I would be forced to retype all that drivel (usually the high scoring comments are decently long)
    So..I hope slashdot never uses a system like this...or I will be out of a job.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 30, 2001 @04:26PM (#254911)
    Satellite image resellers use this sort of thing. used a plugin that would block screenshots/clipboard/etc so you couldn't get your satellite photo unless you paid for it. Yes, you can trace it or photograph it off of your screen, but it's a damned good deterrent. And don't be surprised if you see Microsoft Wallet become the leading solution when every online newspaper and information site starts charging per-content, and the industry needs a way to make billing as easy as possible for the user. How much will it cost? Probably a fraction of a penny per article. There have already been conventions regarding this--it's on it's way.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 30, 2001 @04:39PM (#254912)
    and over the age of 35

    So you're saying that women in this age group don't have young guys to help them "do screen shots, print to PDF, and post on a web stie, bla, bla, bla."

    So what if a few forward or cut-n-paste. Besides, we can always sue offenders under the DCMA.

    Sure, sue your customers. Great business plan. And the first time you do it, your "content" will be on approximately 1.2 bazillion "whack-a-mole" Geocities type sites, Gnutella, and Freenet.

    Personally, I don't subscribe to any service that assumes I'm a copyright infringer (sometimes erroneously referred to as "thief") and impedes my use of the information I paid for. In that case, if it's something I want, I'll just take it, and people with your attitude can take that copy protection and pound sand.


  • One big difference is that it allows the person sending the document to place restrictions on how and when the document can be used. With PGP you would have no way to prevent them from forwarding the information to individuals who are not supposed to view the data.


  • My wife is over 35, but she knows how to hook the S-Viceo output from either of our laptops to a VCR, either directly or through am S --> RCA adaptor. This works with RealPlayer, too. - Robin
  • I imagine it's for organisations that have requirements for mandatory access controls already. Some secure systems have pervasive systems that tightly control the flow of content (indeed, NSA Linux implements an NSA system); if those organisation want to deploy browser-based applications, this would be a good tool.

  • a tamperproof PC or preferably a terminal in a secure facillity (where you can observe to make sure people don't take pictures, copy down notes, etc). They you just have to worry about people remembering everything well enough to copy it down later.

    What's the point of showing people something they're not supposed to remember? You may as well not show it to them in the first place, the net effect is the same.


  • Re: Terraserver and Cyber Sentry

    Do these screen shot preventers still work if windows is run through plex86 or vmware?


  • The other end of the spectrum is a world in which all information is free. This would also be bad. What motivation would there be to provide new better ideas? None.

    Assuming, of course, that monetary motivations are the only ones that matter. That however has been proven wrong repeatedly, for instance by the huge amount of free software produced by enthusiastic volunteers.


  • I'm a reasonable pianist and I buy sheet music from time to time. However, if there is only one song in the book I'll simply pick it up off the shelf, play it on a piano there and go home. I can usually remember most of the song.

    Is that a copyright violation? Sure. The act of making a copy is the crime, it doesn't matter how it is done.


  • But when emulating Windows with plex86 on a Linux box and screen capturing from the Linux/X Windows side, neither the Windows drivers nor the Windows file i/o are involved at all; Windows thinks it is displaying to hardware while in fact it is displaying in a window on an X desktop.


  • Plex86 isn't a Windows emulator, it's a PC emulator which can run any operating system, including standard Windows. It's hard to see how cyber sentry could detect this situation if it is even invisible to the OS.


  • I believe it would be overly romantic to believe that if developers stopped being paid that they would continue to enthusiastically donate software. The bottom line is that every developer that contributes to open source has either: (a) made lots of money already (b) is making good money, or (c) has the promise of making good money in the future. In fact contributing to open source is a good way to learn and ultimately make good money.

    For the longest time, most hackers fell into category (c): students.

    People were hacking on Linux, FreeBSD, gimp and apache with abandon even before the term "open source" existed and before a single article about free software had appeared in the New York Times. There was no money in it, and putting your Linux experience on a resume was not on anybody's mind.

    Hackers hack for three reasons:

    • It's a lot of fun.
    • Something doesn't quite work right and they want it to work right.
    • They want to be appreciated by cool people, i.e. by other hackers.

    There simply is nobody who sits down at night and thinks "ok, tonight I'm going to submit a patch to the gimp in the hope that I will learn from it and that will improve my earning power in the future".

    While I agree that nowadays writing the patch will probably marginally improve his earning power: even if it didn't, the guy would still write the patch.

    Nor do I think that hacking on free software is an optimal strategy to maximize one's earning power in the least amount of time. There are lots of more efficient (but less sexy) ways to do that.


  • I mean... sue the keyboard manufacturers.. they have less money. Those pesky printscreen buttons are now a circumvention device under the DMCA!
  • by garcia ( 6573 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @04:50PM (#254924)
    it isn't free in the first place. What is being traded on Napster and Gnutella (I have no experience w/Freenet) for the most part is copyrighted material, not just "computer data".

    I am not siding w/the fact that they are stopping this kind of service from running, I am saying that it isn't free and we aren't squashing any free trading of computer data. I have a good feeling that email, ftp, and www will be around for a while to do just that.
  • by Malachite ( 8328 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @05:14PM (#254925) Homepage
    There seems to be a trend in the "content industry" of sending people encrypted things along with the keys and hoping that because they invoked the buzzword god "encryption" they are safe.

    repeat after me: If someone can read something, they can copy it. Obviously the computer screen can be saved (by screenshot, by decoding the video signal, by pointing a camera at it... whatever). However, it gets better

    The fundamental flaw in the security models of this (and DVD) is that they trust the user's computer with the capability to decrypt the content. However, as the user's computer is controlled by the user and not the DRM company, the model is flawed.

    There is no doubt in my mind that, should there ever be good reason to do so, this will be cracked. Additionally, what with recent events such as the SDMI fiasco, I believe that at this point basing your business model on DMCA protection of your security is risky. Also, remember that in many uses simply being able to prosecute people for cracking it might not cut it; after sensitive data has been leaked no amount of litigation can undo the potential damage.
  • Who comes up with these ideas? I mean, i'm sure someone with a high priced education was involved. But, can't they see the obvious? It's been said before, if you can see it, you can copy it. If you can hear it, you can copy it. Attempting to control information is just an open invitation to steal it.

  • Sorry, please play again [].

    But thanks, really.

    Actually, it's interesting the level of knee-jerk defense Microsoft gets on this issue. Do you guys really think that they won't go further to restrict possible "non-approved" use of Windows XP? The mp3 thing is just a shot across the bow. Microsoft looks out for #1, and what's good for big media is good for #1.

    See, just 'cause I didn't take four paragraphs to explain myself above, doesn't mean I wasn't right :)

    Caution: contents may be quarrelsome and meticulous!

  • Ah, but they have... There is an option in the document properties (file..document in acroread). Now, I don't know how durable this is under Acrobat (the editor), but I tho...

    My memory says that I was told that it's just a flag, and that if you modify the program to just ignore it, then it acts unset. I was also told that it's an easy change, but that somebody (the xpdf maintainer?) wasn't going to make it because he thought the author's choices should be respected. Sounds like a good argument to me, even if it has caused me to trash a few interesting files (I tend to feel that files like that shouldn't be on my computer).

    Caution: Now approaching the (technological) singularity.
  • ACtually he used the wrong word. What he meant to say was:

    If it's something I want, I'll just COPY it

    And if I remember correctly, the definition of thief doesn't mention anything about copying.
  • by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @06:33PM (#254930) Journal
    Yep, just look at the last few years: Napster, Gnutella, Freenet. We're definitely moving away from the free exchange of computer data. Yep, one-tenth of one percent of the population runs fast enough to maintain the freedoms they have, the other 99.9% are increasingly screwed. Sounds like we're winning to me.
  • This thing is going to get hacked quicker than you can say "CueCat". What is to stop someone from using a proxy and stripping the encryption? Oh yeah... the DMCA (Don't Make Copies Asshole)
  • If I press this here "PrtScr SysRq" button have I effectively 'circumvented' the control? God you Americans have f*cked up laws.

  • ...and no, the DCMA does not protect against cut & paste - that's the job of Copyright.

    DMCA = Digital Millenium Copyright Act
  • That doesn't prove it can't be cracked. If anything, it proves that 1) Nobody capable thought it was worth $20, or 2) The successful crackers waited until the program was used to crack it, to ensure they'd get something from it.

    I know that if I was looking to crack something like SDMI that I'd try now, but wait to release anything until the format had a few billion invested in it to release the crack. After content providers get stung repeatedly with unsecure 'secure formats' enough they'll stop trying that method.

    Taking a screenshot of that bill would be 'easy', in that it's easily said. You'd obviously have hooked all the screen viewing and capture routines but the video is still displayed by the graphics card. Overlays are harder to read, but can be done. And better yet, they can be done directly from the hardware. Maybe the hack would have to be written for each major video card, but it'd get around any level of OS-level protection.

    And if that didn't work, there's always VMWare.

    All your method would do is raise the bar. But it takes a lot longer to write a protection system than it does for an equally skilled person to break it.
  • by kennylives ( 27274 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @04:49PM (#254937) Journal
    I'm surprised that Adobe, the head of the WinOS PDF readers, has not yet made an option that prevents printing of certain documents.

    Ah, but they have... There is an option in the document properties (file..document in acroread). Now, I don't know how durable this is under Acrobat (the editor), but I thought it interesting that there's an option for 'selecting text and graphics'. So no copy/pasting either. Yikes.

    And, remember, it's not just available on Windoze... it's MacOS, Solaris (both x86 and Sparc), HP-UX, Irix, AIX, and this little thing called Linux.

  • Circumvention tool

    You can also modify xpdf and recompile it:

    Commercial tool:

    More can be found looking for password recovery and PDF in search engines and web directories.
  • Why not directly using GhostScript?

    gs -dBATCH -sDEVICE=epswrite -sOutputFile=myfile.eps myfile.pdf

    BTW, it can decode encrypted pdf too with a little modification. Just follow the (very simple) instructions printed when you try to read an encrypted .pdf for the first time...

    Combined with pstoedit [] is a great tool

  • by alecto ( 42429 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @04:32PM (#254943) Homepage
    . . . with predictable results. Anyone remember Things and Thingmaker? I didn't think so. That's because people don't tend to "consume" much "content" that requires some "rights management-enabled" plug in that usurps fair use (not to mention being hard to install and use).

    Also, even if this software is Windows only, a screen capture would work just fine under VMWare [] or similar program.
  • by Milican ( 58140 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:49PM (#254951) Journal
    I don't want your grandma's music anyway ;)

  • by norton_I ( 64015 ) <> on Monday April 30, 2001 @05:01PM (#254953)
    This article is not talking about protecting news articles from nytimes (though if it actually worked, that might be a possible application). They are talking about protecting trade secrets or classified information from potential espionage. That is an environment where people would go to extrodinary lengths to copy data without it being recorded.

    Many years ago now, the DOD tried to push the Orange Book as a solution to this problem, and IMO, it was a dramatic failure. But in any case, any implementation requires a trusted client terminal, either a tamperproof PC or preferably a terminal in a secure facillity (where you can observe to make sure people don't take pictures, copy down notes, etc). They you just have to worry about people remembering everything well enough to copy it down later.

    As content protection for copyrighted material (music, nytimes articles, pr0n), just making it "to painful" to reproduce might be good enough to prevent the majority of casual or unintentional copying. However, once again, people forget the primary attribute of the virtual world: "All marginal costs are zero". Once someone discovers how to circumvent the plugin, the process can be automated and provided as a patch and you will never have to worry about it again.
  • by BorgDrone ( 64343 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @06:06PM (#254954) Homepage
    I checked their site and there seems to be no linux plug-in, in other words: their technology is completely useless.
    why use PDF (== portable document format) and then require a plug-in that will only run on win32 or mac, that's just stupid.

    since everyone and their mother is working on a content protection system (which in 99% of the cases only works in MS-DOS 9x/NT/2000), I wonder if there is being worked on an open source, cross-platform content protection system.
    I realize OSS people don't like content-protection but since there seems to be a demand for it it's better to have an open, cross-platform system then to have a closed (security through obscurity) win32-only system wich will result in linux users not being able to view some content.
  • by LinuxParanoid ( 64467 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:18PM (#254955) Homepage Journal
    Look, I agree with you in theory, but I'm afraid that practically speaking, you're kinda wrong.

    Screenshots only work if the OS doesn't clamp down on the ability to make them. And there aren't many OS manufacturers to convince to get your policy adopted by 90+% of consumers...

    And don't expect those input/output jacks in your computer to remain sacrosanct for long if there's big bucks on the table. Go do a search on "Macrovision" to see what's already adopted in millions of VCR jacks for preventing that sort of thing. For bonus points, cross-reference Firewire. Sure you can take photographs of your screen or tape-record your speakers. But that's not the point.

    It's all about barriers-to-entry. Or in this case barriers-to-copy, barriers-to-distribute, and barriers-to-publicize.

    Remember the following simple table, bulletized since /. doesn't let me do HTML tables:

    Barriers-to-copy: Copyright? Check. DMCA-no-reverse-engineering? Check. Increase the proportion of technology components protecting copying by requiring reverse engineering? Ongoing, minor consumer resistance at best sighted so far, marketing and upgrades will take care of the rest...

    Barriers-to-distribute: Suing webserver owners? Check. Shutting down napster? Check. Shutting down gnutella/freenet? Umm, working on that but if all else fails street-fight with denial of service- pay someone to pollute popular servers with bad content.

    Barriers-to-publicize: Contributory-copyright-infringement law? Check. Intimidate press by suing people who link to workarounds like 2600? Check. Shut down highly publicized services with said law like napster? Check. Fragment any potential successor networks so no one approach gets too much publicity? In progress (but if network effects overrides these efforts, must insure other barriers are up)

    Checkmate. Game over man, game over.

    "Freedom for one" is not "freedom for all". And freedom for only a repressive-law-disobeying techno-elite is no freedom at all. We are destined to lose it very soon if we don't organize to make our voices heard very big and very fast. Do something. I'd start with the EFF and your congressperson.

    --LinuxParanoid, thinking about adding a new alias, RIAAParanoid...

    "only the paranoid survive" ... and I don't think most Linux proponents are paranoid enough

  • by Chris Brewer ( 66818 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @06:32PM (#254956) Journal
    It could be similar to If you right-click on the sat image and go save picture, you end up with a tiled image of the company's name instead of the sat image. (can't remember the name as terraserver is offline at the moment). Even Alt-Printscrn or screen capture from Paint Shop Pro wouldn't reveal the picture.

    Or it could be similar to - the lyrics you can view (which are owned by the Fox Agency), can only be viewed through a java applet that won't allow you to select the text to copy (surprise).
  • How can they prevent someone from just taking a screen capture?

    Actually, taking a screen capture would probobly be your last resort, I'm sure there are 20 other ways to copy a "protected content web page"

    Hmm, but, if it can't be screen captured, then how did they make that demo :)

  • Napster started blocking and she stopped using it, and now it's basically dead.

    You know, it's really unfortunate that people keep saying this in the past few weeks. Napster is not "dead." All the reports I read said that usage was down something like 20-25% from the pre-filter average.

    If you're counting, that means upwards of 70% of napster users are still there. What on earth could they be trading?! Probably a bunch of name-mangled stuff, but I doubt that's all. RIAA gave Napster a list of songs/artists that had to be blocked. And insisted that the Billboard top 100 be blocked each week. Which really screws over people trying to get the latest "Destiny's Child" remix, but not, by and large, people trading electronic, punk, classical, or folk music. Or anything legally traded.

    So, let's not start with Napster doomsday scenarios. They might start doing some crappy things like restricting the copying of mp3s you download, but so far, it's not at all dead.


  • by selectspec ( 74651 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @04:31PM (#254959)
    Clearly one could ultimately retrieve the data, bit for bit, either by capturing pixels in the application, window manager, OS, or even hardware layers. However, such measures could make the copying task difficult and time consuming and such an effort would involve significant manual or engineered effort. This is the key to the copyright problem introduced with our digital age. Magazine publishers were not terrified of printing presses or even xerox machines. It is the ease of cut, paste, copy, and link that gives them the chills. I may pay for a magazine instead of reading a xeroxed one, and I might pay for the real picture as opposed to a reproduction.
  • Terraserver images can be screenshotted and saved. I just verified it with Win2k / Netscape 4.7.

    It must be something wrong with your GIMP / X combo. =)

    If you want, I can put a screenshot up for you.
  • How often does it need to be said? Ok, say it with me:

    The only secure computer is the one that's powered off and unplugged from the wall.

    I'm sorry for sounding so skeptical, but I just can't believe that they can make this "secure". And if it's not secure, then it's crackable. If it's crackable, then it's only a matter of time (usually days, sometimes hours) until somebody posts a cracked version on a website.

    I understand that it's important to get security, but I think that it's important to keep things in perspective. People should keep working on more and more secure applications. But at the end of the day, nothing is truly secure.

    That's just the way it is

  • You can make PLENTY of dough off of stupid people, if you're willing to stoop low enough. You can also make money off of intelligent businesses who will do anything to protect their business model. That's really all there is to it.
  • by MillMan ( 85400 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:05PM (#254963)
    Ah yes, that is their goal, but you forget what Bruce Schneier has always been saying about these situations: Once someone writes some sort of hack program, that runs with a few mouse clicks, the average dumb user is back in business.

    It's the same thing with mp3s: the average person doesn't know how to rip / encode a cd that isn't even copyright protected, but give them a program like napster, and they can can download mp3s all day.
  • by MWright ( 88261 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @04:20PM (#254965)
    Will the required plug-on also block all screenshot utilities? If not, exactly who is it intended to stop?

    Or, will it stop people from using a pencil, writing it down, and retyping it? As long as people can read it, we can copy it- even if it's without a computer.


  • Microsoft doesn't prevent mp3 recording in XP.

    Perhaps you should mention that to Microsoft, becuase they say otherwise. According to their own web site []:

    This feature lets content owners disable digital output by setting a parameter in licenses for their music.

    Users can listen to decrypted music, but they cannot make copies.
    Secure Audio Path []
  • I suppose it's kinda like trying to sue someone for copyright infringement when all they did was use your RSS file to make a "slashbox".
  • by BierGuzzl ( 92635 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @05:27PM (#254969)
    Because the internet (and any other digital media) doesn't operate on the same rules as the physical hardcover/paperback world, people need to just move on and realize that the copying of data, once it's been published to a community of millions of users, is going to be very hard to prevent. However, online value can be retained if the service model (commonly implemented in businesses that use open source software) of doing business makes it so that although the product itself is free, the service for the latest and most personalized stuff is subscription based or otherwise fee based.

    As much as I would want to hope that we will be able to convince our legislators and big businesses of such things, I believe that it is a lost cause. The digital copyright revolution won't happen until the "net" generation siezes power.

  • by BierGuzzl ( 92635 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @04:38PM (#254970)
    It's come to my attention that people with a photographic memory may not create a copy of any copyrighted work in their head without proper permission.

    Quick -- must forget-- the cops are coming.. aughh...

  • The net effect isn't always the same. They can process data for you, and give you back the processed data. After that, it's prefered that they forget the orginal data as well as the output.
  • Pointing out that this is not the Holy Grail of "content protection/control" isn't really going to get past the point of a technology such as this. Computers dramatically ease the ability to copy and transfer material. We all know this and for the *consumer* (whether it be free NYTimes or free "Build nuclear and chemical weapons from household materials in 10 easy" information.) it's good, but it's a pain the the ass for others who want to control this information. There is no impenetrable bank safe, but everyone here probably agrees that it's better to keep your money in a bank. Further, and perhaps more importantly, everyone concerned with controlling the material has been deailing with PAPER since they started. They are comfortable that their material won't be distributed cheaply and easily by (let's say) one individual to 100,000+ people. With a computer, not a problem. This is mostly an attempt to use some of a computer's advantages, but leave out some others. So here are questions you can answer:

    1. Do you think this is ethically wrong. Should content be entrusted to the user.

    It's a bitch, but not morrally wrong IMO.

    2. Is this technically possible.

    To a limited extent yes. But should we trust our nuclear secrets to a safe or should be build a number of security precautions? This is one tool.

    Yeah that's all there really is to talk about. Sorry.

  • People are using JavaScript to prevent viewers from using the right mouse button to save a picture

    Blocking contextual menus is more trouble than it's worth (read more []). (Circumvent it in IE by holding down the right mouse button and pressing Enter, or choosing File : Save As... : Web page complete. Circumvent it anywhere by wgetting the page and its images.) And it pisses some people off enough to make them write right-click shit lists [].

  • it's always possible to make a screenshot

    Not if the plugin opens DirectX and puts the image in an overlay, or goes full-screen and traps all keys but Ctrl+Alt+Del.

    (even if they try to stop me from doing that, I can always directly read the video memory or something and circumvent their protection

    And go to jail for posting this information on Slashdot. (You're posting it on a U.S. operated web site; therefore you're posting it in the U.S. under U.S. jurisdiction, including the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.)

  • However, such measures could make the copying task difficult and time consuming and such an effort would involve significant manual or engineered effort.

    But the engineering effort invovled is pretty much a one-time investment. There may be substantial up-front effort (I'd assume that the best way of doing something like this properly is to run the OS over something like VMWare and extract the memory image directly) but once it's invested you can copy anything that you can access. The effort needed to perform the crack is likely to be less than the effort needed to design the system in the first place, and nobody would develop a system like this unless they thought that the data they were protecting was likely to be pretty damn valuable.

  • "If I can see it or hear it, I can record it."

    Not to mention that people with good (or better still, photographic) memories can reproduce text, images, and sounds pretty accurately anyway.

    Even if you put someone inside a custom built room, frisk them for recording devices, and show them the media, nothing short of erasing their own memory can prevent copyright infringement.

  • by iainl ( 136759 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @02:38AM (#254986)
    HypersnapDX [] will happily take grabs of the DirectDraw layer. It will do this in the native resolution being pumped to the screen as well, for the highest possible quality on any DVD screengrabs you might be wanting (for your personal use, copyright zealots). By the way, I just think its a cool product for making myself desktop backdrops, this is not an ad. No doubt there are other things that can do this too, if you don't want this one.
  • hitepaper.pdf
  • by clare-ents ( 153285 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @01:52AM (#254990) Homepage
    I've wondered if I'll ever get sued.

    I'm a reasonable pianist and I buy sheet music from time to time. However, if there is only one song in the book I'll simply pick it up off the shelf, play it on a piano there and go home. I can usually remember most of the song.

    Is that a copyright violation?
  • by Corvidae ( 162939 ) <> on Monday April 30, 2001 @04:37PM (#254994)
    This section raised a bit of a red flag for me:

    "The FBI is using Authentica's software, company officials said. According to one source, the technology may help the agency keep tabs on would-be spies by preventing agents from printing files that reside on an intranet or by monitoring what they do or attempt to do with sensitive documents."

    Somehow, I get the nagging feeling that, if the FBI isn't ALREADY monitoring this stuff (how hard is it to log access to so-called 'sensitive documents,' anyhow?), we have more serious problems on our hands. Now, I have no clue how tight internal security there is, but a software program like this obvioulsy isn't the way to keep people from viewing it. When (not if, when) it's cracked, if the FBI is relying solely on this program for internal security, that will be a Bad Thing(tm).

  • A camera, exactly.

    I always am reminded of Bob Frankston programming VisiCalc on the Apple ][.

    He said he didn't have a printer (Apple sold the Silenttype thermal printer, but it was pretty expensive; it was only later that dot matrix printers from Japan became inexpensive).

    So he used a Polaroid camera to take screenshots of the assembler listings and the spreadsheet display.

    Nothing should stand in the way of a true genius.

  • by IvyMike ( 178408 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @04:23PM (#254997)

    Time to dig out RMS's "The Right To Read" [] essay again. The scariest part is that I probably reread this essay once a year, and each time, we've crept closer and closer to it being reality.

  • Oddly enough, I've used HyperCam. Its pretty cool stuff.

    I used back a few years to record RealVideo streams - capturing the audio and video striaght from that layer - it worked quite well but it was a bit jerky on my P133.

  • by danheskett ( 178529 ) <> on Monday April 30, 2001 @06:15PM (#254999)
    Tools like RealPlayer and WMP typically use DirectDraw or a Direct Memory access channel to "pop" images directly into the video-subsystem memory. In cases of streaming video, the data is "buffered" in the system main ram, and when a frame is completed/ready to be drawn, it is transfered directly into the video memory. Then, the video card and driver software "overlays" the image directly to the monitor.

    Its a bit more technical than all of that, but basically, the image data never "touches" the windows GDI (or other low-level video driver) layer. This is the layer that most screen capture utilities utilize. As a result, when you take a screen shot from RealPlayer or WMP, you typically get a black square where the image should be.

    If you *really* want a shot of the video, try turning off the Hardware Overlay feature on your video card. I used to remember how to do with WMP 6.4, but I suspect thats all different now. Look around, its there somewhere IIRC.

    Anyways, back on topic, a bit different in theory really, unless they overlay the text directly into video memory (not likely, if even possible).

  • by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @06:00PM (#255000) Journal
    The way I see it, The more you restrict content, and prohibit linking, or printing, or charge for even the priveledge of listening or reading something, the more value your content has to have.

    There will always be a market for free content.

    Otherwise you run into the situation of those certain stores. There are some stores in fancy areas of any city where you can shop at only if someone has told you where they are, and where if you have to ask, you can't afford it anyhow. It is shopping by appointment only. It is not just fashion, but includes antiques, and many other high price items.

    Now this makes sense with exotic items. It even makes sense with things like porn.

    But in the model of the corner grocery store, where you want to encourage traffic and lots of people, you can not suddenly put a lock on the door. What level of paranoia must you have to suddenly require an ID and a credit check to buy the equivalent of a can of Internet soup and a newspaper? I would go shop someplace else. I would move to another neighborhood.

    An awful lot of sites going to the shopping by appointment only model are only selling soup, and they are cutting their own throats.

    I can see the use of this software for the exclusive content set. Artists, etc. But in the long run, alot content will develop it's own alternate forums.

    Check out the Vinny the Vampire [] comic strip

  • Wake me up when they find a way of stopping me from making photos of the screen.


  • Thank you. "Trusted clients" can't work because the user has a strong incentive to defeat them! Sure, lots of companies are trying to make this happen, because they have dollar signs in their eyes, but enterprising users/programmers can always defeat them.

    And Timothy: you say that DMCA will somehow prevent people from developing work-arounds. Maybe it will be illegal, but so was driving over 55 mph until recently, and that didn't stop anyone. So also "circumvention" tools. Really, how long do you think it will be before a DeSDMI is available to convert SDMIs back to MP3s? Ten minutes?

    Finally, this: consumers need to buy the "content" for any of this to make money. Shit like this is always so user-hostile that it actively prevents sales / usage. Why do you think newspapers have the "Email article" tool? Because sending around that plain text increases pageviews and ad impressions - because it's user-friendly. This sort of thing, being intentionally difficult to use, will wither and die on the vine.

  • Several comments here point out that this kind of weak security can be circumvented in various ways, not necessarily requiring sophisticated hackery, allowing some users to defeat the content usage restrictions. True indeed, as a security measure it is weak. But for commercial purposes, this approach may be enough. To succeed, they don't have to block EVERY violation, but just make it a bit harder to violate such that violations aren't dramatically reducing sales.

    By example, if Napster hadn't been so widespread and easy to use -- if we were just exchanging MP3's via email, for example -- I bet the landscape would look quite different, because MP3 exchange wouldn't be seen as such a threat to copyrights and royalties.

    I hate technologies that restrict what strikes me as 'fair use,' that restrict the free exchange of ideas, or that treat something that appears commonsensical and public-domain as if if were proprietary.

    That being said, I won't dismiss the commercial value of easy-to-defeat restrictions. If 90% of the end users are perpetually confused, then taking the 'save as' button away from a .pdf file provides a statistical measure of protection -- even if 10% of the community can figure out how to make a copy, and 1% knows how to hack the .pdf content.

    JMHO -- Trevor
  • Will it keep a PC anywhere machine from seeing the screen and doing a copy and paste on the machine not running the script? Can I be liable under the DMCA for suggesting such a thing?
  • by BigumD ( 219816 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @04:20PM (#255012) Homepage
    Now I can use their technology to protect my code on my "m4d l33t h4x0r s1t3!!!"...
    Seriously though, how long until the browser plugin is hacked and the content is downloaded anyway?
  • To recreate this for yourself just pgp encrypt everything you have and find a way to make the keys expire... possibly based on salt from the time date stamp etc...
  • by spongebob ( 227503 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @05:03PM (#255015)
    I have to disagree with these comments because the /. types will not allow this to happen. Whenever a new technology comes along, we will always make it our own by whatever means necessary. Eventually I beleive we will have a situation where patent laws and inforamtion are valued only due to their timeliness. Meaning that the information will only be worht something if it is known and implemented within a certain period of time. Then anyting beyond will not be controlled because to do so would be a waste of money.
  • Bypass #1: Disable JavaScript. Bypass #2: Read the source code, download the image directly from the URL. Bypass #3: Take a screenshot and cut out the image you want.

    Lots of protection there.

  • by Twylite ( 234238 ) < minus painter> on Monday April 30, 2001 @04:34PM (#255020) Homepage

    Your problem isn't the 80% female over 35 audience. Its the single 15 year old linux kiddie who knows how to rip out the content, and distribute it to the 80% female over 35 audience for free (or a lot less than you charge).

    ...and no, the DCMA does not protect against cut & paste - that's the job of Copyright. The plug-in decrypts the information (legally) and displays it -- *then* it gets copied.

  • I was thinking the same thing, but more like just taking a screenshot and saving it out as a png or something. If its on the display it can be grabbed by a program which that browser plugin (or whatever) cant control.

    In 1997 I wrote a program Cyber Sentry (as a consulting for Microsystems), which was intended as exactly this kind of copyright protector. The clients wishing to access sites with protection would install this small (70k) Cyber Sentry client, and the same client managed database of site copyright certificates, so only one client download was needed for all the sites using its protection.

    The client would monitor and correlate multitude of system activities (winsock, gdi, user, display drivers, screen rectangles, file i/o, debugger presence, browser cache, etc; despite all the monitoring, there was no perceptible performance degradation during browsing). It would let you use screen capture utilities or various forms of saving from browser, as long as the rectangle captured wouldn't overlap with the copyrighted material rectangle. It would also block viewing the html source of the page.

    In the final couple months of alpha testing, the product contractor had put up a web page with a gif of a $20 bill, and a group of testers were let loose to try capture & print the image, and if they could do it (and demonstrate how they did it, so they wouldn't cheat with old images), they would get the real $20 reward. They tried every screen capture they could download off the web, plus some they rigged themselves. In the final few weeks, not a single printout/capture was produced.

    The same Cyber Sentry product would also protect multimedia files (music, video) and PDF/DOC files, including when inside third party viewers.

    All the protection was done without the content provider having to do anything to their content (i.e. they could leave their html, media or other protected files unchanged), and it it didn't require some special viewers, allowing customer to use any viewer they wish.

    So this kind of protection is perfectly doable (it does require lots of tricky code and undocumented windows stuff). The reason this newest try will not succeed in the market is the same as for the market flops of the earlier ones -- cutomers won't put up with it (even though we did everything imaginable not to block or interfere with any non-infringing save operations).

  • Aside from being a terrible piece of fiction (c'mon, the two get married just because Dan lent Lissa his computer?), this essay interprets book and software publishers' intentions. It takes a view of software and literature as something that is meant to be *used*. Wrong.

    Does Microsoft really care whether Windows is used? They only care about getting paid. The usefulness of their software releases interests them insofar as it is useful in lining their pockets. This is why they are able to turn on a dime and do things like invade the Internet with success. They aren't looking to improving their products so much as to improving their bottom line. Of course, it takes investment of capital and other resources to create products that consumers will be willing to pay for.

    As a consumer, does it benefit me when I can get a piece of software for a negligible fee on the black market? Sure, inasmuch as I am not losing much of my own capital. However, when done on a large enough scale, such "sharing" of software leads manufacturers to such responses as "Spyware" and "Ratware". Who is to blame for these developments when the same people who cry foul are the ones advocating not paying in the first place?

    The thing about the "Microsoft tax" is that it is wholly a "use tax". Unlike your income tax which pays for services you may never use, no one is forcing you to pay.

    Dancin Santa
  • by Dancin_Santa ( 265275 ) <> on Monday April 30, 2001 @05:30PM (#255040) Journal
    Please. You need to lay off the Robert Louis Stevenson if the mental picture you get of "Chinese software pirates" is of a band of swarthy Asian men brandishing cutlasses and boarding innocent mercantile ships.

    Dancin Santa
  • by deran9ed ( 300694 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @04:32PM (#255041) Homepage
    This is nothing more than content firewalling, and many fortune 500 companies already do this. Example my brother works at JP Morgan Chase, and documents they send via internal email cannot be printed, forwarded, copy and pasted, etc.

    Sounds great at first but should someone want the information they don't neccessarily have to use tech methods to get it. Take a good old pen and paper and write down what you want, or take a picture of the screen with a digital camera.

    NetRecall requires users to download a small browser plug-in that communicates with server software. Together, the plug-in and software make sure the use of the content complies with rules set by the content owner.
    What if the second party receiving the email chooses not to use the plugin then what? Are companies going to be willing to let business go because someone doesn't want to comply with using a certain product. Aside from that how is this plugin written, my guess is its a Windows based plugin which does little for Nix users.

    Its sort of like this tool called Comet Cursor [] which allows you to highlight any word in a document and get all the information on that word even if they don't have a link posted on the document, only difference is, its blocking information.

    Oh well I'll wait to see how people circumvent this, and laugh at the companies who dished out 30+ thousand dollars for this cheesy program.
  • by wyopittsa ( 310894 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @04:55PM (#255045)
    When a company comes up with software like this, it's not intended to stop the savviest /. reader from doing whatever. It's designed to stop the 99% of people who wouldn't ever even think that a hack might exist to get around it. For examply, the reason Napster got popular is because people like my Grandma started swapping files. Napster started blocking and she stopped using it, and now it's basically dead. We all know there's way to get around the blocks, but that doesn't really matter. So, I guess my point is, if it's good enough to stop my Grandma, then it's good enough. :)
  • by screwballicus ( 313964 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @04:43PM (#255046)
    Aside from the obvious possibility of keeping digital copies of media through screenshots or other recording programs, there will never be a way to stop people from going the analogue route. Even if our kernels themselves were carefully programmed to prevent copying of digital media in any way shape or form, we could easily hook up an RCA-out to any other comp's RCA-in and take a capture there. Or if we want copy-protected sound recorded, we can just hook our audio-out up with any other comp's audio-in and record to our heart's delight.

    Unless they lock all our computers in glass cases and leave us without a single port to access, we'll still be able to record this stuff to our heart's delight. This is all hullabaloo.

  • If you think about it, the locks you have on your house, car, gym locker, bike, etc. really aren't that difficult to defeat/circumvent, but they do keep your property relatively secure because most of the Joe Schmoe-types walking by don't know how or don't want to expend the effort to deal with them.

    This will work the same way. Sure, most Slashdot readers may be capable of circumventing the tech, but it will keep Joe User from appropriating content simply because he/she doesn't know how or doesn't care to expend the effort to find out how.

  • by webmaestro ( 323340 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @04:26PM (#255051) Journal
    These companies are always talking about new ways to protect content, but it is just a matter of time until someone figures out how to circumvent it. The only thing that keeps most protection schemes from being circumenvent is the lack of interest in its contents. If this method is to protect sensitive documents then it should be a relatively short period of time untill someone figures out how to crack it. It would take very smart people a very long time to design a content protection scheme that would take so long to break that it would be infeasible. I seriously doubt that this technology is one of those.
  • The whole premise of that software is wrong. If you don't have control over the physical terminal equipment, then people can record the data using a variety of recording techniques no matter what you do with the software (screen capture, digital cameras, etc.). If you do have control over the physical terminal equipment, you don't need to bother with oddball plug-ins at all, you simply don't put any removable storage on the machine and limit its Internet access.

    At best, plug-ins like that are an expression of policy and preference, not a security device, and only keep casual users from accidentally storing data. Trouble is that they are being marketed for security purposes: the article talks about proprietary design documents, the FBI, and sensitive corporate information. In my opinion, for that, they are completely unsuitable, and anybody who buys them for that is a fool.

  • by Flying Headless Goku ( 411378 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @04:27PM (#255056) Homepage
    Yep, just look at the last few years: Napster, Gnutella, Freenet. We're definitely moving away from the free exchange of computer data.

    ("Andre creep, Andre creep...")
  • I suppose the headlined "read once, write never" memory is marginally better than the competing standard of Write Only Memory.

    In all seriousness, do we really need to look at every one of these companies whose business is based on ignorance of the simple rule: "If I can see it or hear it, I can record it."?
  • by Tech187 ( 416303 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @05:20PM (#255058)
    It's fairly trivial to convert .pdf files into editable vectored graphics. I have a NetBSD box at work on my private subnet (the main machines at work are all Win32, OS/2, or rather controlled Sparc boxes, my subnet is composed of a second net card in my NT Box and a crossover cable to my NetBSD box). I run the xpdf package on it expressly to convert .pdf files to pure postscript (the print command). Then I drag them back to the NT side and import them into Micrografx Designer. Viola! Editable vectored drawings from stuff formerly locked up in the .pdf format. Any good graphics program that can import postscript vectors will do the same. I like being able to resize and manipulate the schematics we get from an outside design house only as PDF files....
  • by sllort ( 442574 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @05:05PM (#255060) Homepage Journal
    "take a picture of the screen with a digital camera."

    Digital cameras are circumvention devices! MPAA sues Kodak! News at 11!

    Best Buy is the world's largest distributor of circumvention devices...
  • by art+lies ( 443495 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @05:54PM (#255061)
    Not if it's been manufactured under licence from the MPAA. MPAA pencils can only be used in the correct region (don't expect your Australian pencil to work in Canada). Legal Advice: Linking to instructions on how to make a pencil is illegal...
  • by House of Usher ( 447177 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @04:26PM (#255067) Homepage
    Quite an interesting article to read over there. . . And I definitely agree that it is a problem where people essentially go and make copies of said information. However, I don't think that what Authentica is doing is quite right in a sense. If a company is going to do things that are in a proprietary nature, is this not where someone should be allowed to make copies of such information.
    I remember a year ago, seeing a little Java applet being run that prevented the user from 'stealing' the image so to speak as it was displayed in a box. However, I'm not quite sure how this would stand up for documents. One thing that could be done would be to display such images in a PDF format. I'm surprised that Adobe, the head of the WinOS PDF readers, has not yet made an option that prevents printing of certain documents. Alas, those are my mere thoughts of a mere man.
  • by sludgely ( 447712 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @05:10PM (#255068)
    I am pretty sure that all of those listed methods violate the DMCA. Especially writing stuff, God knows what happend to 2600 for writing some links...
  • The seeds of the future have been planted...

    Soon enough, information will be distributed in a closed manner similar to this. People who wish to view this information will have to use The System. Big Media will team up with Big Microsoft to form one huge monopoly that *no one* can break. (See: Windows XP and MP3). Unfortunately, most attempts by the open source community et al will fail because secrets to reading information will be kept only by the monopolizers (See: DeCSS encryption). The occasional advances made by the community will be stopped by lawyers and legislation (See: Your Rights Online).

    Possible Endings:
    1) You have been assimilated into the Complex. Do not resist.
    2) Viva la comunista! Down with the capitalist regime!
    3) ...
  • by tuatara222 ( 448203 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @07:14PM (#255073)
    Hey, for the record, there are a lot of females over the age of 35 (myself included) who are quite capable of taking screen shots, printing to PDF and posting to the web!

    Jeez, I was probably using FidoNet when some of you guys were thinking solid food was a neat idea...

    Just because some of us are old enough to be a parent of many of you doesn't mean we're by definition tech-ignorant; people do pick this up later in life, too - my mother didn't get her first (PowerMac) computer until she was 60!

    I've also done enough tech support to see there are just as many ignorant males as females-of all ages- out there...
    Anyway, I don't mean to be strident; I just ask that y'all be a little more open-minded, please!
    = )

A bug in the code is worth two in the documentation.