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cinavia_logo.gifHaven’t heard about Cinavia? Chances are, you will soon if you download pirated movies and attempt to play them back on a Blu-ray player or through a PS3. Cinavia is a somewhat new DRM technology that uses "audio watermarking" embedded into the audio stream portion of a movie. In a nutshell, what it does is compare the source of the audio to the format in which a movie was released (ie theatrical or commercial disc), and if the watermarked audio source detects a difference, the movie will either be mute (but most likely not play at all). So far, there have been at least two popular movies found on peer-to-peer that contain Cinavia DRM: TS/CAM versions ofThe Wolfman and Shutter Island.

How Cinavia is applied - an example: If someone were to "CAM" a movie and use a ‘line’ audio source (from a headphone jack, as opposed to recording the ‘crowd’), the watermark in the ‘line’ audio will search for its match - in this case, being a theatrical source. Since a TS or CAM’s ‘line’ audio doesn’t match the original release format, Cinavia will block or restrict playback of the file. (Technical info can be found here and here).

"Movies protected by Cinavia technology carry inaudible codes embedded by the copyright owner in their audio tracks that indicate where and how they are allowed to be used. For example, movies that are being released to theaters can carry a Cinavia code that indicates that they are supposed to be duplicated by professional replicators and played back on professional projection equipment only."

Blu-Ray, PS3 Only (so far)

At present, the Cinavia technology has only been introduced into Blu-ray players (which also includes PS3s; and apparently even the PS3 Media Server has a problem playing these DRM-protected files). A list of participating Blu-Ray manufacturers where Cinavia has been integrated can be found at this link. However, since the technology has now been officially stamped into AACS’s new agreements, all major manufacturers will be assumed to comply to the new protocol.

"Cinavia has been adopted as a required component of the AACS content protection system. Blu-ray players with Cinavia detectors began entering the consumer market in late 2009."

This is a big win for Verance’s Cinavia; not only are all (or most) BD players said to adopt it as the de-facto DRM standard, but Cinavia also has some heavy backing through studios like 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Entertainment.

After reviewing some examples of Sony’s product specs for their line of Blu-ray players, we were unable to find reference to Cinavia throughout their 2010 BD user manuals. With that said, Pioneer does include it in their BD players as shown here (see page 9 in the pdf).

Non Blu-ray Playback

Since the Cinavia protection is limited to Blu-ray players only (and PS3s), the technology does not affect any playback methods that do not include Cinavia detectors. This means that even if you download a media file which contains the DRM watermark, it will also require Cinavia-compliant hardware in order to acknowledge the watermark (and subsequently block playback).

DVD Players — It’s unclear whether or not future DVD player models will come with Cinavia (or retail DVD media), but at this time we couldn’t find any examples where it had already been incorporated (or planned for).

Downloading & Viewing on PC — This audio watermarking is ineffectual on media downloaded to - and viewed on - a home computer.

HD Media Centers — Again, same as above. Standalone or streaming units such as theWD TV or PopcornHour are not affected.

Older Model BD Players — Hold onto your old Blu-ray; these units do not include Cinavia.

Not Just TS/CAMs…

It’ll be interesting to see what happens down the road with Russian R5’s, as most scene/P2P releases use ‘line’ English audio dubbed over the native language. In theory, if Cinavia is incorporated into the original source R5, then most releases (as found on peer-to-peer, torrents) will be unplayable on a Blu-ray unit.

DVDRips, Screeners are another potential target, with the possibility that DRM-infused XviD/MKV rips may check for authentic retail copies.

The Impact on Piracy

As it stands, the Cinavia technology will have a negligible impact on piracy as a whole. Downloaders who are accustomed to streaming to a PS3 or burning to BD-R media will simply use an alternative method to view movies; this is clearly more of an inconvenience rather than a deterrence. Unless Verance’s Cinavia makes it into next-gen DivX-compatible DVD players, or else finds an insidious way to get it onto home PCs, not much else will change.

And even if they do, I’m certain that at this very minute there are reverse engineers attempting to crack the technology. And if they can DeCSS the DVD code, then a safe bet would suggest that this watermark should be an easier target.



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