Tech guru aims to arm studios vs. piracy

Drawing three lines, Paul Kocher sketches a grim picture for Hollywood: One shows fast-growing computer hard-drive capacity. Another is for ever-faster online connections. The third shows growing computer power.

The lines go the wrong direction for Hollywood, pointing toward the future of movie piracy: fast and cheap.

Kocher — whose Cryptography Research company works with credit-card companies, satcasters and studios on information security — figures Hollywood has just a few years left to figure out how to avoid getting Napsterized.

Today, downloading a pirated film takes forever, and storing one costs $4 — about as much as renting it. By 2013, it’ll cost half a cent and take just seconds to download.

“If (the studios) don’t do something, the technical impediments to piracy will go away,” Kocher says. “A commodity hard disk will be able to store more movies than Netflix currently has.”

Kocher proposes two technology answers.

One, a “forensic watermark,” would help investigators track a pirated pic back to the equipment used in its theft.

The second is to move most security capability out of hardware and onto the disk storing a movie.

Such software could then be easily modified “when, not if” an anti-piracy scheme is cracked. Subsequent versions of the disk could then control movie playback on a given device, blocking it where appropriate.

Kocher says there are other approaches, but Hollywood must decide what it wants, and now.

The clock is ticking.

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