Michael Malkin, a CS grad student at Stanford, informs me that media files can be “watermarked” with a DRM code that will survive being played into an analog signal unless it is subjected to some degree of degradation. This would mean the copies, even if made by the real-time kludge I described in my earlier post will have protection that precludes their play except in DRM-protective equipment.
Accordingly, Michael says, it’s not possible to say at present that the analog hole is or is not certain to trump DRM. However, he adds, “the analog hole will still be a problem for content providers as long as most people have players without DRM. And I’m sure that if DRM becomes ubiquitous, hackers will start distributing programs to strip copy-protection from media and will start hosting DRM-free copies of media on their servers for download. The only way to make a serious dent would be for the companies who make all the hardware and operating systems to include DRM at all levels, so that there would be a
completely closed system.”
This is an important and dynamic area of technology to watch, with great risk of wrongheaded approaches incurring serious social and economic costs. In the policy/politics context, it’s significant because, to the degree that the music and video industry believes DRM can save their bacon, they will probably be resistant to policy reforms of the type I discussed here.