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Why Aacs Matters?

By Expert Author: Linda Lee

As a freelance writer for a local media centered on PC software, and at the same time, a movie enthusiast who has a hobby of collecting commercial DVDs and Blu-rays, I kept my eyes open in the past two years on the battles between AACS LA and several DVD/Blu-ray backup solution providers.

On Feb. 21, a court in St. John's, Antigua and Barbuda, found Giancarlo Bettini, owner and founder of SlySoft that develops the reputed AACS-circumvention software AnyDVD HD, guilty of violating the nation's copyright law, and was finally fined $30,000, marking an end to the 2 year + battle between AACS LA and SlySoft. SlySoft is not new to most guys, like me, who make backup copies of his/her DVD & Blu-ray collections quite often, but who the hell is AACS?

Who is AACS and Why It Matters?

AACS, the short for the Advanced Access Content System, is the next generation successor to the Content Scramble System, the digital rights management mechanism used by commercial DVDs. It is a standard for content distribution and digital rights management, intended to restrict access to and copying of content on optical discs (like commercial HD DVDs and later Blu-rays) and other digital media. It is developed by AACS LA (AACS Licensing Administrator LLC) and a super large consortium including Disney, Intel, Microsoft, Panasonic, Warner Bros., IBM, Toshiba and Sony. AACS uses cryptography to control and restrict the use of digital media. It encrypts content under one or more title keys using the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). Title keys are decrypted using a combination of a media key (encoded in a Media Key Block) and the Volume ID of the media (e.g., a physical serial number embedded on a pre-recorded disc).

To make it short and plain, the intention of AACS is to prevent people from replicating the content on the commercial movie DVDs and Blu-rays, and many other copyrighted materials. This is exactly the reason why AACS matters much to those who have the needs to make backup copies of their legally purchased movie DVDs and Blu-rays, even under the name of private purpose only, because, as AACS may like to address it, it potentially encourages piracy. This is also why, mentioned at the very beginning of this article, SlySoft (AnyDVD HD) was eyed by AACS LA.

Where There Is Demand, There Is Market.

Where there is demand, there is market. The fact is, since the implementation of AACS, the attempt to crack or circumvent it (remove AACS copy protections), has never stopped, because people believe that what AACS LA is doing is totally unfair. As consumers, they have purchased the movie DVDs or Blu-rays with their blood-earned money, which means they totally own their properties, and they have the undoubted right to make backup copies for private home purposes. This is also where and when application tools like AnyDVD HD kick in.

As a matter of fact, there are many similar products in the market that offer one way or another to circumvent or remove AACS copy protections. Besides SlySoft, there are still many other contenders like DVDFab Blu-ray Copy from the China-based DVDFab Software Inc., 1Click Blu-ray Copy from the Canada-based LG Software Innovations, and the Blu-ray ripping tools from Aiseesoft, another Chinese developer, also offer very eye-catching solutions.

Did Anyone Survive AACS LA's Wiping out Storm?

No doubt that AACS LA will take counteractions sooner or later. The only difference is that people did not expect it that quick. Not long after SlySoft was $30,000, DVDFab unfortunately became the next target of AACS, whose case is still ongoing. What happened next was the Domino effect, LG Software Innovations announced that it would discontinue its 1Click Blu-ray Copy, and Aiseesoft also quietly removed its DVD and Blu-ray ripping software from its web site. However, quite a few movie lovers, me included, discovered a very ironical thing that, despite being fined $30,000, it seemed that SlySoft was not seriously affected and its AnyDVD HD (79 EUR for a two-year license) was still available at least while I was drafting this article. Also, another FREE Addon called WoooKao, a Windows-based driver that works on-the-fly, was found capable of removing AACS encryptions. Based on my personal tests, I found this FREE Addon allows me to freely access and watch all my commercial DVD/Blu-ray discs from my PC optical drive, even let me make copies using it together with other copying or burning applications without decryption feature. This does sound good to guys like me. Hopefully, it will not become the next attacking target of AACS LA.

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