Intel Claims DRM'd Chip Is Not DRM, It's Just Copy Protection

from the um,-that's-the-same-thing dept

There’s been a lot of talk this week about Intel building DRM into its Sandy Bridge chip. I had initially passed on writing this story, as we seem to hear the same thing every few years. Back in 2005, for example, there were similar stories about Intel planning DRM built into its chip. However, what got me interested enough to actually write about this is Intel’s bizarre response to the press coverage, in which they play one of the most ridiculous games of corporate doublespeak in ages. First, they insist it’s not DRM. They say that right up in the headline: “No, It’s Not DRM” Then they kick it off with an explanation of what DRM is, followed up by again saying: “I am not going to get into a discussion about the pros and cons of DRM in this blog; but I will say that Intel Insider is NOT a DRM technology.” Ok. So what is it. That’s in the next paragraph:

Intel Insider is a service that enables consumers to enjoy premium Hollywood feature films streamed to their PC in high quality 1080P high definition. Currently this service does not exist because the movie studios are concerned about protecting their content, and making sure that it cannot be stolen or used illegally. So Intel created Intel insider, an extra layer of content protection.

Um. So it is DRM. You just said it’s not, and then described DRM. Content protection is DRM. I’m not sure exactly what Intel thinks it’s doing here. If they say it’s not DRM and then explain how it is DRM, they think people will think it’s not DRM? If you’re going to include DRM, just admit that it’s DRM. Then we can argue about whether or not it’s smart (and, no, it’s not).

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: intel

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Intel Claims DRM'd Chip Is Not DRM, It's Just Copy Protection”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Killer_Tofu (profile) says:


Isn’t Intel a little far removed from the MAFIAA to have to kowtow to their requests and pressures to “help us save our business from half a century ago!”?

What do they possibly have to gain by helping those groups? I must have missed some news somewhere because I just can’t see anything they have to gain, aside from maybe being paid off to do so.

I doubt their sue the 3rd party efforts could manage to get far enough to actually sue Intel or others and not get thrown out of court.

I must have missed something. Anyone care to fill in the blank for me here?

Matthew (profile) says:

The explanation is not really about DRM...

The explanation is not really about DRM – it’s a preemptive cry for mercy from the antitrust investigators.

For the record, they aren’t kowtowing – they’re trying to put in a piece of DRM that will be so attractive to the MAFIAAs that their competitors get frozen out of the market for any device that plays audio or video, which these days, is pretty much everything. Bending the customers over and stuffing their rights where the sun don’t shine is just part of doing business (and government) these days.

Mario says:


“Isn’t Intel a little far removed from the MAFIAA to have to kowtow to their requests and pressures to “help us save our business from half a century ago!”?”

Well, actually, Intel is quite an important part of the MAFIAA cartel because they’re the ones who created HDCP for the content arm of MAFIAA. For those that aren’t familiar with HDCP, HDCP is the encryption mechanism used to “secure” data going over HDMI connections. HDMI is just the classic DVI with HDCP on top.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Here’s the crux of their ridiculous position, FTA:

“DRM is a piece of software, not hardware.”

That’s a rather obscure way to look at it (or, well, a rather self-serving way to look at it) and they are nutty if they think anyone will accept it. That article can be summarized as saying “It’s not DRM, it just does all the exact same things as DRM.”

Shit by any other name…

The Invisible Hand (profile) says:

Intel is digging itself a hole. They aren’t the only ones that make CPUs and the competition is not sticking restrictive measures into their CPUs. In fact, AMD has been releasing open-source drivers for their CPUs and GPUs recently, so, contrarily to Intel, they are expanding their market and making the community happy.

Intel is going all-or-nothing on the super-performance and overclocking crowd (read: kids with rich parents or console-spawns), and expect to coax these into spreading their DRM.

I myself will keep buying AMD. At least they know how to do floating point math and don’t put remote kill switches on their CPUs.

crade (profile) says:


I think the crux of their position in reality probably comes down to:
“It’s just a feature available to programers to use how they will, for DRM purposes or not”
Without any info, I’d say it’s likely probably just some sort of encryption or compression handling technology. What makes it DRM I’m guessing will come when they give some sort of key or special control over the technology to *IAA and not to the owner of the chip.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:


Intel Insider is a service that enables consumers to enjoy premium Hollywood feature films streamed to their PC in high quality 1080P high definition. Currently this service does not exist because the movie studios are concerned about protecting their content, and making sure that it cannot be stolen or used illegally. So Intel created Intel insider, an extra layer of content protection.

Nothing about that sounds neutral or programmer-friendly to me. They know exactly what this is for and how it will be used – and they announce it right off the bat. They clearly already have plans to use this for DRM straight out of the gate.

crade (profile) says:


It definately sounds like the intent is to make DRM stronger, but that doesn’t make it DRM by itself we really don’t have any info about it. They kindof make it sound like it is some sort of encryption to protect HD video in transit

It doesn’t really matter if it’s friendly, it has to be controlled somehow. For me, the question comes down to who has the keys, the customer, everyone, intel, *IAA?

The Invisible Hand (profile) says:


Piracy involves raiding towns, boarding ships, drinking grog, singing pirate-y songs, saying “ARRR!” a lot, insult sword-fighting (among other insult sports), burying (and finding) treasure and going on seemingly pointless errands that, ultimately, will allow you to find and not so pointless object that will aid you in completing you main quest.

These activities may or may not involve theft. So just slapping the “thief” tag on pirates not only shows your ignorance, it also perpetuates the notion that pirate are mere petty crooks and overlooks their diverse array of activities and their positive impact on society (like eliminating evil pirate ghosts, for example).

Anonymous Coward says:


“What do they possibly have to gain by helping those groups?”

Relevancy. With their continued loss of the mobile and low-power industry (like set top boxes) and now the announcement that Windows is going to run on non-Intel hardware, they need new and inventive way to keep people buying their chips. If they have a tech that the MAFIAA buys in to, they can then license that tech to other chip makers to take a cut of their profits, or keep it all to themselves and ensure people keep buying their chips.

They have no real alliance with them, they just need to keep them buying in.

The Invisible Hand (profile) says:


Your software is only as good as your hardware is. If your hardware comes crippled from the factory, no amount of software is going to compensate.

But if you want to have your hardware decide when it is going to die on you (read: second paragraph), by all means, go ahead and buy that piece of crap.

BigKeithO (profile) says:


It’s not like these chips won’t play any old xvid or divx file from bittorrent. Nothing is protected except for the stream authorized by the studios. You make it sound like you can’t get any movie online right now, what are you trying to say?

People who want to “steal stuff without paying for it” will continue to be able to do so. All that will happen is some soccer moms somewhere won’t be able to figure out why the movie they just bought won’t work properly. Want to know what version of the movie will work properly? The one from bittorrent.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:


It doesn’t just “sound” like that’s the intent – they clearly state that’s the intent! The very first thing they say is that it will enable streaming movies – that the studios are worried about rights management, and “so” they created this chip.

You can argue the technicalities of whether the processor feature, in itself, qualifies as DRM – but given that they have explicitly said that its purpose is to enable “content protection” for film studios, I think it’s pretty fair to call it DRM technology.

Anonymous Coward says:

Hmmm…there is so concern about those processors, the “feature” that can disable your processor remotely is just scary. It is being trumpeted as anti-theft device, but I wonder if law enforcement doesn’t have a backdoor there somewhere and how long until copytards start to ask for Intel to put scanners directly into the silicon and disable “criminals” LoL

Richard (profile) says:


Hint: The future is coming, and it won’t be wide open. Deal with it.

Now who should one listen to on this issue, you or widely respected security expert Professor Ed Felten of Princeton?

Writing in his review of predictions for 2009:

“DRM technology will still fail to prevent widespread infringement. In a related development, pigs will still fail to fly.

By tradition this is our first prediction, and it has always been accurate. Guess what our first 2010 prediction will be? Verdict: right.”

Anonymous Coward says:

The idiocy of an entire industry is just amazing.

When barriers to the products have broken down and you no longer control the distribution channel what do you do?

If you are an idiot you try to put an artificial barrier that will be ignored by the masses and will devalue your product because it is clunkier than the competition.

Right this will work wonders. That and the “Ultraviolet” thing will fail miserably in the near future, but don’t just believe me, watch and see it happen before your eyes.

They then will try to make it work through legislation, when the people already proved they don’t care and will happily ignore it.

Not to mention the drive that this puts on the creation of legal free alternatives that could become mainstream in the next decade, then it will be game over for them.

The Invisible Hand (profile) says:


I actually meant the third paragraph of that link:

“In addition, Sandy Bridge processors will implement security features that include the ability to remotely disable a PC or erase information from hard drives. This can be useful in the case of a lost or stolen PC. The commands can be received through 3G signals, ethernet, or internet connections.”

and, WTF is that about your first quote? It could have been developed in Mars for all I care. What I don’t like is the fact that anyone besides me can erase my data and neutralize my CPU remotely. If you are ok with this, then please, apply a brick to your forehead until you regain your senses.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Intel Claims DRM’d Chip Is Not DRM, It’s Just Copy Protection

Tobacco companies claiming cigarettes don’t kill people, they’re just unhealthy.

Obama claiming that going after embarrassing leaks and resisting most FOIA requests doesn’t contradict his promises for transparency, it just ensures national security.

They’re all lies and we know it.

ladyserenakitty (profile) says:

Think of Open Source

If there’s DRM embedded within the processor to appease the movie industry, then what’s to stop a PC manufacturer like HP to use that DRM to prevent other non-Windows operating systems from running on that hardware? Additionally, when coupled with Intel’s remote shut-off capability, what’s to stop said manufacturer from remotely disabling the processor when they find out you’re running Linux, BSD, or Solaris on a machine they built?

Anonymous Coward says:

Think of Open Source

I think that should also concern national security for other countries, what country will let their IT run on hardware that another country controls and can shut them down?

Time to buy from AMD or the lesser evil(compared to Intel apparent intentions) the Chinese, although I hear Koreans have a x86 microprocessor too.

Anonymous Coward says:

Thinking about it, this is the most stupid idea ever.

This DRM stuff and remote disabling of hardware could lead to severe decline of sales in that particular sector for Intel.

If I was a government I would not buy Intel ever because of the risks involved.

If I was a company I wouldn’t buy that either, since with the easy for misguided actions, errors in procedure or any other reason could lead to total loss of data.

As a user that scares me and I’m going to stay away from Intel because I don’t want them controlling what I do with my computer.

Mario says:


“HDMI is just the classic DVI with audio and HDCP on top.

There, I fixed it for you. :D”

Yes, you’re right:). I knew that but I didn’t considered it would make a difference to my point. More likely, it would have made an unknowing reader think “Ooooh, but it adds audio as well, that really cool!”, which would be completely missing the point. The point I was trying to get across was that HDMI is just Intel taking an open technology (the DVI standard interface) and locking it down with HDCP.

Androgynous Cowherd says:

1080p HD on a PC

Intel Insider is a service that enables consumers to enjoy premium Hollywood feature films streamed to their PC in high quality 1080P high definition.

That’s funny. I’ve recently watched a Hollywood feature film on my PC in 1080p HD, and I did it without any help from “Intel Insider”. (eMule, on the other hand …)

I have over 3TB of disk storage here, broadband, and a will to use it. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.

The morons at the film cartel better wise up or step down soon or they’ll run their whole oligopoly nose-first into the Pacific and we’ll have another big economic crisis on our hands. “Intel Insider” won’t save them. (Watching that copy, which probably came from a screener Bluray or a cracked HDMI device, would not be affected by it.) COICA won’t save them. (eMule does not depend on any particular web sites staying up and is quite comfortable using raw IP addresses.) Only business model innovation can save them.

Shirkie01 says:

DRM isn't the full issue here

I might not have the entire aspect down, but from what I understand:

When Intel says this is not DRM, they probably are using EA’s and Ubisoft’s definition of DRM. If you want to look it up, you’ll see that these have been patched, due to the DRM increasing the amount of pirating, since people didn’t want the DRM to control their computers. Intel Insider, though, is a hardware aspect to do the same thing, so technically not DRM, but still serves the same function.
So, what are the difficulties and costs associated with a hardware recall and a revamp of your production line in addition to scrapping processors that are on shelves compared to issuing a software patch, anyone?

If programmers can use this for DRM or not, according to their will, what’s to stop viruses from using this “feature” to kill your processor or erase all your data? If the law authorities are the only ones who can access it, they’re going to have pretty big headaches fixing it when the average Joe buys a pre-assembled computer and gets a virus of that type.

Additionally, I don’t see any protection against someone purchasing this as a second computer solely for the video streams, then simply recording them and uploading them to file-sharing programs. It wouldn’t be streaming, but you would still have the quality given the right recording program.

When this shit hits the fan, Intel deserves to be kicked down a couple notches, hopefully making chips at comparable prices to AMD, instead of a difference of ~$800 for the top models.

rec9140 (user link) says:


I’ve not used intel for my personal machines, all 100% personally built, nor for any clients custom built machines, or any even when purchasing items from OEM’s like Dell for well over 20 years.. Since the AMD line came out I’ve been firmly an AMD user, and never will go back.

nVidia – graphics

no thanks on intel or ati graphics (and yes I know who owns them, and I still WONT USE THEM!!)

This just solidifies my stance against intel… now if AMD would just release a dual core atom like processor I would be good to go!

With this DRM, and YES THIS IS DRM! Lack of Linux drivers for features which require practically bleeding edge if not development versions of libs etc.. FAIL, EPIC FAIL.

Christopher (profile) says:


Who says that you will have to circumvent the DRM? The fact is that this DRM will ONLY BE USED IF THE APPLICATIONS ASK FOR IT TO BE USED!

If you are using a program that DOESN’T call for the DRM to be used, you are golden. Windows 7 does N O T automatically call for all the DRM stuff in it to be used, it waits for individual applications to ask for it to use it.

I would assume this would ALSO be true with this processor-based DRM.

Christopher (profile) says:

1080p HD on a PC

That is part of it, to be honest. However, with all due respect, I really have NEVER had these DRM protections ever bother me on my computer, and that is WITHOUT trying to actively disable them.

These ‘protections’ will only be used if applications ask for them to be used, so if the applications don’t ask for them to be used? You won’t even notice them, it will be like they are not even there.

Eldakka (profile) says:


Not quite right either.

HDCP is not a part of, or a requisite for HDMI.

HDMI is the physical connector and digital signalling standards for transmitting audio and video over a cable.

The digital signalling of video is an enhancement of DVI, as it allows for greater bandwidth.

HDCP is a device level layer (nothing to do with the cable) that adds encryption/authorization.

You can have HDCP over DVI, you can have HDCP over HDMI, hell you can probably have HDCP over ethernet.

You can have DVI and HDMI without HDCP.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:


Ah, I did not recollect that Intel had such a large role in the HDCP development. Thank you for the refresher.
I still am unclear why they even got into that to begin with, short of Lobo Santo’s explanation above.

Sorry about the late reply. I usually avoid the internet on the weekends and didn’t get back on TD on Friday there.

One would think that even with HDCP being broken and cracked and worked around so much, Intel would have perhaps learned some sort of lesson about how DRM does not work.

Anonymous Coward says:


Ah, but by using AMD you won’t be able to play the movies that are exclusively available to those lucky consumers with Intel chips and their non-DRM DRM. This is also a reply to the first poster, who wonders why Intel would bother. It’s for the exclusivity, of course. Intel is thinking down the road, to a utopic day when *they* control the chips that can decode the movies. And, conversely, nobidy else does. Call me paranoid, but…

ltlw0lf (profile) says:


Yeah, I’m calling bullshit.

I have to as well. Vista had bugs in it related to DRM, such as when I’d place a pre-written CD-R in the drive and it would tell me that the disc wasn’t formatted and would overwrite the CD-R, but I haven’t had Windows 7 do anything like that to me. The only thing that I’ve experienced with Windows 7 has existed since WindowsXP (file transfers via SMB are abnormally slow,) but I am not sure this is related to the DRM issue that has been published and not just bad network coding. (FTP takes about 30 seconds to transfer a file which takes 8 minutes to transfer using SMB.)

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...