Schematic of the BD Plus system
BD Plus now available to help prevent Blu-ray piracy

Blu-ray Disc is getting another layer of content protection with the availability of BD Plus (BD+). The system, from BD+ Technologies LLC, is now complete and available to all Hollywood movie studios and content developers for implementation in Blu-ray Disc media.

Issued by BD+ Technologies are system specifications, key management rules, test specifications and various agreements. Also launched are a key issuing center, testing centers for players, and testing facilities for disc playability.

With the recent compromises to the Advanced Access Content System (AACS), BD Plus represents a new DRM scheme in hopes to thwart piracy. The BD+ system is believed to play a part in several Hollywood movie studios’ choice of which high-definition optical format to support. As the HD DVD specification does not account for BD+, movie studios such as Fox may have sided exclusively with Blu-ray Disc for its extra levels of protection.

The attacks on the AACS have also had a noticeable effect on the release of movies from Blu-ray-exclusive studios. Neither Fox (which holds the Star Wars movies) nor MGM (has the entire 007 catalog) have released any Blu-ray movies since April. The release of the new BD+ system, however, may soon change that.

BD+ differs from AACS in its complexity. Effectively an embedded virtual machine inside player hardware, BD+ allows content providers to include executables on Blu-ray Discs to perform specific, content protecting functions. For example, the BD+ virtual machine could run diagnostics on the host environment to see if the disc player has been modified, or to verify that the keys have not been changed.

As part of the BD+ scheme, video may be deliberately corrupted or modified to prevent the ripping of the data stream for piracy purposes. The BD+ environment, once verified, will correct and descramble the content to render it viewable.

“BD+ will be the proverbial thorn in the side of Blu-ray movie rippers,” said optical storage analyst Wesley Novack. “With AACS and BD+ switching up encryption keys and methods routinely (BD+), it might become too much work to determine how to rip every Blu-ray Disc title out there.”

BD+ is a system made for Blu-ray Disc, but not all implementations of the media are required to support the system. In fact, support for BD+ is less that for AACS. Of all categories of BD-ROM, only game consoles, movie players and BD PC software are required to work with BD+ encoded media.

Although an entire generation of Blu-ray Disc (and HD DVD) titles were cracked by a single AACS processing key, the extra layer of BD+ should make it much more challenging for hackers. Unlike AACS, BD+ can protect each Blu-ray Disc with a title-specific code, making the circumvention of the scheme much more involved than finding a single “silver bullet” processing key. Crackers would need to reverse-engineer each title individually to bypass the protection. While that task may be difficult, it may not be impossible as PC software with virtual machine-based protections, such as StarForce, are still being circumvented.

“Only time will tell and there is no guarantee that BD+ will be effective against the persistence and tenacity of the talented online community,” added Novack.

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