Master key code could be used to create pirate devices, but Intel says they would be hard to make and they would be illegal.
Intel has confirmed that code posted to the Internet earlier this week is the master key that is part of an Intel-created standard used to make sure only authorized devices are playing copyright-protected movies.
"We can use it to generate valid device keys that do interoperate with the (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) protocol," Intel spokesman Tom Waldrop told CNET today.
HDCP is used in set-top boxes, DVD, and Blu-ray disc players, and other devices to encrypt the content, audio, or video, and verify that the devices have HDCP licenses and thus won't play pirated content.
The code appeared mysteriously on the Pastebin.com site on Monday with the headline "IS THE LEAKED HDCP MASTER KEY REAL?"
It remains unknown who posted it and how they were able to get the code, Waldrop said.
With the master key code it is possible to build devices that play copyright-protected content without having to pay for licenses. But Waldrop said that wouldn't be easy to do because the technology would have to be implemented in the chip. "As a practical matter, that's a difficult and costly thing to do," he said.
And Intel most definitely would try to thwart any makers of unauthorized devices.
"We believe that this technology will remain effective," he said. "There's a large install base of licensed devices including several hundred licensees that will continue to use it and in any case, were a (circumvention) device to appear that attempts to take advantage of this particular hack there are legal remedies, particularly under the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act)."