Thursday, April 21, 2005

Odd Nikon DRM

From boingboing, this is an unusual situation that Nikon is in:

Dan Wineman reminds us of recent reports that Nikon's D2X uses a proprietary form of data encryption that locks out third party software (DRM where it is not needed = really stupid):
The camera actually encrypts part of the image file (specifically, the white balance data) for every photo you shoot with it. The encryption isn't particularly good, so there are various ways to get around it, but Nikon won't license the decryption algorithm to Adobe. This means that Photoshop can't import Nikon's raw image format unless Adobe reverse engineers it, and Adobe is unwilling to do so because of the DMCA. Slashdot story and original article. Why should you care? Because it amounts to a camera manufacturer using technology to assert ownership rights over the pictures you take. I'll explain: there's absolutely no technical reason why that data should be encrypted, and the encryption scheme is so bad that Nikon must have implemented it only to gain DMCA protection. That protection isn't available to them unless they own the data being protected, so if they DON'T intend to claim a copyright interest in your photos, then they've just gone to a whole lot of trouble to make a digital camera that's incompatible with Photoshop. I'm sure that's what customers are clamoring for, right?
BB reader Stephen B. Goodman argues:
Nikon's D2X ships with a Photoshop plug-in that can export RAW format data from the camera into Photoshop. So it is not only possible, but encouraged to use Photoshop in your workflow. What Adobe is worried about is incorporating the D2X's excrypted RAW format into their OWN proprietary RAW importer which they sell for a profit. Adobe simply wants to be able to support more cameras, so they can sell the plug-in to more photographers. Secondly, only Nikon really knows why their data is encrypted, but it probably has far more to do with protecting their trade secrets concerning firmware and hardware design, than it does about wanting copyright control over a photographer's image. No digital cameras that shoot a RAW format are natively compatible with Photoshop (which is why you see a list of supported cameras in the Adobe link above), because RAW (which is really a name convention, not a standard format) is a straight data dump from a camera's chip. Different chips + different firmware = different data formats.

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