There's a delicious Chinese idiom that's a variation of the English expression 'blame the messenger'. "When the finger points at the moon," say the Chinese, "the idiot points at the finger." This seems to form the heart of Intel's damage limitation strategy, as it tries quell public concern about the incorporation of CPRM (Content Protection for Recordable Media) into the ATA specification used by hard disk drives.
Shortly before Christmas, we pointed our finger at moves to add a copy control framework into the ATA specification - again, that's the one used by fixed hard drives. There's only one removable ATA device on the market today, we've noted, and although other devices use the ATA command set, they're administered by committees other than the T.13 group that looks after ATA. Noting various provisos - that the specification had yet to be formally accepted, that it was dubbed optional - we raised the legitimate question of why on earth such draconian, and potentially restrictive technologies should be in the ATA specification.
Intel's response has been to point at our finger. Concerned readers have received the following missive from Intel's PR team:
"A recent article on The Register website ("Stealth plan puts copy protection into every hard drive") contains false information that the 4C is working to have CPRM applied to all fixed PC hard drives to prevent copying of copyrighted material. The article misinterprets the specification for use of CPRM with IBM MicroDrives and Compact Flash (used in portable devices) and states that since the interface for those devices is the same as the one used in fixed hard drives, then we must have plans to bring CPRM to fixed hard drives."
In our original story, a spokesman for 4C Entity member IBM even suggested that putting CPRM into hard drives would help IT managers with copyright compliance issues. So much for our fevered hallucinations.
And you'll recall how it took a storm of public protest - that went all the way to CEO level at 4C we gather - before Intel disavowed the use of CPRM in fixed hard disks, and signalled a willingness to amend its proposals.
Many of you are delighted that Intel, which co-authors CPRM, has made these moves to reassure the public. After we broke the story. But you're also dismayed that Intel continues to rubbish the original story, and rubbish the opponents of CPRM too.
"The scenario [opponents] put forth is hilarious," says an Intel flak in a CNN report on the controversy that's sourced to IDG. Astonishingly, the CNN report fails to find independent experts to analyse the CPRM on ATA specification, fails to quote the opponents and, lopsidely, gives 4C member Intel the last word. "It's easy to understand why this plan has caused confusion and concern," agonises reporter Tom Mainelli. Well, no wonder, we mused, if such intrepid reporting is all that's on offer.
With a staff of 18, The Register can hardly afford to match the 4C Entity member's PR budgets. Intel's alone is enough to fund a small national economy. And we can hardly afford to sue them. But we'd be delighted if they could stop calling us liars, and calling legitimately-concerned computer users stupid. Thank you. ®
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