If you’ve been reading or listening to me for any length of time, you will have some sense of how thrilled I am by this news. HDCP is the DRM scheme embedded into HDMI, the sole choice we have for most consume audio-video gear like Blu-ray players, surround sound receivers, and high definition televisions. I held out against buying an HD capable set because of HDCP and felt very badly when I finally caved.
As Cory at BoingBoing notes, now with this master key, device hackers and mere enthusiasts can cobble together their own media devices for format shifting, capturing and streaming. As always, I have to clarify that I do not condone or endorse commercial piracy but I do object strenuously to overbearing tools, like HDCP, that do not help ensure that artists get rewarded for their works and ultimately only frustrate and punish regular people who would like to make personal use copies within their own homes or households.
This news also continues the validation of the idea that new DRM system will ever be unbreakable. As Cory notes, for DRM to work, keys have to be shared. Each time a cryptographic key, usually a comparably small bit of data, is shared its security is diluted. In all cases so far, breaking of DRM has only been a matter of patience.
If you are curious to know more, Ars Technica has some more details on how HDCP works, came into existence, and may have been cracked.