RAW Image Encryption

Back in March, I ranted (and learned a lot about) the proprietary nature of the RAW image format stored in digital cameras, and the headaches caused by this non-opennness for people who simply want to shoot RAW and be able to get those images into their photo cataloguing software of choice.

Now it turns out that not only are RAW formats proprietary, they’re also sometimes encrypted, which means they can’t be read by any software other than that provided by the camera manufacturer. Photoshop is often considered the most capable software available when it comes to reading RAW images, but Adobe was so afraid of being sued under the DMCA if they reverse-engineered the formats that they decided not to support them at all.

Does a camera vendor have a legal right to tie their hardware’s output to a particular piece of software? I suppose they do, technically speaking. But they do so at the expense of the consumer, roping users into a counterproductive closed loop. There is no technical reason why white balance information should be encrypted; the reasons are all economic/political. My hope is that this move will backfire on Nikon and that consumers will revolt (hackers have already broken the encryption, by the way). What bothers me is that the camera industry is apparently taking cues from the DVD industry, which has convinced most consumers that it’s OK to build encryption standards directly into hardware. Not a healthy trend.

Music: Erik Truffaz :: King B

6 Replies to “RAW Image Encryption”

  1. Thanks for that Sean. So, the consensus seems to be that Nikon are being idiots, but the net effect on the consumer is pretty minimal. However, that’s only if you limit the argument to commercial entities to which Nikon supplies an appropriate plugin. The question of how this affects, say, Linux users remains open – they still have to use a reverse-engineered solution, and violate the DMCA to get to their own images, right?

  2. I guess I’m unclear why you’d want raw files anyway. Does a tiff not contain all that data in a different format? My camera is old enough that it doesn’t do raw anyway, and I’m just starting to learn to use the thing on manual so I don’t see myself outgrowing it any time soon. Though an SLR 12 or 16mp would be nice, I’m thinking. :)

    On that topic, when you’re using an SLR digital camera, can you use it with glasses? The viewfinder port on my Olympus is practically useless with my glasses on.


  3. Addendum: Now that I’ve set the optical correction factor in my viewfinder it might actually be useful without my glasses on, I suppose. :)


  4. Perhaps we should start to behave as a responsible consumer and *REQUEST* that documentation to the manufacturer (Nikon, Canon, and all the others). Afterall, as a customer, you are entitled to be able to decode YOUR documents. And the mass effect of all requesting the information is probably the only solution I see for now.

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