Alright - back on topic.
“Because computer chips” is indeed a stumbling block for most. But I think that barrier is going to come down in the near to intermediate future. What got me thinking about this eventuality was this article. A private security firm - that presumably has limited resources - was able to dissect the secure chip, analyze it with a microscope, and using some optical trickery was able to extract the firmware. It’s possible that I’m behind the times on shoestring-budget espionage techniques, but I’ve always thought of those techniques as being solely the realm of multibillion-dollar industrial conglomerates and state-sponsored intelligence agencies, not small-ish private firms with (presumably) commercial-grade equipment almost anyone can buy.
Now imagine these techniques applied to more consumer-grade hardware. I doubt an ECU, video content-descrambling chip, or printer cartridge “authenticator” is going to go to the extremes that the lockmaker did in the article; they won’t let you siphon off the firmware via a handy RS-232 port, but odds are you won’t need to slice the chip and use optical trickery to make it give up its secrets. Once that firmware is out, it can be reverse-engineered then altered just enough to make it immune from copyright protection.
On the hardware side, it’s not hard to imagine emulation for proprietary parts should the OEM’s get greedy. Suspect that one could deadbug a cheap microcontroller in place of a number of proprietary designs. If you need something exotic, a FPGA could perhaps be fashioned or maybe something along the lines of an Arudino or Raspberry Pi.
Yes, the DMCA will stop commercialization of some of these techniques. But the information always leaks out somehow.