Nov 27, 2005

Rapp has the Skinny on DRM

Our Friend, colleague, WBCR-LP member, programmer, board member and damn good copyright attorney, Paul Rapp, is also a contributing writer to Metroland, "the Alternative Newsweekly of New York's Capital Region". He sent us a link to his latest column dealing with Digital Rights Management and the SONY BMG brou ha ha:

The Biggest Hack

As I mentioned here a few months ago, the big record labels have been trying for years to limit what you can do with the music you buy on a CD. What they are trying to do falls under the broad category of what’s called Digital Rights Management, or DRM. If you haven’t already, you’ll be seeing these initials a lot in the future.

They’ve been vainly trying to sell you “copy-protected” CDs, which means for the illegally inflated prices you pay for a CD, you might be getting music with digital handcuffs attached. With copy-protected CDs, if you try to play your CD on your computer, bad stuff happens. Want to bounce the music from your CD into your iPod? No can do!

The industry has been told for years that this is tilting at windmills; that, try as they might, they aren’t going to bend the will of the consumer, and they aren’t going to outrun the smarts of the hacker community, which will deftly undo any shackles the industry tries to put on digital music. Information wants to be free, fight the power, etc. The DRM dog ain’t gonna hunt, bubba.

A few months ago, SONY BMG, in their infinite wisdom, tried something new. They put a few different self-executing DRM programs on a bunch of their CDs. When you stuck one of these CDs into your computer, the programs installed themselves into your Windows operating system. They didn’t tell you they were doing this; if they did, the disclosure was buried in a click-through user agreement that may or may not have popped up on your computer screen when you stuck the CD into your CD drive. These programs took up a considerable amount of space and slowed down your computer. Even worse, these programs monitored what you listened to, and in some cases reported findings, via the Internet, back to SONY BMG’s “security vendor,” a company pleasantly named SunnComm. These programs have features that hide themselves from detection and are hard to remove when detected, and their presence on your machine makes you vulnerable to attacks from vicious hackers. Well, more attacks, I should say, since you’ve already been attacked by a vicious hacker: SONY...

There is more here...

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