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8/1/2007
08:51 AM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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DRM Scorecard: Hackers Batting 1000, Industry Zero

Forget the moral questions: Whether the millions of kids who load up their iPods from LimeWire are thieves, or whether there's something incongruous about Sheryl Crow, a millionaire many times over, railing against piracy. When you look at the technology, there's no getting around the fact that DRM is an abject failure. I put together a scorecard, which shows that every single significant attempt at consumer-music DRM has been cracked. Here it is:

Forget the moral questions: Whether the millions of kids who load up their iPods from LimeWire are thieves, or whether there's something incongruous about Sheryl Crow, a millionaire many times over, railing against piracy. When you look at the technology, there's no getting around the fact that DRM is an abject failure. I put together a scorecard, which shows that every single significant attempt at consumer-music DRM has been cracked. Here it is:CSS: Cracked

The 10-year-old Content Scrambling System employed on early DVDs is such a technological relic at this point that Crunchgear recently reported that: "According to the Finnish courts, CSS is so weak that it doesn't even count as a protective measure anymore."

FairPlay: Cracked

In a game of iPod cat and mouse, the DRM system used in iTunes' music has been repeatedly cracked and then "fixed" by Apple. Last fall, the cracking program called QTFairUse6 had been updated so it could continue to perform its DRM-stripping duties within hours after Apple released iTunes 7.

The question this raises for me here is, does this mean that the Mac faithful are willing to fork over extra coin to buy the latest "cool" gadget offered up by Steve Jobs, but they balk at the 99-cents a song they're supposed to pony up on iTunes?

As for Apple, now there are rumblings out of Europe that FairPlay might be illegal in France, Norway, and Germany.

AACS: Cracked

There's been no update from the Advanced Access Content System people on the cracking of their AACS DRM, which is used in the new high-definition HD DVD and Blu-ray DVDs, since May 7, when the AACS site posted the following in response to the news that the crack of its DRM had been widely posted on the Web:

"AACS LA began several weeks ago sending letters to parties trafficking in tools used to circumvent AACS technology on Blu-ray and HD DVD movie discs. The letters requested the removal solely of illegal circumvention tools, including encryption keys, from a number of Web sites. AACS LA recognizes the value of active public discussion and commentary related to these issues, and has not requested the removal or deletion of any such discussion or commentary. AACS LA is encouraged by the cooperation it has received thus far from the numerous Web sites that have chosen to address their legal obligations in a responsible manner."

In response to the crack, MGM took a hiatus from releasing Blu-ray discs, but now they're back.

In response to the crack, AACS-compliant vendors are apparently looking at both key revocation and the use of digital watermarks as the answer to their problems.

Hey, why don't they just take a page from a World War II movie, and issue a daily code book?

Windows Media DRM: Cracked

The widely circulated crack comes in the form of a program called FairUse4M. The first iteration of this crack worked with Windows Media Player 10 under Windows XP, but for a long time wouldn't work on Vista. Alas, FairUse4M has now been updated to crack WMP11 running on Vista.

Most recently, the cracking of Windows Media DRM has thrown a bit of a monkey wrench into the BBC's plans to release its iPlayer. However, like true Brits, they're soldiering on and releasing it, possibly convinced that it's not much use worry about what those stupid Americans are up to with their software schemes, anyway.

Sony-BMG Rootkit: Busted

The big DRM scandal of 2005, this one wasn't so much cracked as it kicked to the curb. The unhappy recap: A bunch of Sony CDs were equipped with either XCP or MediaMax copy protection software. Unbeknownst to users, XCP installed concealed software ("rootkits") on users' PCs. MediaMax sent user info over the Internet. The whole mess was a big scandal for Sony, resulting in a spate of legal activity, the most recent instance being a suit filed by Sony against the developer of MediaMax.

The one major online music DRM technology about which I couldn't find any definitive cracking information is Rhapsody DNA, used by the RealNetworks' subscription music service. Regardless of the status here, since Rhapsody, while nice, isn't rocking the online music world, I think it's safe to say I've made my point.

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