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Thursday, November 03, 2005

When is a CD no longer a CD?

When its a Copy Controlled disc of course!

I've known it for a while, but here is a very recent example of what media companies will do to protect their work. I believe this is going above and beyond the call of duty.
This week, two research groups independently and separately reported that music giant Sony BMG has used software hiding techniques more commonly found in rootkits to prevent removal of the company's copy protection software. A rootkit is software that hides its presence on a computer while controlling critical system functions, and security professionals have lately warned that the addition of the technology to a variety of Internet threats--from bots to spyware--makes the malicious code more difficult to find and remove.

What this means is that Sony is installing software on your PC to prevent you copying or ripping music which you have purchased. You may think "Well, that is OK, it is their IP after all" but this form of restriction even goes as far as stopping people transferring music that they have legally purchased onto their MP3 player - such as an Apple iPod.

What makes this even worse, is that the software that is installed when you play the CD on your computer is installed based on your acceptance of the licence agreement that pops up upon first play of the CD in your computer. Oh, and if you try and remove the software, you will likely end up with a dead computer.
"Not only had Sony put software on my system that uses techniques commonly used by malware to mask its presence, the software is poorly written and provides no means for uninstall,"

"Worse, most users that stumble across the cloaked files with a (rootkit detector) scan will cripple their computer if they attempt the obvious step of deleting the cloaked files. While I believe in the media industry’s right to use copy protection mechanisms to prevent illegal copying, I don’t think that we’ve found the right balance of fair use and copy protection, yet."

And that is bang on the money. I agree that companies have a limited right to protect their Intellectual Property. In this case, they have gone way to far - especially if the actions of the average computer user, on being told by their security software that they have malicious software onboard, choose the logically action of removing it, and end up with a doorstop.

Yep. Thats a step over the line in my book.

Whats more, is these are not even valid Compact Discs (tm)! They have modified the disc contents that much that they cannot even carry the Compact Disc logo. There are a variety, but some of the more common ones you'll run across are Copy Controlled discs courtesy of EMI. Because the discs don't adhere to the Compact Disc standard, they often won't work on some players.

However, we do have one protection left. The Consumer Guarantees Act. If the disc doesn't work on your player, then take it back and say it doesn't work, and you want another copy that will work - or a refund. Remember, it is not your fault that the disc doesn't play, after all it adheres to the Compact Disc standard. It is the manufacturer of the discs fault, and the more returns they get the better.

Personally, I'm very aware of this issue, and I make sure to look out for the fine print/logo on the case to make sure I'm purchasing a CD without software that could crash my computer (if I played them on Windows, but I don't). You should keep an eye out too, and try to avoid these protected discs - they are nothing but trouble for the consumer.
· Linked Article

Posted by Bernard Woolley | 11/03/2005 10:38:00 am


Blogger The Doorman said...

Often when you put CDs in to Windows Media Player it will come up with "you need to install new software to play this CD. Do you wish to download it?" Click "No" or "Cancel". It plays fine, this is how they prevent you from copying it.


11/03/2005 11:56:00 am  
Blogger Bernard Woolley said...

Yep. Luckily its not a problem with Linux or Mac OS X ;)

11/03/2005 12:08:00 pm  
Blogger JamesP said...

Yet another gimmick that:
1) Won't stop or even signifcantly hinder piracy.
2) Annoys legitimate consumers.
Just add it to the list of failed protection schemes that you linked to.

11/03/2005 12:15:00 pm  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

Many people at work don't even have permissions to install such copyrights-removing software. Strikes me as being completely pointless, but typical of a visionless worker for a large corporation dependent on outmoded distribution methods.

11/03/2005 12:35:00 pm  
Blogger Bernard Woolley said...

JamesP/AL - exactly. These schemes do nothing to stop the organised crime behind large-scale piracy, and only works on Windows computers currently. This makes the protection completely pointless. However, should we keep pushing a FTA with the US, then we will be asked to have legislation installed that will make circumvention of these systems illegal - exactly as happened to Australia with their recent FTA.

Not to mention of course that technically it is still illegal in New Zealand to format-shift your music collection to MP3 for your own personal use.

And now that the video ipod has been released, we will have the same legal stumbling blocks to transferring content from DVD's and videos that we own.

What a mixed up country we live in...

11/03/2005 01:34:00 pm  
Blogger Bernard Woolley said...

Oh, and the classic circumvention measure a year or two ago was to hold down the shift key whilst putting a copy controlled CD in the drive. This would disable the autorun feature that would install the software to disable ripping the disc...

Even worse, the comapny that developed this method got its panties in a bunch when this technique spread around the net. What a pack of incompetent fscks!

11/03/2005 01:38:00 pm  

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