Wednesday, October 08, 2003
Record companies strike again: In their effort to slow the proliferation pirated music over the Internet, the music industry has tried a two-pronged strategy: Sue and secure.
The RIAA has sued a 12-year-old and a grandmother, along with hundreds of others, for allegedly downloading music over the Internet.
Meanwhile, record and technology companies have been teaming up to restrict how you use music that you have rightfully purchased. Unfortunately for record company bigwigs, it appears as though the "sue" part of the strategy has been effective than their technology efforts.
One of the industry's earliest efforts was aimed at barring consumers from playing CDs in their computers. If they can't be played in the computer, perfect digital copies cannot be made. The industry did this by placing a track of digital gibberish around the outermost edge of the disc. "Dumb" CD players would ignore the gibberish, but computers would wig out trying to read it. Unsuspecting consumers (especially Mac users) started screaming bloody murder, mainly because, especially in Macs, there was a distinct possiblity that the computer would crash -- causing people to lose whatever unsaved work they had.
Of course, it didn't take long for people to figure a way around that: a way that required a felt-tip pen. Merely blacking out that track of digital gibberish allowed the CDs to be played in the "smart" computers as well as the "dumb" CD players.
Well, in the months since that low-tech method thwarted the industry's high-tech copy protection the industry appears to have thrown more of its precious cash down the proverbial rathole.
A Princeton University student has published instructions for disabling the new anticopying measures being tested on CDs by BMG--and they're as simple as holding down a computer's Shift key.
I'm sorry, but is this seriously the best that you can do? Here we are, the most technologically advanced civilization in the history of the world, and you geniuses create a digital "padlock" that can be opened by just pulling on it? You didn't really spend money on this, did you? I mean I've got a anti-copying technology that's just as effective that I'd love to sell you.
I'll sell mine to you for $0.01 for each CD that you use it on.
The technique was confirmed by BMG and SunnComm Technologies, the small company that produces the anticopying technology. Both companies said they had known about it before releasing the CD, and that they still believed the protection would deter most average listeners' copying.
"This is something we were aware of," BMG spokesman Nathaniel Brown said. "Copy management is intended as a speed bump, intended to thwart the casual listener from mass burning and uploading. We made a conscious decision to err on the side of playability and flexibility."
Speed bump? That's like putting a twig in the middle of the road. You might notice it, but this isn't going to deter squat.
The hilarious thing is looking back at News.com's lead from their Sept. 12 article on the aforementioned copy protection scheme.
For the first time in the United States, BMG Music will release a music CD that's loaded with anticopying protection, a move that opens a new round of technological experimentation for record labels. [emphasis added]
Yeah, it's "loaded," except that you can disable it all by holding down the "shift" key.