Music and frustration: copy protection schemes


in Films and movies, Geek stuff, Internet matters, Law, Music, Politics, Rants

Chained pig, BathHaving spent the last few minutes explaining to a friend why a brand-new, legitimately purchased CD will not play in her computer due to the copy protection EMI has included, I am reminded of my considerable indignation about how the music industry is treating their customers. Yes, in this case, it was possible to disable the copy protection program just by holding shift as the CD was inserted into a Windows computer, but there is no guarantee at all that music you buy today is either usable or safe.

In the worst case, such as the notorious Sony BMG rootkit, inserting a legitimate music CD into your computer intentionally breaks it. It also causes it to report what you listen to to Sony, even if you choose ‘no’ when a screen comes up asking for permission to install software. It also creates really sneaky back doors into your system that can be exploited for any number of purposes, by Sony or random others. While Sony is currently facing lawsuits for this particular, infamous piece of malware, it isn’t nearly enough to put my mind at ease. If some 16 year old had written something comparably dangerous, they would probably be in jail.

Legitimately downloaded music is little better. Songs you buy from the iTunes music store may work with your iPod today, but they won’t work with another portable player. They won’t even play in software other than iTunes, and there is no guarantee that they will still work at some point in the future. Spending a great deal of money on songs from there (and they’ve just had their billionth download), is therefore probably not very wise. You don’t actually own the music you are buying – you’re just buying the right to use it on someone else’s terms: terms that they have considerable freedom to change.

Personally, I will not buy any CD that contains copy protection software. I will not buy a Sony BMG CD, regardless of whether it does or not, nor will I be buying any of Sony’s electronics in the near future. This is a business model that needs to change.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

tristan Laing February 26, 2006 at 1:56 pm

One word: Vinyl.

Milan February 26, 2006 at 2:00 pm


There is legislation coming up in the United States to ban analog audio out jacks, precisely because of the colossal danger that someone might convert their vinyl albums (or CDs, or whatever) into evil, evil mp3s.

Anonymous February 27, 2006 at 7:25 pm

In 2002 and 2003, the U.S. motion picture industry publicly discussed the possibility of legislation to “close the analog hole” — most likely through regulation of digital recording devices, limiting their ability to record analog video signals that appear to be commercial audiovisual works.

See: Analog hole on Wikipedia.

B March 2, 2006 at 8:28 pm

Today’s photo:

Documentary value: 4/7
Artistic value: 4/7

Humour value: 5/7

Milan June 6, 2006 at 2:12 pm

“One word: Vinyl.”

Also, given that I couldn’t even ship CDs out to England with me, the chances of doing so with boxes of records are exactly nil.

Milan January 9, 2007 at 6:40 pm

“EMI Netherlands has announced that it is considering no longer using DRM on CDs, because it isn’t worth the cost. According to Reuters the company is still reviewing the decision. From the article: ‘Critics have argued that the system has not worked as consumers could be driven to illegal sites to download music to the popular iPod instead. A spokeswoman for EMI said it had not manufactured any new disks with DRM, which restricts consumers from making copies of songs and films they have purchased legally, for the last few months.'”

. October 10, 2008 at 9:58 am

WalMart now says they’ll keep the DRM servers on forever

By Cory Doctorow on Copyfight

After announcing that they’d be shutting off their DRM servers and nuking their customers’ music collections, Wal*Mart has changed their mind. Now they’ve told their customers that they’ll be keeping these servers online indefinitely — which means that they’ll be paying forever for their mistaken kowtowing to the entertainment industry’s DRM mania.

All those companies (cough Amazon cough Apple cough) that say they’re only doing DRM for now, until they can convince the stupid entertainment execs to ditch it, heed this lesson: you will spend the rest of your corporate life paying for this mistake, maintaining infrastructure whose sole purpose is to lock your customers into a technology restriction that no one really believes in. Welcome to the infinite cost of doing business with Hollywood.

. October 8, 2015 at 3:48 pm

It’s been ten years since Sony Music infected the world with its rootkit

Oct 31 2005: Security researcher Mark Russinovich blows the whistle on Sony-BMG, whose latest “audio CDs” were actually multi-session data-discs, deliberately designed to covertly infect Windows computers when inserted into their optical drives.

The malware installed by Sony blinded infected computers’ immune systems. Any file that began with “$sys$” became invisible to the operating system, not displayed in directory listings nor process-managers. Antivirus programs could not see files that began with this string. Immediately, other virus creators started renaming their programs to start with $sys$, so that they could operate under the stealth-cloak installed by Sony. These opportunistic infections were also invisible to antivirus programs.

In the end, we discovered that more than 6,000,000 malware-infected CDs were shipped, comprising 51 titles. These infected 200,000-300,000 US government and military networks.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: