Microsoft DRM Metldown Redux

As I mentioned here, Micro$oft has provided yet another example of why digital restrictions management does nothing but hurt legitimate consumers.  To remind you, this is when Microsoft turned off the servers for its ironically named “playsforsure” DRM system.  These songs, which consumers would told, would play for sure on any digital media player containing the proper logo, will no longer play once August comes around and Microsoft turns off the servers which validate you as a non-criminal.  I hope there’s a huge outcry that forces them to un-DRM all these songs and sounds the ultimate death knell for DRM.

Mark Pilmgim, Python hacker and author, wrote a piece about this in his blog in which he explains the situation to his father.  Here are my favorite quotes.

Bruce Schneier, a famous cryptologist — or at least as famous a cryptologist as cryptologists are likely to get in this century — once described attempts to make digital bits uncopyable as “trying to make water not wet.”

To their credit, if that’s the right word, you can now purchase some music from the iTunes store that is unencrypted and plays anywhere. Apple calls these songs “iTunes Plus”, because it sounds so much better than calling everything else “iTunes Minus.”

To demonstrate the awesomeness of their developer platform, Microsoft opened their own online store, MSN Music, so they could compete directly with their business partners who also offered “PlaysForSure”-compatible music downloads. Because there’s nothing end users love more than fake choices.

At that point — transferring the music files they have “purchased” to another drive or a new computer — the Microsoft music player running on the victim’s PC (like iTunes, but all Microsoft-y instead of Apple-y) will make a call to Microsoft’s validation servers to verify that the music files were legitimately purchased. This call will fail, since the servers are not responding, since Microsoft has intentionally turned them off. The Microsoft music player will then conclude, incorrectly but steadfastly, that the music files were downloaded illegally and that the victim is a filthy pirate, and it will refuse to play them. In this case, the left hand knows exactly what the right hand is doing: they’re both giving you the finger.

Also, he mention that the Electronic Frontier Foundation, of which I’m a member, has posted a letter to Microsoft calling them on this move.

Author: Eric Mesa

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