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Written by Gordon Fecyk, 11/8/2005
THE FIRST 'LEGAL' MALWARE SKIRMISH broke out last month between the entertainment industry and its customers. Sony BMG released several audio compact discs with "root kit" technology designed to hide its copy control applications from users. Respected security wonks, such as Mark Russinovich from Sysinternals, returned fire earlier last month.
'That's great,' I mused. Here I am trying to teach safe computing to my clients, and now I have the music industry's largest player stacked against me. I swear, only in the entertainment industry can you force your paying customers to behave recklessly, just so they can enjoy your products. If you've ever stood in line for tickets to a Star Wars prequel or a Rolling Stones concert, you'll know what I mean.
It was time for a product roundup, and just in time for Christmas. I bought some music CDs with differing copy control and enhancement technologies to see how they dealt with safe computing. And I thank the various vendors who assisted me in my quest, as they weren't used to, "Hi, can you show me a CD that could break my computer?"
On to the explicit content! Americans, shield your eyes before continuing!
Ironically, my testing and documentation of these products may be a blatant violation of the USA's Digital Millennium Copyright Act, because in four out of six cases I inadvertently circumvented their copy controls! In fact, it was so easy to circumvent these copy controls that a child could do it!
Because of my limited Christmas shopping budget, I restricted myself to six products. If you wish to add a product to this roundup, create an editor account for yourself and add an entry for it. Like previous roundups, I've included the name, manufacturer, price, and a Pass or Fail rating. Failed products will have a corresponding entry in the Catalog.
And EMI Music will hate me for this: Even when their copy controls work properly, the audio CDs that it creates through Windows Media Player are just that: Audio CDs! Without copy controls! This isn't like copies of copies of cassettes; CDs are digital data, reproducible without reduction in quality.
In fact, Windows Media Player 9 and later, included with Windows XP and running with XP's safeties, poses the greatest risk to all of these manufacturers' copy controls. If you don't actually install their software, their so-called "copy-control" is a joke. A bad joke played on their customers.
But let's look on the bright side: If the entertainment industry forces its customers to practice safe computing, I'm all for it!
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