The Brouhaha

by Kyle Rankin

Related link: http://www.securityfocus.com/archive/1/366191



I subscribe to bugtraq among other mailing lists, and this week I noticed an interesting post about DRM software included on the new Beastie Boys CD. Apparently part of the autorun process on the CD is to silently install a copy protection system on Windows and Mac--a system that apparently includes a uninstaller for Windows, but not MacOS.

I mostly listen to punk, but I have a nostalgic place in my heart for the Beastie Boys dating back to License to Ill. I actually picked up this CD this week (pretty good IMO if a bit too "why can't we all just get along" at some points), and personally had no problem ripping it to MP3 for my archos av340 under Linux.

Other sites have reported apparently that this DRM software install is common practice for all EMI CDs except for those in the UK and US (so my disc doesn't have this "feature"), and that the Beastie Boys didn't want DRM on the disc but couldn't overrule EMI's policy.

This is tough, because I suppose one could respond with the kind of "consumer outrage" that would call for everyone to not buy the CD until EMI takes off the DRM (but then I don't know that most people here in the US would go to bat for such a cause especially since the DRM doesn't affect them directly), but that sort of thing would end up punishing the Beastie Boys, who other than signing with the label probably don't have much say in EMI's policies. But then again, the buck can be passed so far that noone ends up being at fault.

Personally, I think we as consumers give media distributors too much leeway when it comes to installing extra software like this on our systems. If some 13 year old kid did the same thing, he of course would be tracked down and thrown in jail for causing some umpteen million dollars of damage.

I guess the fine line between a Trojan Horse and "spyware" or other piggy-back software, is whether the writer of the software has corporate backing.

Is there anything we should do to combat this? Or is DRM on CDs just an inevitability, with this case being a quick kludge until full DRM on all music becomes a reality?


9 Comments

garym
2004-06-18 21:22:40
Inevitable ... perhaps not
There is a slim chance, a very slim chance, when we see the likes of this presentation given to the Microsoft Research Group, there is that shred of a chance that, despite recent events in the Land of the Free, sanity will once again prevail.


But in the meantime, I have been crossing a lot of names off my music lists. Elvis Costello (sample tracks in a free CD installing DRM) and Neil Young (sample tracks online require installing DRM) ... eventually I arrived at a general rule that, until they wake up and smell the Internet, I'm just not buying into their con anymore.

ChipWinter
2004-06-19 10:08:37
I'm skeptical
You say that the CD silenty installs a DRM mechanism on PCs and Macs? I'm pretty sure that nothing can be installed on my Mac without me giving permission.
Am I wrong here?
greenfly
2004-06-19 12:19:19
I'm skeptical
I can't say one way or the other firsthand as I don't have a Mac and I don't have an import copy of the CD. I'm going by this bugtraq post, which seems to indicate that this is the case.


If you do get your hands on a copy of the CD with DRM, I would love to know just how silent the install is.

otto
2004-06-20 07:30:25
I'm skeptical
It seems to work via QuickTime's autorun "feature", which is no longer available on MacOS X. So if you're running X without Classic, you're safe. If not, turn off autorun (in QuickTime control panel, IIRC).
recusant
2004-06-20 21:21:07
I'm skeptical
The Classic environment is essentially one gigantic open door into the system. Someone should try this on a system with pure Mac OS X (Classic completely removed) to see if it is indeed getting around security, or if it relies on the well known ability to ignore security under the Classic environment.
johncatsoulis
2004-06-21 00:42:19
The Unrippable Joss Stone
I bought the new Joss Stone CD (http://www.jossstone.co.uk/
a) There wasn't a problem
b) That I should play it on something other than a car CD player


When I explained the situation again, the above statements were repeated.


Finally, I shoved the "copy-protected" CD into my iMac to see if it could read the thing. Not only could it read it, iTunes immediately starting importing the tracks. So much for their copy-protection.


So now I listen to my "copy-protected" music by playing it on a copied CD. Ya gotta wonder about some of these chimps...


jtc

johncatsoulis
2004-06-21 00:43:18
The Unrippable Joss Stone
I bought the new Joss Stone CD (http://www.jossstone.co.uk/) a few months back. Got it home, dropped it into my Sony DVD player, cranked up the surround sound system and ... nothing. It wouldn't play. So I tried it in a CD player. Again it wouldn't play. I tried it in another DVD player. Same thing. On careful inspection of the back cover, it stated that the CD contained a copy-protection mechansim that "might" cause playback problems on "some" car CD players. Well, I couldn't get the damn thing to play on any player in the house. I called the music publisher and was told that:


a) There wasn't a problem
b) That I should play it on something other than a car CD player


When I explained the situation again, the above statements were repeated.


Finally, I shoved the "copy-protected" CD into my iMac to see if it could read the thing. Not only could it read it, iTunes immediately starting importing the tracks. So much for their copy-protection.


So now I listen to my "copy-protected" music by playing it on a copied CD. Ya gotta wonder about some of these chimps...


jtc

johncatsoulis
2004-06-21 00:44:18
The Unrippable Joss Stone
I bought the new Joss Stone CD (http://www.jossstone.co.uk) a few months back. Got it home, dropped it into my Sony DVD player, cranked up the surround sound system and ... nothing. It wouldn't play. So I tried it in a CD player. Again it wouldn't play. I tried it in another DVD player. Same thing. On careful inspection of the back cover, it stated that the CD contained a copy-protection mechansim that "might" cause playback problems on "some" car CD players. Well, I couldn't get the damn thing to play on any player in the house. I called the music publisher and was told that:


a) There wasn't a problem
b) That I should play it on something other than a car CD player


When I explained the situation again, the above statements were repeated.


Finally, I shoved the "copy-protected" CD into my iMac to see if it could read the thing. Not only could it read it, iTunes immediately starting importing the tracks. So much for their copy-protection.


So now I listen to my "copy-protected" music by playing it on a copied CD. Ya gotta wonder about some of these chimps...


jtc

johncatsoulis
2004-06-21 00:45:47
multiple posts
Sorry about the multiple posts - flakey browser.


jtc