Anti-DRM zealots

As a follow up to yesterday’s post about why DRM leads to spyware, I thought I’d show the difference in a DRM protected CD and a normal CD. The CD that I wrote about, "Z" by My Morning Jacket, uses the Media Max SunnComm DRM, also found to have security issues as described here by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

As a follow up to yesterday's post about why DRM leads to spyware, I thought I'd show the difference in a DRM protected CD and a normal CD. The CD that I wrote about, "Z" by My Morning Jacket, uses the Media Max SunnComm DRM, also found to have security issues as described here by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Here's a list from that page of the Media Max CDs, too. Also see the EFF's spotter's guide for some helpful info. Note that MediaMax is also described as spyware at Freedom to Tinker, even though MediaMax does not use rootkit technology:

MediaMax is spyware: it installs software without notice or consent; it phones home and sends back information without notice or consent; and it either doesn’t offer an uninstaller or makes the uninstaller difficult to get and use.MediaMax lacks the rootkit-like feature of XCP, but otherwise MediaMax shares all of the problems of XCP, including serious security problems with the uninstaller (mitigated by the difficulty of getting the uninstaller [...]. 

To compare a "normal" CD and a DRM protected CD, I took screenshots. I can explain how to easily make that iTunes content work on any MP3 player. My plan was to post the screenshots on the blog, but when I downsized the files to fit, they were too fuzzy. First, you can see a screenshot of a "normal" CD, in this case Coldplay's "X&Y" here. All you see is the audio files, nothing more nothing less, displayed in the folder of the CD Rom drive when opened with Windows Explorer. To play this CD, I can open the drive to the view shown in the screenshot and double click the first file. Windows Media player will then play all the files in order. Or I can open WMP or WinAmp, navigate to the drive and play the CD.

Next, see the screenshot of the DRM protected CD here. I opened the folder by right-clicking the CD Rom drive in My Computer, then clicking Open (instead of explore, but same effect). You can see the two executable files, PlayDisc.exe and LicGen.exe. I didn't click either, but I suspect that clicking the LicGen.exe would start the installation of the copy protection software and hopefully display the EULA before actually installing anything. You can also see the folders for the EULA, MetaData, Html, etc. The Html folder contains files named Privacy.htm, Index.htm, Readme.htm and a file named audio.dat. The htm files are apparently displayed during the installation process. The Readme.htm file says:

This CD utilizes exclusive Cd3 technology by SunnComm, Inc. to "open the door" to exciting new dimensions of digital entertainment. You're about to experience Compact Disc entertainment like you never have before.

You've probably already noticed our "Expanded Experience Ladybug Logo". Whenever you see that logo, it's your assurance that you've purchased a legitimate, first-quality CD with the added bonus features of Cd3 technology. You get to experience the music just the way the artist intended.

Hmm... I wonder about that last statement. The MetaData folder contains an XML file and graphic of the CD cover. The other folders contain more XML files and other data files. All of those files and folders for a few songs. None of the folders contain the cda files seen on the non-protected CD. Here's something I've wondered -- perhaps someone reading might have an answer. How do the recording companies decide which CD's to "protect" with DRM? When you look at the lists of CD's, I wonder what makes them so special as to "need" protection while others don't?

Freedom to Tinker has a new post today about MediaMax and SunnComm, another excellent read. The comments on Felton's blog are interesting as well. A comment from another of Felton's MediaMax posts:

I’ll have to hand it to you Eddie and Alex, you certainly have a penchant to deride Mediamax and an obvious distaste for any kind of audio copy protection in the market place. What are your feelings on game, software and DVD copy protection? Do you feel it is your right to copy those as well?

Sounds familiar, yes? It reminds me of those adware folks who call people like me zealots.

On another note, fellow ZDNet blogger David Berlind is hell on DRM. I read this in one of his posts:

As an example, whether they know it or not, users of Apple's iTunes Software, iPods, and Apple's iTunes Music Store (iTMS) are, by virtue of Apple's FairPlay DRM -- a security technology that lives at the core of all three offerings -- leaving the long term value of their investment up to Apple.  Today, iPod buyers may be happy with their purchase and many are buying tons of music on iTMS.  But somewhere down the line (1) after they've amassed a few thousand 99-cent songs (and now $1.99 videos) in their private content collections and (2) when they decide they like the features of some software other than iTunes or a device other than Apple's iPods, they may be disappointed to learn that their content won't work in that software or on those devices.

As I mentioned in response to a Talkback on my previous post, I can explain how to easily make that iTunes content work on any MP3 player. Don't tell anyone, and I'm not really saying this, but if you burn the iTunes albums or tracks to a CD, you can easily turn around and rip those same tracks with Windows Media Player or other ripping software, as Windows Media files or as mp3 files. At that point the tracks are indeed yours to load on your Creative, iRiver or other non-Apple player, burn to another CD or play in other players on your computer. I don't know of any way to play non-Apple content on an iPod, though, and that's why I did not and would not buy an iPod even though I do use iTunes.

Now let's hope the DMCA cops don't come and haul me away.

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