Linux community snubs SDMI hacker challenge

The Linux community reckons the SDMI is taking the Michael and is boycotting its 'PR Stunt'

The Linux Journal is sponsoring a boycott of the Secure Digital Music Initiative hacking challenge, which starts Friday and promises to pay $10,000 (£6,100) to any hacker who strips out the watermark from a digital song.

SDMI is a technology initiative launched by the record companies to crack down on piracy. In the coming weeks, SDMI will try out a variety of security measures, with plans to eventually adopt a hacker-tested technology that will prevent people from playing bootleg songs on SDMI-compatible hardware.

However, some Linux lovers say the record industry is using the hackers as a "free consulting" service to help it crack down on legal uses of music in the future, in an attempt to exert unprecedented control over when and where people play songs.

The Linux Journal is urging readers to sign a letter saying they won't play along.

"Thanks, SDMI, but no thanks. I won't do your dirty work for you," the letter states. "I will not help test programs or devices that violate privacy or interfere with the right of fair use."

People who sign the letter will agree that they will never make a bootleg copy of a recording, but will only play one copy at a time in different devices, an action that's legal under the concept of fair use, but may be hard to follow in these days of rampant digital file swapping.

In a sense, the open sharing of information that has allowed the Linux community to mushroom is directly at odds with the motives of traditional entertainment companies, which want to lock down their content.

Ironically, the entertainment industry in the past has sued people who've tried to reverse engineer their encryption technology -- the same act SDMI is now asking them to perform during the hacking contest.

Linux Journal technical editor Don Marti, one of the boycott's organisers, said the goal is to thwart what he called "SDMI's PR stunt."

"Why are freedom-loving people supposed to do free consulting work for an organisation that wants to take away our freedom?" he asked.

SDMI officials were not immediately available for comment.

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