Microsoft patches free-music hack

A utility that could have breached the digital rights management in recent versions of Windows Media has prompted urgent action at Microsoft
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Microsoft has moved to counteract a new utility that seems to have successfully cracked the software maker's digital rights management (DRM) software.

The utility, called FairUse4WM, was posted on the Doom9 encoding forum in mid-August by a member named Viodentia. Its author claims it can strip the DRM encoding from music files designed to play in Windows Media (WM) versions 10 and 11.

On Monday, Microsoft responded to a FairUse4WM story on Engadget.com by offering Windows Media licensees a patch to close the loophole.

If left unpatched, utilities such as FairUse4WM could be a threat to music subscription services such as Napster and Yahoo, whose business models are based on allowing unlimited access to tracks for a monthly fee.

Such services work by using WM DRM to prevent downloaded tracks from playing after a set period. But if the DRM was inhibited, consumers could theoretically have free unrestricted access to the music.

At the time of writing, neither Microsoft nor Napster had responded to ZDNet UK's queries about FairUse4WM.

One DRM industry insider, however, told ZDNet UK on Tuesday that although they were aware that the development of such a utility was inevitable, they were surprised it had actually happened.

"We had no knowledge whatsoever that they were so close to doing that," the source said.

Microsoft is expected to release its rival to Apple's iPod portable music player, dubbed the Zune, later this year.


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