Utility cracks Microsoft DRM

The DRM-stripping utility FairUse4WM reappears almost a year after it first threatened Microsoft's Windows Media Player

The digital rights management on Windows Media Player has been cracked again by a utility that first appeared almost a year ago.

FairUse4WM first appeared in August 2006 on the Doom9 encoding forum, as a tool to strip the DRM from music files designed to play in Windows Media Player. A patch pushed out by Microsoft to fix Windows Media Player's security flaw was subsequently cracked again by the originator of FairUse4WM, who identified him or herself only by the name "Viodentia". As a result, some providers had to shut down their Windows Media Player-utilising services, a prime example being Sky and its movie download service.

Microsoft filed a federal lawsuit/> against Viodentia for allegedly stealing its source code. Viodentia denied the claim and, unable to identify the hacker, Microsoft dropped its suit earlier this year. But now the utility is back, with a renewed focus on Windows Vista and the Zune, Microsoft's answer to the iPod.

On Friday, a newly registered Doom9 user called "Divine Tao" (an anagram of Viodentia) pushed out a new crack, with the words: "This post introduces a new tool for uncovering the individual keys from Microsoft's DRM blackbox components ("IBX"), up to version 11.0.6000.6324. Lacking the source code to the extant programs, I can only offer this output of my own efforts."

Reports from Doom9's users and the website Ars Technica indicate that the new crack works, which poses a problem for the Zune Marketplace music store. Microsoft had no comment on this latest development at the time of writing.

The music industry has in any case been slowly moving away from the use of DRM, which many users see as overly restrictive. In April, Apple — proprietor of the iTunes music store — and EMI announced that they would henceforth be making music tracks available without copy protection, for a price.

Some music companies have in the past included DRM on physical audio CDs, but all have now dropped this approach in the wake of incidents such as the Sony "rootkit" debacle. In that episode, Sony was caught out hiding DRM software on some of its CDs that surreptitiously downloaded to users' computers, sometimes with disastrous effects. Sony is currently suing the DRM provider, Amergence/Sunncomm, over the incident.


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