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Sky hit by return of Windows Media DRM crack

A second version of a utility that breaks Microsoft's Windows Media security patch has prompted Sky to suspend its movie download service
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Broadcaster Sky has suspended its broadband movie download service after a Microsoft security patch on Windows Media's digital rights management (DRM) was cracked.

The service's homepage currently reads: "In order to make an essential update to the Sky by broadband security system, we are sorry that access to all movies and some sports content has been temporarily suspended".

The patch had been rushed out by Microsoft after the appearance of a utility called FairUse4WM to circumvent the media player's DRM — a move that could have jeopardised the business models of several subscription services that rely on the technology.

Days later, the creator of FairUse4WM released a new version which cracked Microsoft's patch. However, while this version allowed individual files to be stripped of DRM, it did not enable users to download and strip subscription services' entire catalogues.

Microsoft's response has been to assure its Windows Media licencees via memo that it has teams "working around the clock" to beat FairUse4WM, according to Engadget, who originally broke the story.

"The issue is a Microsoft issue obviously — at the end of the day we're using Windows Media as the application and therefore we need Microsoft to ensure that the service is secure," a spokesperson for BSkyB told ZDNet UK on Monday.

"The responsible way is to take it down or suspend it until we've secured the new patch," he added. A statement made by the company last week apologised to the service's users for the interruption but claimed the suspension would "support the continuing development of legal services that will meet customers' needs in the long term".

The issue of digital rights management technology is becoming increasingly heated, with the Free Software Foundation backing an Anti-DRM day, due to take place on 3 October. Many in the content creation industry argue the technology is necessary to protect intellectual property and stimulate creativity, while some in the opposite camp view it as a cynical attempt by media companies to gain greater control over customers' usage of their products.

Microsoft has yet to respond to ZDNet UK's requests for further comment.

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