Archive for the ‘DRM, DMCA, Copy Protection’ Category

DRM Free music from iTunes Music Store?

Wow, I thought maybe DefectiveByDesign might have picked up an April Fool’s joke from yesterday, but I saw it for myself at the official Apple site:

Apple Unveils Higher Quality DRM-Free Music on the iTunes Store

DRM-Free Songs from EMI Available on iTunes for $1.29 in May

And the article is dated, April 2, 2007!!

From the article on Apple’s website:

CUPERTINO, California—April 2, 2007—Apple® today announced that EMI Music’s entire digital catalog of music will be available for purchase DRM-free (without digital rights management) from the iTunes® Store (www.itunes.com) worldwide in May. DRM-free tracks from EMI will be offered at higher quality 256 kbps AAC encoding, resulting in audio quality indistinguishable from the original recording, for just $1.29 per song. In addition, iTunes customers will be able to easily upgrade their entire library of all previously purchased EMI content to the higher quality DRM-free versions for just 30 cents a song. iTunes will continue to offer its entire catalog, currently over five million songs, in the same versions as today—128 kbps AAC encoding with DRM—at the same price of 99 cents per song, alongside DRM-free higher quality versions when available.

“We are going to give iTunes customers a choice—the current versions of our songs for the same 99 cent price, or new DRM-free versions of the same songs with even higher audio quality and the security of interoperability for just 30 cents more,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “We think our customers are going to love this, and we expect to offer more than half of the songs on iTunes in DRM-free versions by the end of this year.”

Much more in the article!

Wow! Looks like Steve Jobs came through!

If this is true, I think the Apple iTunes Music Store just gained a new customer … ME!

EDIT: It’s all over the news! This is wonderful news for music lovers everywhere!

My boycott of Big Labels, at least of EMI, may be able to be put aside! 😀 I am not dancing in the streets yet, but I am definitely going to be watching to see if this really comes through as Steve Jobs has stated. If it does, THANK YOU STEVE JOBS for an exceptional job.

Apple, EMI offer higher-quality DRM free downloads (Playlist)

When Jobs proposed removing DRM from songs in an open letter earlier this year, many people thought that Apple had too much to lose. As the number one maker of digital music players and having the number one online store, removing DRM would mean that people could purchase music from iTunes and play it on any device.

“Hopefully, by our actions here today and over the coming months they will conclude that we are continuing to do exactly what has earned us these number one positions — doing the right thing for the customer,” said Jobs. “The right thing for the customer going forward is to tear down the walls that preclude interoperability by going DRM free. That starts here today.”

DRM’s demise just the beginning (MacWorld)

Don’t kid yourself: as exciting as it is that high-quality, DRM-free tracks will be available at the iTunes Store in May, all this really does is level the playing field between iTunes and brick-and-mortar retailers. As Steve Jobs himself pointed out, 90% of the music sold today (read: every piece of music sold on CD) is sold in high-quality audio with no digital rights management. The iTunes Store is, in essence, finally giving us what we’ve been always able to buy on CD, just easier and more quickly. In other words, the future is finally catching up with the past.

I agree Dan Moren! And I thank you for stating it!

Trouble in Vista Paradise … paint me surprised

Well, looks like there is trouble in Vista Paradise….paint me surprised.

The WGA nightmare continues with oddball issues with validation even when legitimate programs are install such as the 9Dragon game. I was almost afraid to think about installing software that itself requires validation and how many ways this can go wrong. Especially if like in Ed Bott’s article today, the software apparently makes some system level things that Vista didn’t like….badly! As noted by Ed, some of the blame is with Acclaim, but certainly not all of it. Some of the blame rests rightfully on the operating system vendor, Microsoft. Ed’s picture of the install that ‘appeared’ to go normally with the game.

And it’s not the first time a validation ‘glitch’ (must read for any Vista user or those wishing to upgrade) has happened with Vista (or even XP for that matter). And this certainly is not the first time this was brought by Ed and many others including yours truly and this was months ago. In this article by Ed, he states,

As it turns out, that was just the tip of the iceberg. A quick scan of Microsoft’s Windows Vista Validation Issues forum turns up many similar examples, with users who paid for a retail key being told that their copy is “no longer genuine” and that the key is in use.

And this,

The offenders included PC Tools Spyware Doctor (updating to the most recent version fixes the issue), Trend Micro Internet Security and PC-Cillin Anti-Virus (the issue goes away if you install version 14.56 or later), and nProtect GameGuard.

NOTE: nProtect GameGuard is used in the 9Dragon game noted earlier.

Much more information in Ed Bott’s article. This problem isn’t going away any time soon so those using Vista or thinking of upgrading to Vista, need to be aware of it.

So what are technical newbies getting their first computers, or inexperienced users who maybe for the first time run into this supposed to do about this? How do they get it fixed? How much time do you have to fix it before ‘reduced functionality mode’ kicks in and options are limited drastically?

All that and more are discussed in Ed Bott’s articles listed above, Dwight Silverman’s article, Adrian Kingsley’s article and gallaries (1, 2) and the Microsoft Vista Validation Issues forum.

And what if your kids are using the computer and you are not when this happens? Will they know what to do? Will they realize the ramifications of waiting to tell Mom and Dad about it?

This type of shift in policy, difficulty in fixing problems, and DRM enabling will definitely make me wait for the next version of Windows … as long as they don’t continue this crap in that version. Especially with Steve Ballmer already talking of ‘stepping up anti-piracy measures‘ which can only be bad news for all XP and Vista users!

And things like this from another article by Adrian Kingsley:

Contained in the article is Microsoft’s justification for banning the least expensive versions of Vista (Home Basic which retails for $199 and Home Premium which goes for $239) from being virtualized.

Lately Intel and rival chip maker Advanced Micro Devices Inc. have built virtualization-friendly hooks directly into microprocessors. The goal was to make virtualization work better, but Woodgate [Scott Woodgate, a director in Microsoft’s Vista team] argues that the move created a security flaw — essentially that malicious programs can run undetected alongside an operating system.

Woodgate said Microsoft considered banning virtualizing all versions of Vista entirely. But ultimately, he said, his team decided that the most technically savvy users, or people in companies with tech support, probably could handle Vista in virtualization programs, while home users should be steered away. [emphasis added]

Really?

Trust goes both ways … or not at all

BetaNews reports the following from a Jupiter Analyst:

JupiterResearch vice president and research director Mark Mulligan told us he feels the problem surrounding DRM concerns whether the consumer of digital music feels trusted by an industry that seemed to trust him well enough in previous years. When the right to use music as one wishes is impeded technologically, consumers reject the technology. In fact, this could be why the downloadable segment of the overall music industry is not growing as fast as it could.

Amen to that.

Workaround Discovered For “Clean Install” With Vista Upgrade DVDs

Workaround Discovered For “Clean Install” With Vista Upgrade DVDs

Microsoft internal documentation reveals workaround for Vista Upgrade DVDs with no need for a previous version of Windows

DailyTech reported on Monday that Microsoft no longer performs disc checks during an operating system install. In the past, when performing a clean install, a user could boot from an install CD and insert a disc from a previous version of Windows for upgrade compliance.

However, per Microsoft’s new licensing requirements for Vista, users are required to install a Windows Vista Upgrade from within Windows XP. When this occurs, the Windows XP license is forfeited and the Windows Vista installation process can take place.

DailyTech has confirmed a new workaround proposed by Paul Thurrott (via Microsoft internal documents).

I had originally read this information by Brian Livingston in the WindowsSecrets Newsletter – Issue 94 – February 1, 2007.

I hadn’t had time to post this earlier but I did want to get the information posted for those who might not have read it elsewhere. Especially since it makes a good follow up to my previous posting here from January 29th.

Thanks to ThePast from the Opera Community who sent me the link through the Opera Community after reading my previous blog entry on the original news about not being able to use the prior Windows install disk as proof of purchase. I also had read about it from postings by some folks at ScotsNewsletter Forums who also provided a link to the DailyTech article.

This is great news for those of us who wish to format a hard drive prior to installation of a new OS. This is particularly useful if there are malware problems on the computer, or just to get a clean install to alleviate problems that can crop up from upgrade installs.

Brian Livingston has even more information for those who are trying to save some money on the very expensive OS in his newest article in WindowsSecrets Newsletter entitled “More on the Vista upgrade secret :”

I revealed in my Feb. 1 article that you can buy the “upgrade” version of Windows Vista and clean-install it to any hard drive, with or without a preexisting version of Windows XP or 2000.

This renders the more expensive “full” version of Vista unnecessary — and many of my readers have provided additional information about why this upgrade trick works.

Much more in the article! Must read.

Upgrade to Vista – Don’t format that drive first!

Vista “upgrade” drops compliance checking, requires old OS to install (Arstechnica)

You know all those folks that rushed to get the Vista Upgrade coupons? Well, I sure hope they don’t do like they have been able to do in the past such as wiping the drive (formatting the drive) first to prepare for that upgrade thinking they can put their Windows XP disk in to validate their ownership as they have been able to do in the past … oh, no! Not this time. This time if you did that, you’d have to then reinstall Windows XP adding another hour to your install process (after already spending probably close to that to reformat the drive) before you will be allowed to install the “Upgrade” to Vista.

Microsoft’s quest to closely control the way Windows Vista can be used on PCs has taken a turn for the worse as new information indicates that the company is breaking tradition when it comes to Windows Vista upgrades. With Windows Vista, users will not be able to use upgrade keys to initiate completely new installations. It is a change that will affect few users, but enthusiasts will certainly be amongst those pinched.

After the foolish move by Microsoft to change the Vista Licensing and then backing off when tinkerers everywhere went ballistic about it .. now they pull this whammy. I bet no one was told that this would be the case when they bought the Upgrade Coupons, huh?

I see a potential for a class action suit out of this one when they make such a major annoying change to the way upgrades must be done from previous versions of Windows without fanfare or notification to potential buyers at the time of purchase. Particularly for those users who were infested with malware under their previous OS and wanted to just start fresh. That has never been problem in the past. You could always wipe the drive and prove ownership with your CD in the past.

Even George Ou titled his article on this, “Vista Upgrade Edition is lame by design” where he stated,

Some might just say tough; you don’t have to buy Windows Vista Upgrade Edition if you don’t like the terms of the agreement. But the problem is that there are probably already millions of people who bought in to the promise of Vista upgrade coupons during this last holiday shopping season with their new computers or their copy of Windows XP and they weren’t told that the upgrade terms have been changed. The Vista Upgrade coupons were used to lure people in to buying brand new computers for the holiday 2006 shopping season when many people would have probably opted to wait until after Vista launches at the end of January had they known about these new restrictions. Now these people are going to be in for a big shock after they wipe their computers and find out that their copy of Vista won’t install without XP on the computer.

This plan was apparently not thought up by the sharpest crayon in the box.

Windows Media Player 11 just broke my Internets – VitalSecurity.org

Windows Media Player 11 just broke my Internets (at VitalSecurity.org)

My main desktop machine just got hold of the WMP11 / IE7 install through automatic updates, and as soon as they went in and that stupid WGA thing ran, all Hell broke loose. First the desktop crashed, then it flickered for a bit, then came back to life with a vaguely disconcerting grunt or two. Then my CD Tray started making blaaaargh, the pain style noises before dying a death. A few reboots later, and it was completely knackered. Not only could I get the tray open, I kept seeing messages telling me “Your Media device is not working. Please contact your manufacturer”.

Yeah, thanks for that Microsoft. Awesome job you just did TRASHING MY PC.

Now, this isn’t even Vista – this was likely a Windows XP variant since it comes with IE6 and an earlier version of WiMP (Windows Media Player). This story by Chris Boyd aka paperghost a trusted security researcher should wake some folks up.

The problems with Microsoft Windows didn’t just magically start happening with Vista.

In all fairness, I have updated a lot of computers to IE7 and WiMP 11 and rarely had the types of problems with the updates like paperghost did, but there have been weirdnesses along the way in some cases that were inexplicable despite the majority of upgrades going fine. It’s the strangest thing really. And I have ended up reinstalling on some computers and just not doing some upgrades because they break things with certain hardware.

Personally, I don’t have to worry about all that strangeness myself any longer since I gave away my retail version of WinXP Pro and am using Win2K (no WiMP 11 or IE7 to worry about), Mac OS X Tiger, and Ubuntu (Edgy) Linux for my operating systems…and use alternative browsers and email clients on all of them. But not everyone is so lucky with DRM (Digital Rights Management, aka Digital Restrictions Mismanagement) related problems alone: WMP 11 DRM problems, WinXP DRM problems and general issues related to Internet Explorer 7 problems.

It’s a real catch 22. You need the latest versions of Microsoft products to be safer in Windows XP but if you get them, you may have other types of problems.

Thankfully, for most folks, the problems they encounter will not be has disastrous as paperghost’s during Microsoft Updates.

Want an iPhone? Beware the iHandcuffs

OK, I love the look, technology and appeal of the iPhone and other Mac products quite a little bit! Especially since I now have a Mac Mini to play with.

I also think that Steve Jobs is a great showman and walking advertisement for all things Apple. He even had me wanting an iPhone even though I knew darn well I didn’t want Cingular nor will I ever deal with DRM!

Even on my Mac Mini, my library is from CDs and eMusic in MP3 format and not held within the iTunes Library itself but ‘linked’ to the iTunes Player from another location on the Mac Mini. And I do not intend to buy songs from iTunes. So why would I even want an iPhone!?!

Well, it’s the coolest thing since sliced bread when it comes to innovation on a cellphone.

Even so, Randall Stross at the New York Times makes a compelling argument about the iHandcuffs.

I buy my digital downloads from eMusic in unemcumbered MP3 format. As the article points out, eMusic is the Number 2 online music retailer at 1 Million downloads, pretty impressive even though iTunes Music store just celebrated it’s 2 Billionth download recently which is extremely impressive for locked up DRM’d music that won’t play on ANY player but the iPod in its DRM’d state. If you want to use it anywhere else, you have to burn it to a CD then rip and re-encode it in MP3 format (at a loss in quality btw, albeit small by some standards).

The article also notes that artists represented by the Nettwerk Music Group such as Barenaked Ladies, Sarah McLachlan and Avril Lavigne, sell their music at eMusic unemcumbered by DRM, but iTunes Music Store still encumbers them with their DRM (copy protection) and see no need to change the way they do things. And why not, it keeps folks buying from them for their music needs – for both hardware and software. Duh?!

And as both Randall Stross and Jack Schofield at the Guardian Unlimited (UK) so aptly point out, it comes chock full of DRM! From Jack Schofield’s article:

The Boing Boing blog also has a plug, which says: “Randall Stross has a great op-ed in today’s New York Times about how Apple’s iPhone comes chock-full of DRM that will restrict your freedom and your consumer choice.”

It’s ironic that a company whose name is synonymous with “Switch” has built its entire product strategy around lock-in. The iTunes/iPhone/iPod combo is a roach-motel: customers check in, but they can’t check out.

It’s not clear why this is ironic since it has been a standard part of Apple’s Orwellian strategy since at least the 1984 Superbowl advert. But Boing Boing’s Cory Doctorow has only recently seen the light….

Now I already have Ubuntu and I love it! But I also have a Mac Mini that I love as well. But just like in Windows, I don’t really make use of any DRM’d music to hamper my enjoyment of, or limit use of my music either. I can play my music on any device or computer I own.

Well, I almost got sucked in … thank you Randall Stross, Jack Schofield and as always Cory Doctorow! Much appreciated. I am over it now. 😉

High-quality DVDs will not operate on some Vista PCs

High-quality DVDs will not operate on some Vista PCs

Microsoft has been forced to acknowledge that a substantial number of PCs running the new version of its Windows operating system will not be able to play high-quality DVDs.

The Vista system will be available to consumers at the end of the month. However, in an interview with The Times, one of its chief architects said that because of anti-piracy protection granted to the Hollywood studios, Vista would not play HD-DVD and Blu-ray Discs on certain PCs.

Dave Marsh, the lead program manager for video at Microsoft, said that if the PC used a digital connection to link with the monitor or television, then it would require the highest level of content protection, known as HDCP, to play the discs. If it did not have such protection, Vista would shut down the signal, he said.

The admission will be a blow to Microsoft, which is hoping that more users will turn to their PCs for watching films and other content.

(bold emphasis mine)

MUCH MORE in the article including this;

“Any computer which has an LCD monitor is potentially at risk of not being able to play this content.”

OK, I’m not gonna say it … don’t think I need to say it again.

*whistling*

Thanks to a good friend for the link … you know who you are. 😉

Blu-Ray or HD DVD – The fight continues

Happy New Year! Hope everyone had a wonderful winter holiday!

And now, to start the new year off … here‘s an article that talks about the Blu-Ray and HD DVD camps entertaining more strongly the idea of allowing more combo drives since sales for Blu-Ray and HD DVD are apparently not where they had anticipated. Why would they be? What a joke!

First, there’s the hardware/driver/software enforced and Vista enabled DRM (Digital Rights Management or Digital Restrictions Management – I believe credit for that goes to David Berlind along with his definition of C.R.A.P. aka DRM) which would be a better term.

Then, there’s the competing standards where operating system venders as well as hardware vendors and even the entertainment cartels can’t make up their mind on which format to go with so you have this one going with this side and that one going with that side, etc. etc.

So why would they expect consumers to know beyond a shadow of a doubt which format to buy, if any?

And who wants to deal with making sure the disks you buy will even play in your new and very expensive drive?

Personally, I think we as users and consumers would all would be better off just letting these drives die a slow death, but that’s just me … and I do mean both of them. Both drive formats coupled with Vista’s enabling of the entertainment cartels’ inflicted DRM is a nightmare for users despite the greater potential for size and speed. Shame on the hardware manufacturers and Microsoft for giving in to them. If they didn’t have you behind them, they’d have nothing.

So, instead of realizing they have messed up, now they are way late to the party with both Vista and now the combo drives for Blu-Ray and HD DVD format capability … that would make consumer’s lives at least a tiny bit easier.

This technology could have been a great thing … IF:

1. It weren’t for the intrusive DRM (most of the next items are based on this intrusive hardware/software/OS level/driver level enabled DRM)

2. The diametrically opposed and very expensive drives/formats (Blu-Ray and HD DVD)

3. The entertainment cartel’s interference with hardware manufacturers to the detriment of the people who would buy and make use of the hardware

4. The entertainment cartel’s interference with operating system vendors like Microsoft and Apple. Microsoft’s new operating system, Vista — by allowing the entertainment cartels to tell them what to do are requiring Microsoft to meet higher hardware/OS/software standards than should be necessary for an operating system. (You can even see that with what Apple has done with much less hardware requirements) and by strong arming Microsoft (by threatening to take their marbles and going home) to make an operating system that is in the entertainment cartel’s best interest against the customers who are actually paying Microsoft for a VERY pricey product

5. Microsoft, due to the entertainment cartels threats, banded with hardware and software manufacturers making it possible for software, driver, and hardware DRM to strip away any fair use rights left to users who are paying for the privilege of LESS rights of what they buy!?!

6. Not to mention that Vista will allow, scotch that, force venders of hardware and movies/music to ‘down grade’ the quality of the output to the monitor or TV if ANY piece of hardware in the video chain doesn’t meet their expensive ‘standards’

More information on Microsoft and OS level DRM here.

Digital rights management operating system

Abstract

A digital rights management operating system protects rights-managed data, such as downloaded content, from access by untrusted programs while the data is loaded into memory or on a page file as a result of the execution of a trusted application that accesses the memory. To protect the rights-managed data resident in memory, the digital rights management operating system refuses to load an untrusted program into memory while the trusted application is executing or removes the data from memory before loading the untrusted program. If the untrusted program executes at the operating system level, such as a debugger, the digital rights management operating system renounces a trusted identity created for it by the computer processor when the computer was booted. To protect the rights-managed data on the page file, the digital rights management operating system prohibits raw access to the page file, or erases the data from the page file before allowing such access. Alternatively, the digital rights management operating system can encrypt the rights-managed data prior to writing it to the page file. The digital rights management operating system also limits the functions the user can perform on the rights-managed data and the trusted application, and can provide a trusted clock used in place of the standard computer clock.

Inventors: England; Paul (Bellevue, WA); DeTreville; John D. (Seattle, WA); Lampson; Butler W. (Cambridge, MA)
Assignee: Microsoft Corporation (Redmond, WA)
Appl. No.: 227561
Filed: January 8, 1999

Current U.S. Class: 713/2; 713/200; 717/11
Intern’l Class: G06F 009/44
Field of Search: 713/1,2,155,164-167,200 717/11

NOTE: Be sure to check out the Related Applications and the Claims below that.

Another great Register article by Andrew Orlowski back in December 2006 should give pause to anyone: Vista’s Suicide Bomb: who gets hurt?

Did I miss anything?

Bill Gates On The Future Of DRM

A small group of influential bloggers met Microsoft’s Redmond headquarters to discuss the upcoming Mix Conference in Las Vegas. The culmination of that day’s activities on December 13th, I think, was an hour with Bill Gates himself.

Among the questions asked, was one by TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington who said one of his questions was on Bill Gate’s opinion of the long term viability of DRM.

It was really good to see that Bill Gates has no illusions about DRM and apparently is very aware how bad it is for consumers. I also thought it was great that he agrees that buying the CDs and ripping them yourself is the safest legal manner of obtaining music. I totally agree and have said so for a long time. The only drawback is when the CD has ‘copy protection’ on it. Then I don’t bother with the CD either. As those who know me will attest, I have been boycotting this whole DRM thing and the cartels that back them for some time, the RIAA and Big 4 the longest. Unfortunately as much as I love movies, I see what the MPAA has been doing and has been doing for a very long time as well. And the studios often are not much better unfortunately, particularly Sony Pictures which makes it basically impossible to fluidly watch a movie (various types of problems depending upon the DVD) on a combo DVD drive that is capable of writing DVDs (at least not the one from Sony that my Jim has and the HP one that I have). Really ticking me off, by the way, because many of the films I want to rent or buy are released by Sony Pictures. Thankfully some others are not doing that and I am very quickly gravitating to those.

But back on topic, here. Michael Arrington reported (paraphased) Bill Gates as saying:

Gates said that no one is satisfied with the current state of DRM, which “causes too much pain for legitmate buyers” while trying to distinguish between legal and illegal uses. He says no one has done it right, yet. There are “huge problems” with DRM, he says, and “we need more flexible models, such as the ability to “buy an artist out for life” (not sure what he means). He also criticized DRM schemes that try to install intelligence in each copy so that it is device specific.

His short term advice: “People should just buy a cd and rip it. You are legal then.”

At least for the short term anyway, until the government — that our tax dollars pay for — legally allows the entertainment cartels to fully take away our fair use rights. Which they are actively working hard to do.

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