Monday, December 05, 2005

Sony's DRM strategy continues to give

Freedom to Tinker took apart Sony's DRM rootkit and found that it contained inactive, but functional code, that would allow it's files to work with iTunes' DRM. From the post:

The answer is that XCP utilizes the DRMS code not to remove Apple DRM but to add it. I’ve discovered that XCP uses code from DRMS as part of a hidden XCP feature that provides iTunes and iPod compatibility. This functionality has shipped on nearly every XCP CD, but it has never been enabled or made visible in the XCP user interface. Despite being inactive, the code appears to be fully functional and was compatible with the current version of iTunes when the first XCP CDs were released. This strongly suggests that the infringing DRMS code was deliberately copied by XCP’s creator, First4Internet, rather than accidentally included as part of a more general purpose media library used for other functions in the copy protection system.

This isn’t the first time another vendor has tried to make its DRM compatible with Apple’s. Apple’s DRM, a system called FairPlay, places restrictions on songs purchased through the iTunes Music Store. FairPlay is the only DRM compatible with the immensely popular iPod, and Apple has declined to license it to rival music distributors, effectively locking rivals out from the iPod platform (at least as long as the rivals insist on using DRM). In 2004, RealNetworks attempted to work around Apple and reverse engineered FairPlay so that Real Player could create FairPlay files for use with the iPod. Apple responded by making vague legal threats and updating iTunes to break this compatibility. It looks like the people at First4Internet wanted to create their own iPod compatibility system, but rather than take the time to reverse engineer FairPlay themselves, they copied critical pieces of code from DRMS in violation of the GPL license.

Got that? First4Internet broke someone else's license in order to make their licensing tool compatible with iTunes. Sony disabled it, but for some reason it was still shipped with the rootkit that they used. What was Sony's ultimate goal, then?

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