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The Day The Music Died: Windows Media and DRM 699

Posted by michael
from the coming-soon-to-a-computer-near-you dept.
SampleMinded writes "The Guardian reports on an early glimpse of what a DRM controlled future looks like. Imagine backing up your files, reformatting your hard drive, then copying the files back over only to find your music no longer works. It happened to this guy. Now That's what I call Xperience!"
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The Day The Music Died: Windows Media and DRM

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  • by crivens (112213) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @10:21AM (#4076587)
    It happened to my fiancee. She backed up her music made using Real Jukebox to her D drive. We re-formatted drive C and re-installed Windows. Of course, not having saved the security key, when she restored her music files she couldn't play them.

    As always, the honest people suffer.
    • by tomstdenis (446163) <tomstdenis@@@gmail...com> on Thursday August 15, 2002 @10:35AM (#4076710) Homepage
      You could just use a better ripping program such as CDex which can rip into cool formats like MP3 and ogg-vorbis.

      Tom
    • Just imaging the fun when the library of Congress does the same thing....
      (Well, maby they have a smarter boyfriend who anticipates these things...)

      -On a Mr. fixit note, NEVER destory your source. Copy info to new media, and verify functionality on that new media, THEN format the source...)
    • by dtfan579 (548233) <dtfan579.yahoo@com> on Thursday August 15, 2002 @10:43AM (#4076772) Homepage
      When updating my soundcard drivers recently, I discovered a notice of Digital Rig^H^Hestrictions Management from Creative Labs. Apparently copy protected "intellectual property content" causes the digital output of the sound card to be shutoff. Of course this only works on WMAs, so I believe this fits in the context of this article. For more information visit this URL Creative Labs: DRM with WMA [creative.com]
      • Apparently copy protected "intellectual property content" causes the digital output of the sound card to be shutoff.

        It's not shut off, it's emitted with a copyright bit (part of the stream format) set. It's the "client" end (a DAT recorder, for instance) which does the prohibiting. This is all well-trodden ground to anyone who's messed with audio DAT drives or audio CD recorders: it prohibits you from recording copyright-asserted content from one to another digitally.

        Peter

    • Here's a quote from yesterday's [slashdot.org] interview [blogcritics.org] with Cary Sherman, President of the RIAA.


      "Of course record companies want to embrace the technology for greater profits. That's what they've done before, and that's what they want to do again. How to do it isn't so clear or easy, however...[Later]...record companies have been working very hard at getting music on the Internet legally. That happens to be difficult - because you need the permission of the songwriters and music publishers, and in many cases the artists as well, and those clearances aren't easy to get. (Everyone is nervous about piracy, and trying to figure out how much revenue they should earn, and what the business model is going to be, etc.) And then there are the technical infrastructures that have to be built to account for downloads and streams and pay royalties to rightsowners; the security for the content; and so on. It's a lot easier to do it illegally (just post it, don't worry about security, and don't pay anybody anything); doing it legally takes time...[Later]...The technology in this area keeps changing, and improving. You mention Enhanced CDs. As it happens, lots of consumers have had trouble with Enhanced CDs, because they may not play on all devices. So every time you mess with computer technology, there are unexpected effects."


      This WMP DRM business is a good example of what he was talking about. They have a difficult work to do if they want to embrace DRM and customers at the same time. Problems like this are unfortunate and (I believe) unacceptable, but are a natural consequence of what they're trying to do. I'd rather the music industry collapse from within, personally, but I'm not sure if that will happen.

    • There is one solution to this (that could be used dozens od other ways, too) that many people won't like: Universal IDs. If everyone was issued a unique personal sequence (Long enough to be virtually impossible to remember) these issues would never occur.

      The UID should include personal space as well - so I could have several different accounts (home, job1, job2, hobby, oss project1, etc) without losing the access to my media/data.

      Log on at work with your work UID. Your work UID server authorizes your log on and file access. It also knows you have access to your HOME UID systems, and sets up a VPN connection, allowing you access to your home computer & MP3s.

      Log on at another company's office with your work UID. The local UID server doesn't know you. The UID Root Servers are queried for your UID's ownership. It returns your work UID server and your home UID server. The company's server recognizes that you work for a "trusted" company and allows you acces to certain portions of their network, as well as setting up VPN to your work and your home.

      The UID could be attached to a fingerprint identification database, to a magnetic stripe card, to a SD card for login identification. The UID would make easy permissions tracking. Use any cellphone on your account, as long as you insert your UID chip. It could be great.

      Alternately, it could be used to track your movements, your whereabouts, everything that you do and have electronically. This is why the Root UID servers should be set up on floating installations with Satellite connectivity in International Waters...

      --
      Or maybe I'm insane.

    • by uncoveror (570620) <webmaster&uncoveror,com> on Thursday August 15, 2002 @01:20PM (#4078151) Homepage
      This is yet another reason to boycott the recording industry. [dontbuycds.org] Since Microsoft is now doing their bidding, boycott their products as well. Consumers should never do business with companies that presume we are all theives and pirates. They all deserve to be out of business.
  • by nucal (561664) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @10:22AM (#4076593)
    have been collecting music using Windows Media Player to copy from CDs.

    That was the first mistake...
    • by slagdogg (549983) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @10:35AM (#4076706)
      Actually, his first mistake was not disabling the 'Personal Protection' feature ... this would have solved his problem just as well as using another product.
    • Actually, the first mistake was "upgrading" to XP in the first place.
    • That was the first mistake...
      Why? It's an easy to use program that the user had available to him. It worked as advertised. Just because he didn't RTFM, doesn't mean that it's the application's fault. If you want to criticize WMP for implementing DRM or using WMA for encoding, that's a different matter.
      • by JWW (79176) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @10:51AM (#4076840)
        I think they were criticizing the DRM implementation.

        AND.. the program was easy to use until he reinstalled, then it was pure hell to use. It was a mistake because the program became unproductive working with the same files after just a reinstall.

        This thing gives me chills. He has to connect to the internet to restore his music? This really points to the disturbing trend (Palladium anyone?) that says you have to connect to the internet to even use your computer. Half of time I'm using my computer at home, I'm not connected to the internet (yes I still have dial up). As much as I would like always on broadband, I really pisses me off that companies are trying to implement technology to force me to check with them to see if its "OK" to do something.

        Damn right it was their first mistake, a damn big one at that. Technology like this should be shunned as if it has the plague.
        • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @02:52PM (#4078971) Journal
          This really points to the disturbing trend (Palladium anyone?) that says you have to connect to the internet to even use your computer.

          A bomber the FBI was hunting recently discovered something similar about his cell phone.

          He had driven halfway across the country from the area where he had been planting bombs in people's mailboxes. Somewhere in Nevada he powered up his cellphone. And when the cellphone identified itself to the network, the new "locate the 911 call" system (which actually tracks the phone any time it's on) reported his location to the cops (who had already notified the phone company to look out for him). They had him captured within half an hour.

          Of course the first time the general population heard about this capability was when it was mentioned in a news story about the capture. (If the cops hadn't told the reporter it had been used, even those of us who knew it was possible wouldn't have known it was already deployed.)

          This digital rights management registration has the same properties, but for any type of line:

          Turn on your computer while it's attached to the internet and it "phones home" to check your licenses, which are identified to you personally.

          This identifies the IP number you're currently using.

          The IP number - even if it's dynamic - identifies the ISP, and the port within it.

          The ISP can track the port to a physical connection - either hardwired or dialup - and can do this either in real-time or from logs after the connection is dropped.

          The location can be identified immediately for hardwired connectinos. For dialups the phone company or companies handling the call can track it - again either real-time or from logs. (Both the ISP and the phone companies can tie this to your name, bank account, and so on.)

          The entire process CAN be automated (if it has not been already), much like Carnivore, giving the FBI or others instant access to the information.

          This may already have been authorized by the Patriot act. It's directed at enemy non-citizens and intended to be used by the "intelligence community" and so claims to escape many civil-rights safeguards (such as the need to get a warrant before using it), much like the incarceration without recourse to courts used against Johnny Walker Lindh and others associated with the Taliban.

          Of course if this facility is used to capture an actual bomber and save lives, that's good. But if it's used to capture somebody some law-enforcement or spy agency THINKS is the bomber, it's not so good. And if it's used to harass opposition political figures, anybody some bureaucrat or cop doesn't like, or random citizens, it's called "a police state".

          Please don't tell me "It can't happen here." Because it DID happen here. Repeatedly. (Look up COINTELPRO - or the general history of the FBI - for examples within the computer era.) And don't tell me it USED to happen but doesn't anymore, either. It takes decades for this stuff to come to light, so the recent stuff is still not general knowledge. (I remember people saying it doesn't happen anymore when COINTELPRO was happeneing.)

          But the "digital rights management" hook is just the last straw, tying your personal identity to your computer's identity in advance. The bulk of this has already been deployed - at least in Microsoft systems and possibly in others.

          Microsoft system installs attempt to configure your network connection. If they succeed, it's "PC Phone Home". They have your Software Product Key (a unique identifier for the software distribution), the serial number of your CPU if it exposes one, the MAC address of any ethernet cards (which can serve as a hardware unique identifier if your CPU doesn't expose a serial number), and any info you entered during the setup - like to sign up for network service. Of course the connection itself gives them your call trace information.

          A few years ago Microsoft found a new use for spam: They sent out a series of "developer conference" adds. The remove-me email address would bounce. But the remove-me URL would load a mix of HTML, Javascirpt, and VBscript which would construct a URL containing your registry information and use it to query register.microsoft.com. (The registry contains your Software Product Key, ethernet card MAC address, etc.)

          Some of the file formats used by Microsoft tools embed identifying information in files they store or exchange - which can also get it into email. An example is Microsoft Word, and the identifying information has already been use to arrest at least one macro-virus author.

  • Ummm.. don't use windows media player.

    What I am more worried about is iTunes going that way. It is probably the best mp3 player and disk ripper out there (at least for mac). The RIAA can't be happy with how easy it is to 'mix, rip, burn.'

    I wonder if Apple has thought about iTunes for Windows. They have iPod for windows and iPod and iTunes play so well together I couldn't imagine one without the other.

    • by mrbill (4993)
      iTunes is actually just SoundJam MP. Apple licensed it and modified the look/functionality a bit. So, just get SoundJam MP for Windows (if it exists).

      I was very happy about this - I run OS X fulltime, and was recently given one of the original Creative Nomad 6G MP3 jukeboxes. The bundled software was SoundJam MP, but for OS9. I hooked up the Nomad (USB, ugh), fired up iTunes, and it recognized it right away and I could drag/drop MP3s from my library to it.
      • by mrbill (4993) <mrbill@mrbill.net> on Thursday August 15, 2002 @10:32AM (#4076674) Homepage
        Whoops, I just checked (www.soundjam.com):

        "Casady & Greene, Inc. ceased publication of SoundJam MP on June 1, 2001 at the request of its developers. We believe that SoundJam MP will continue to give our customers long and useful service, and, in keeping with our philosophy of putting our customers first, Casady & Greene will continue to offer tech support to SoundJam MP owners. The SoundJam development team is now working for Apple on their popular iTunes jukebox software, and will continue to work on exciting and innovative products for Mac use"
    • "The RIAA can't be happy with how easy it is to 'mix, rip, burn.'"

      I'm sure that they aren't, however 'rip' does imply the presence of a CD to begin with, so it's not suggested that you 'download, mix, burn' . Of course, I expect that plenty of iTunes users do this.

  • by taeric (204033) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @10:23AM (#4076599)
    You don't even have to try to reload backed up data to get bit by this. Not too long ago, I upgraded my processor and was subsequently locked out of all the media files I made using Media Player.

    I was less then pleased, for obvious reasons. It was just a minor headache remaking files using other programs and such, but it was a minor headache I could have lived without.
    • This is why (Score:4, Insightful)

      by tacokill (531275) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @11:35AM (#4077200)
      This is a good example of why this technology is doomed from the start.

      Can you imagine what will happen when Mary Jan Mathteacher and her husband Joe Sixpack run into this? I mean, you and I are above average with respect to our computer knowledge and this is a pain the in the butt even for us. To Mary and her brethren, this is just one more reason why "the computer hates me". I can't thing of any better way to stifle online music sales (if there ever becomes a market for them)

  • I formatted, transferred everything over my LAN, opened up winamp, tried to play something, and nothing happened!!! I was dismayed!!!

    Then I installed the sound card drivers, and Poof! it worked!!

    And yes, that WAS a joke. :)
  • by LISNews (150412) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @10:25AM (#4076613) Homepage
    From the article: "There is still a way to get these licenses back and it is pretty easy using our Personal License Migration Service (PLMS), [which] was designed to address the exact situation you outline. The customer just has to be connected to the internet, then they can automatically restore their licenses just by playing the music files in question."

    Of course it may not really be that easy, and it still is a pain, but that doesn't seem like that big of a deal, IF what they say is true in this case. Yes, this is a pain, but it could've been worse. If that's the future, it doesn't look as bad as I thought it did.

    • Surely that depends on how many tracks? (And indeed on how much of each track must be played). What if they had 100 tracks? What about 500 tracks? Or 1000 tracks? Even if it's only a few seconds of each track, that starts to mount up. Not to mention the effort required to start each track.

      • Not to mention the effort required to start each track.

        I don't think Microsoft has a solution for this, but you could grab cygwin and write a pretty simple shell script that launches WMP or whatever with each song in a directory as an arguement. You could probably traverse directories or even use find to just play (or try to play) each and every file with a given extenstion.

        -Peter
  • by krinsh (94283) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @10:25AM (#4076614)
    Thank goodness I only use it to play porn clips from the internet, and use WinAMP and RealPlayer for anything important.
  • In all fairness (Score:5, Interesting)

    by swagr (244747) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @10:25AM (#4076618) Homepage
    it did sound like updateing the licenses for the "new" computer was pretty simple.

    What I don't understand is the reason the files could be "re-licensed" was because they were legit in the first place. Well.... isn't this true for any copy? (at some point down the line it was legit)
    • So, he can be relicensed by simply connecting to the internet while playing the songs. What if they weren't legit in the first place? Would he get a new license? How would WMP know that there was a valid license? Does it transmit a license to MS when you copy the songs originally?
    • Re:In all fairness (Score:4, Insightful)

      by thesolo (131008) <slap@fighttheriaa.org> on Thursday August 15, 2002 @10:45AM (#4076792) Homepage
      it did sound like updateing the licenses for the "new" computer was pretty simple.

      Yes, it did sound pretty simple...for us! Now, imagine trying to explain to a non-technical person that they have to "Relicense" their own music because Windows thought they were a pirate. I can just imagine trying to explain to my mom over the phone why she can't play the Sinatra CD I ripped out to her PC anymore. (Fortunately, I won't ever have to deal with this scenario; my mom runs Linux ;)

      The fact is that DRM walks a VERY fine line between legitimate copy control & utter user frustration. If you go even slightly over the line, users will (eventually) rebel. Copy-protected CDs prove this point extremely well, as do proposed bills like the SSSCA (Sen. Holling's office has still not received one positive phone call from citizens over that bill).
  • RTFM! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by seanmeister (156224) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @10:26AM (#4076625) Homepage
    So the user in question didn't follow the procedure for either turning off the DRM protection or backing up his licenses. I'm no fan of DRM, but RTFM still applies in a "DRM controlled future". Maybe even more so!
    • that's no excuse (Score:5, Insightful)

      by g4dget (579145) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @10:56AM (#4076884)
      "RTFM" is an outdated concept, applicable to well-defined, standardized, software used by specialists. A software company can't excuse poor usability or unexpected data loss by saying "RTFM".

      In this case, an unobvious (mis-)feature caused a user to lose hours of work. That's a software problem, and specifically, a problem with a particular software feature, DRM. It shows that DRM reduces usability in practice. The burden of proof that this isn't necessarily true is on proponents of DRM to find workarounds.

      Also note that this particular implementation of DRM is deliberately not secure; an implementation of the form that the music industry might like might simply not let the user recover their music when they reformat their drive no matter what they do. That is, after all, effectively how CDs used to work (if the medium went bad, you lost the music), and the music industry would love to get back to that kind of environment.

      • by Overzeetop (214511) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @12:50PM (#4077883) Journal
        What manual? I bought a retail copy of Windows XP, and there wasn't a manual anywhere in the box for any of these snazzy programs. I didn't notice a readme.txt file either. Fact is, they just snuck this one in.

        You'd love the way the IS guy at my office installs new software on our machines (he has to do it himself, 'cause nobody else has local admin rights). He runs the installer, then hits enter as quickly as possible until the install completes. Never reads a single word. I'll give him this, though - it's the fastest install I've seen!
  • me like (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ubi_NL (313657) <`ln.leeedi' `ta' `siroj'> on Thursday August 15, 2002 @10:26AM (#4076626) Journal
    1) Now Joe Public starts understanding and disliking DRM

    2) Techies that already hated DRM but are not listened to by Joe Public don't use silly WMP and are not hindered by this.

    What's the problem again?
    • Re:me like (Score:3, Interesting)

      by forgoil (104808)
      There isn't much of a problem, really. If it works real bad, it will be abandoned in the end, one way or another. The Soviet Union was based on communism (a nice idea at least), turned out to be some twisted form of it with corrupted leaders and massive spying (with Vodka), and in the end broke down and is now recovering.

      The whole DRM thing is based on a nice thought "don't rip off other peoples works". I.e. if you publish your music under a license I need to pay you a fee to own it. But it has gone overboard, for many reasons, and is starting to become a big problem for those who buy their music. I wouldn't be too terribly happy about not being able to take a CD over to a friend, the car, or with me on a holiday. Neither would I be terribly happy about getting spied upon.

      Part of this is certain companies having bad visions (and trying to "resuce" their old ways of revenue instead of comming up with new ones), but the other part is that a lot of people don't mind stealing software and entertainment (music/movies). If you sit with a bunch of movies and mp3s on your harddisk that you did not pay for, consider that.

      Hopefully this whole thing will go defunct in the end (I won't rip with WMA to begin with, I prefer ogg at the moment, but only because of the sound quality) and give rise to a new and better way of sharing and making a profit.
  • by jmu1 (183541) <[jmullman] [at] [gasou.edu]> on Thursday August 15, 2002 @10:26AM (#4076629) Journal
    In the "article", it is made clear that Microsoft is watching what you are listening to. The advice given to the man for his situation was to connect to the Internet and the licenses for his music(which he already paid for... why does he need yet another license) will be updated.

    Updated? How did they get the original and how would they know that your files are the right files, etc... because they are watching what you are listening to. Time to read that EULA Mr. End User. Problem is, most bloody end users really don't care. I've talked to many a person and they really think it's ok. I guess that means that I _can_ put that hidden camera in their daughter's bathroom Boy, I certainly hope noone takes that one literally. ;)

    • by EXTomar (78739) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @10:58AM (#4076906)
      Legally, a user that does not read the EULA then can not fiegn ignorance later if they break the license. It was presented to them at the pre-installation. It is there responsibility to make sure they legally understand what they are getting into.

      Having said this, the way most EULA are presented are HOSTILE to the user. Confusing legalese language presented in a tiny scrolling text box smaller than the text area I'm writing this response in. What is your recourse if you have a question about a clause? Stop the installation and e-mail MicroSoft? You bought the software today and would probably like to use it today. Waiting for a response from MS and then possibly consulting your private lawyer is a laughable action to take for minor piece of software. Then step it up a notch: Window's Media Player is tightly integrated. You can't PATCH the system properly unless you take all of the parts which requires reading multiple EULA which are all different. What happens if you agree to one but not another? Your installation (and your computer) is probably now unusable or will have incompatible hiccups.

      I am still waiting for EULA in general to be challenged in court. Where did the consumer right for quality assurance and regress go? Why does one have to sign away more rights to get bug fixes?!?
      • Re:ADA challenge? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by fizbin (2046)
        Your comment about tiny text made me wonder - could a user unable to read the EULA (because of the type font size) call up a software company and ask for them to read them the EULA out loud? Is this not a reasonable accomodation to a common disability (inability to read 6pt type, or whatever is used)? Is there some reading disability that would make it impossible to read and understand something presented only one line at a time (because of a really small scroll window)?

        Most EULA dialogs I've seen have been very limited in functionality - no chance to, say, copy the EULA text into a program and change the font size. That being said, they usually appear to be in about ten-point type. This is much better than the font that used to be used on the break-this-seal-to-agree envelopes. (Which I actually had to pull out a magnifying glass to read)
  • How is Microsoft planning on competing with all the legacy hardware out there? Say the first Palladium equipped boxen emerge.....a large portion of america (the napsterites) upon learning what it means for their (illegal) mp3's....aren't going to want said boxen. There becomes a huge market for the remaining non-DRM enabled hardware......so what does MS do? (Wait for the government to MANDATE drm in a similar fashion to whats happening with HDTV??)
    • People don't realize that they can't do these things until AFTER they have purchased the computer and OS.

      By then they don't care anymore.
  • Imagine backing up your files, reformatting your hard drive, then copying the files back over only to find your music no longer works.

    Hard drives never fail? Right!

    This is crap and will never happen. As long as there are people out there making up new ways to distribute data (a la Ogg) then people will be able to share it. Now, they may do so illegally, but so be it.
  • by Dionysus (12737) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @10:29AM (#4076650) Homepage
    I wish MS would go even further, like automatically delete the music files after a set period, or when you reinstall Windows, Word will stop working, and you need to rent a new license etc.

    You know that line from Star Wars applies (paraphrasing): The more control they take over your system, the more users they will lose.
  • The direction M$ wants to take the world in (not where we might want to go today,) is one where PCs boot off of a network and have no local storage.

    Of course its THEIR network and you pay for the connection, the storage and for every hit, every app and file load. And people who want to sell their software have to pay M$ for "retail shelf-space" at least until they suddenly find their product co-opted and integrated into the, uh, collective.

    Complete and total, anal-retentive, obsessive control. Its the bully's way.
  • by grayhaired (314097) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @10:29AM (#4076654) Journal
    * If certain software becomes hostile to copy survivability, switch to more user friendly software.

    * If a file format becomes undesirable for some reason, switch formats. The shift from GIF to JPEG was accelerated when CI$ wanted royalties for GIFs. if MPEG becomes untenable, switch to a format WMA/Windoze, etc, wouldn't tell from any other binary.

    I think all people are proving is that they can muck up a file format or two. But there are a number of ways of encoding music after the fact. Just, you may need to convert your precious MPEGs to a more modern (and less policed) format.

  • I'm sure that posters after this one will highlight the solution presented. I just want to add this: when did our computers stop working for us, and change to us having to work for them?

    And if that yahoo can't get the solutions to work, I hope he thinks about a Mac, or Linux, for each CD (of his own music! already encoded, even!) that he has to reload. If his time is worth something, that Mac looks cheaper every day...
  • by smead (583466) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @10:32AM (#4076675)
    The real problem is not that windows is controlling her, that she's trying to control windows. Anyone with any common sence knows that windows xp provides a superior user experience and that it's rock solid reliability eliminates the need for tenous reinstalls. Not only is it never neccessary, but only hackers, pirats, and the dark forces of the universe would try to get control over windows for their own selfish gain. In my opinion, she got what she deserved. That filthy evildoer
  • by prisen (578061)
    ..need to get the following tool, ASAP: CDex [sourceforge.net].

    This [vorbis.com] format might tickle your fancy a bit more than WMA ever did. It sure as heck sounds better.
  • From the MS web site:

    When this feature is enabled, each track that is copied to your computer is a licensed file that cannot be played on any other computer unless you backup and restore your licenses on the other computer.

    Even if you forget to disable the feature, there is still a way to transfer the licenses. It's not as if they are forcing it on anyone. Seems pretty fair to me ...
    • Why couldn't it have been off by default, to avoid problems like that.

      Then they could say: you can always turn it on.
    • Not yet. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lendrick (314723)
      The idea, of course, is to get people used to it, so when it does come time to shove it down people's throats, there won't be much resistance.

      I don't know about you, but I find that the phrase "Protect My Music" is a bit deceptive. Admittedly, "Make it so my music will only play on this computer" is a bit of a mouthful, but at least it's not misleading.

      If someone like my little sister (who is a fairly average computer user) sees that checkbox, they don't know what it means, but they generally leave it checked because it sounds positive. A power user (who has some experience with recent commercial software) may be more inclined to be a bit suspicious about the vague and somewhat ominous "Protect My Music." Sadly, most users are the average kind and not the power kind ... so what looks fair on the outside is actually pretty sneaky and deceptive.
  • It's nice, and refreshing, to see the mainstream media picking up on this.

    We all know the pros and cons but your average jane/joe in the street doesn't. Without this message getting across to them with clear examples of what may/will happen we'll be shouting the message to ourselves.

    If your local/national newspaper has a tech section where you can ask questions, drop them a line.

    Get the word out!

  • by Matey-O (518004) <michaeljohnmiller@mSPAMsSPAMnSPAM.com> on Thursday August 15, 2002 @10:35AM (#4076698) Homepage Journal
    Lessee:

    1. 'When you first run Windows Media Player, it will ask if you want to keep copy protection on, and you can turn it off if you wish.'

    and

    2. 'We did anticipate this scenario and developed a tool to help them update their licenses: the Personal License Update Utility.'

    What's the big deal here?

    p.s. What's funny is, My Lyra requires a funky DRM'd MP3 format that only uses their propietary software to create it...those files won't work on anything else either. BUT, copy any kind fo WMA file directly to the CF card and it works fine.
  • by Schlemphfer (556732) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @10:35AM (#4076703) Homepage

    According to Microsoft's lead product manager of Windows Digital Media:

    There is still a way to get these licenses back and it is pretty easy using our Personal License Migration Service (PLMS), [which] was designed to address the exact situation you outline.

    It's morning and I'm still feeling pretty alert, but even the acronym PLMS is enough to make me think, "this is going to be a gigantic pain in the ass." Would it be possible to come up with a more intimidating bit of tech-speak for a product's name?

    More to the point, can you picture an inexperienced user having to track down the Personal License Migration Service utility and get it working? Just the name of it alone makes it sound like an afternoon's project.

    Looks like Windows users who want to maintain rights to their music libraries are going to have to regularly clear some rather intimidating hurdles every time they buy a new system or reformat their drive. I wonder how Apple will handle the same situation. Somehow, I can't picture Steve announcing iPLMS at an upcoming MacWorld ;)

    • Would it be possible to come up with a more intimidating bit of tech-speak for a product's name?
      What would you suggest?

      • LicenseXP?
      • ActiveLicensing?
      • License.Net?
      • DRM featuring IamMSFT'sBitch Technology?
    • by Knobby (71829) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @10:55AM (#4076873)

      I wonder how Apple will handle the same situation.

      My iPod has a little "Don't steal music" on its back. That simple suggestion and linking the iPod/iTunes synchronization to a single machine (not really much of a hurdle when you have Appletalk over TCP/IP and can mount a remote drive containing the music anyway) is all Apple has done. I don't see them doing a whole lot more. Their market is made up of a lot of people who create the content that MS is trying to control.

  • by RailGunner (554645) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @10:35AM (#4076711) Journal
    While I feel somewhat* sorry for the person that lost all their music files, at least they (presumably) didn't pay for them, so really it's just an inconvenience to re-copy their cd's to their hard drive.

    But what if they had paid for them? Even a trivial amount like 25 cents adds up extremely quick. At least in their case, though, they still have the files. Hard drives fail.. the Windows Registry can be corrupted.. what then? Do you re-purchase all the files you've already bought once?

    This should be yet another compelling reason to dump Windows in favor of Linux on your PC's.

    * I can't feel too sorry for anyone using Windows Media Player Spyware.. Is it really Microsoft's business that I spend a large part of my work day writing code and listening to (legal) mp3 rips of my Ozzy Osbourne cd's?

  • Bring it on (Score:3, Insightful)

    by philipsblows (180703) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @10:37AM (#4076723) Homepage

    I've made similar comments like this before, but in this case it is worth repeating (well, I'll find out whether it is).

    The sooner the general public begins to experience the real issues behind DRM, DMCA, Palladium, UCITA (or whatever they're calling it this week), etc, the sooner the issue will rise to the importance of other issues that get real (ie political, financial) attention.

    It will probably be painful for a while, since the entire public won't realize the impact of this sort of thing at first, but give it time... the general public let their opinion be known about DivX and it didn't take long for CC to back down and toss that idea (or at least table it for a while).

    This too shall pass? I hope so.

  • by gosand (234100) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @10:42AM (#4076764)
    Some people are saying "Don't use WMP", or "Yeah, but you can turn it off", or "RTFM!".

    While those things may apply to this case, DRM is a scary thing where it would be very easy to make it so it doesn't matter what app you use, DRM could be embedded in your processor (Palladium). They could make it so that you can't turn off DRM in the apps, or there is no manual to read, it will all just be built in so you don't have to "worry" about it.

    And since when did it become a REQUIREMENT to be connected to the internet to listen to music that you own?! Sure, internet access is more widespread than ever, but required? That's BS. That just means that Microsoft is watching and controlling what you are listening to. How long before it goes beyond that to cover every app on your system?

    I talk to some of my friends about this stuff, and they think it will never happen. They also don't know about the DMCA and the CDPDTA-E-I-E-I-O. This shit is real, and it is very scary. I have heard people say "Well, I don't care if they know what I do." Well dammit, I DO! It is none of their business, and that is the first step down a long, dark path. You want to tell them what you are doing, what web sites you are visiting, where you are shopping? Fine. Opt-in. But don't force that on everyone. Some people may actually want some of these dumbass services that Microsoft and other companies offer. Maybe they like targeted advertising. I don't, and I should not have to jump through hoops to NOT get it.

    Think it won't happen? Who is going to stop them?

  • by Featureless (599963) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @10:42AM (#4076767) Journal
    Think of it like a cage. It's meant to let us see what's inside, but not let what's inside get out. It can never effectively be used to get back what's escaped. And something only needs to escape from it once to be outside, fruitful and multiplying and all that, forever.

    It's an absurdly complicated cage, with hundreds of potential points of failure. Even if it's the best designed cage in the world, with encryption and booby-traps at every joint and hindge, someone in a good lab in Hong Kong is going to arrange a jailbreak anyway. And you know it's not going to be the best designed cage in the world. It's going to suck, maybe slightly less than CSS sucked.

    Once the content is out of it, that's it. You can't make a computer that refuses legacy data and applications (mp3s). That might be what Hollywood wants, but it's the only thing Microsoft can never do. At least not in the next 10-20 years - they'd have to work up to it very gradually. And even then, there are a million problems.

    The real purpose of DRM is to act as a shield against free software technologies interoperating with commercial products. MS has been considering fighting compatible free software with patents and bribes and EULA suits (and probably would, but for the awkwardness of doing it during their anti-trust trial), but by far its best weapon is to pretend to ally with the content people. They, after all, own Washington, and they were the geniuses that engineered the DMCA. The law that will make Samba, or the encrypted-WindowsDRM-filesystem module, or any number of other enabling technologies illegal... because it's trying to "bypass Microsoft's access control features."

    People will point out that the DMCA has provisions for allowing interoperability. That's right, it does. That's called a "bait exception." Sort of like the distributor price caps in the California electric utility deregulation, they're there for show; they can have no real effect. DeCSS, after all, is meant to allow free softare to interoperate with DVD's. But tell that to all the people in court all around the world right now. When deciding on whether there's a "significant non-infringing use," it turns out that it's quite easy to make a non-savvy judge (and how few of them are savvy?) believe the worst. DVDs are case in point.

    DRM will accomplish none of its stated goals. But it will be great for Microsoft. Paladium is a big deal to them because it will be the first Windows which can't be emulated by Wine, for instance, or interoperated with by other software, without risking the appearance that one is interoperating in order to open the cage. And if you mess with cages, you know we're not just talking about a civil trial and bankruptcy. We're talking about a good long stretch in federal prison.
  • There is still a way to get these licenses back and it is pretty easy using our Personal License Migration Service (PLMS), [which] was designed to address the exact situation you outline. The customer just has to be connected to the internet, then they can automatically restore their licenses just by playing the music files in question.

    How exactly did Microsoft get the job of maintaining my licenses? If I pay for a cd and rip it to mp3 for my own use, why do I need MS to "license" me the ability to play it? They didn't pay for the cd, I did! How is it that the duty of maintaining my licenses for non-MS data can belong to MS? This is just silly...
  • Disable it! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Leto2 (113578)
    From the article:

    "You can also choose to turn off copy protection when you create your music collection, which can be done easily in any version of [WMP7.x or later].

    When you first run Windows Media Player, it will ask if you want to keep copy protection on, and you can turn it off if you wish. If you missed that dialog box, it is still easy to turn off copy protection by going into the Tools|Options menu. Click on the Copy Music tab, and under Copy Settings, uncheck the 'Protect Content' box. In previous versions, this box was called the 'Enable Per sonal Rights Management' check box." Turning off copy protection would seem the best idea.

  • Doc: Well don't do it!

    Seriously, why the hell is anyone using WMF? MP3 has wide hardware support, obviously great software suppport, and sounds great. What compelling argument is there for using WMF? Some people claim superior sound quality.....just ask the guy in the story how good his music sounds since he can't play any of his files.

    -ted
  • Why DivX died? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jvmatthe (116058) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @10:52AM (#4076851) Homepage
    The customer just has to be connected to the internet, then they can automatically restore their licenses just by playing the music files in question.

    I have been told, and I believe even read in dead-tree publications, that the reason the DivX plan died was that people were creeped out by having to dial someone up and transfer information. Even with the *promise* of anonymity, this is guaranteed to scare some people away, since they worry "What if?" (Like "What if the company goes bust and they sell their database to someone that doesn't make the same promise?" or "What if they get hacked and someone takes my credit card number or personal viewing habits?")

    Add into this that much of media innovation and format decisions are apparently driven by the porn production industry, and the reason for media without a tether to home base becomes more clear. No one wanted to buy a DivX disc that phoned home to validate and no porn movie maker really wanted to go that route because they know their audience.

    Having to phone home has got to be the Achilles' Heel for this kind of stuff. I sure as hell don't want it, and I imagine most people would feel the same way, even if they aren't watching dirty movies.
    • Re:Why DivX died? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gilroy (155262) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @11:34AM (#4077195) Homepage Journal
      Blockquoth the poster:

      I have been told, and I believe even read in dead-tree publications, that the reason the DivX plan died was that people were creeped out by having to dial someone up and transfer information... this is guaranteed to scare some people away


      Yup. That's why, nowadays, companies simply don't tell you that they're doing this. Let's see a show of hands -- how many people knew Windows Media Player kept a list of your "allowed" tracks? And that the list was kept on Microsoft's servers?
    • Re:Why DivX died? (Score:4, Informative)

      by tswinzig (210999) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @12:18PM (#4077603) Journal
      No, DivX died because the company was trying to sell you a limited use disc that had less features than DVD's that could be bought/rented/re-sold.
  • by Bouncings (55215) <ken&kenkinder,com> on Thursday August 15, 2002 @10:53AM (#4076864) Homepage
    What is this business of just turning DRM off? For those of you who didn't read the article/don't remember,
    When you first run Windows Media Player, it will ask if you want to keep copy protection on, and you can turn it off if you wish. If you missed that dialog box, it is still easy to turn off copy protection by going into the Tools|Options menu. Click on the Copy Music tab, and under Copy Settings, uncheck the 'Protect Content' box.
    Ok, so you can turn off the "screw me in the ass" option? I'd like to know, what's the catch? Will this feature be going away in future versions? Someone, please fill me in.
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @11:23AM (#4077116) Homepage
    and it happening to the general masses is a very very good thing. The more this stuff pisses off journalists, writers, average joe the better...

    Me? I rip everything to mp3 with lame and the proper settings to get the absolute best copy I can get. (I dont use OGG and probably never will because my car stereo,audiotron and 2 portable devices never will play OGG. No DRM crap to worry about, no mysterious "licenses" or other crap needed.. and finally I use a non-bloated fast responding media player.. it's call winamp, freeamp(or Zinf now) and XMMS. winamp os starting to get bloated so all windows boxen I touch get Zinf instead now.. and linux boxes get either zinf or the default XMMS install.

    Anyways, DRM cant and wont bother anyone that makes sure they know what they are using and doing. As it is easily avoided without causing any discomfort. Non-techies? it's gonna bite them in the ares and bite them hard... and I hope that it start biting people at a rapid rate... that's the ONLY way to get the word out...
  • by gilroy (155262) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @11:32AM (#4077174) Homepage Journal
    Blockquoth the article:

    they don't use this utility they will need to re-create (re-copy) their music CDs into their music library on their PC. Find out more information about this process at www.microsoft.com/ "You can also choose to turn off copy protection when you create your music collection, which can be done easily in any version of [WMP7.x or later]."
    ... or you can choose to forgo Windows Media Player entirely and buy an independent, third-party program. I happen to like MusicMatch Jukebox [musicmatch.com] but there are many, many options out there.


    If you're lazy and use MS products just because they're already there, you're likely to keep running into this problem.

  • by dipfan (192591) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @11:37AM (#4077215) Homepage
    Jack Schofield, the Jack in "Ask Jack," the title of this Q&A, is a notoriously pro-MS cheerleader. It's almost sickening, in fact, having read his articles over the years. Many newspapers have these sort of "Doctor PC" columns, and they give Microsoft a free ride in terms of customer support and advertising. But how is it these columns don't ever advise: "Internet Explorer really sucks, you should download Mozilla" or whatever superior Open Source alternative there is. Certainly Jack never does.

    In fact, last week the section's letters page got a letter from a reader asking why "Ask Jack" never answered any Mac queries, or any other OS for that matter. The reply was, oh Jack's a real expert, you can ask him anything. So, please, go ahead, why not "Ask Jack" your deepest questions about some tricky Debian or Slackware problem, I'm sure he'll be just delighted to answer. Email him at: jack.schofield@guardian.co.uk
  • feature (Score:3, Insightful)

    by binarybum (468664) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @11:39AM (#4077233) Homepage
    I'm not sure when something that benefits the RIAA but can only cause headaches for end users started being called a "feature."

    If you build a car that is incapable of going over 65mph do you advertise it as an anti-speed ticket "feature"?

    nonsense.
  • by Mirk (184717) <slashdot@@@miketaylor...org...uk> on Thursday August 15, 2002 @11:41AM (#4077240) Homepage
    Did anyone else choke on their coffee as they read this? From the original article --
    When you first run Windows Media Player, it will ask if you want to keep copy protection on, and you can turn it off if you wish. If you missed that dialog box, it is still easy to turn off copy protection by going into the Tools|Options menu. Click on the Copy Music tab, and under Copy Settings, uncheck the 'Protect Content' box. In previous versions, this box was called the 'Enable Personal Rights Management' check box." Turning off copy protection would seem the best idea.
    D'oh! So the DRM is so easy to counteract that there is literally an "override DRM" wizard, and an "override DRM" button for those who missed it.

    So how does this so-called DRM actually provide any security whatsoever for the copyright holders? It doesn't. It is irritation-ware pure and simple. Just another totally unnecessary hoop to jump through.

    <PARANOIA>
    Or is it? How about this for a totally irrational paranoid fantasy: could it be that by clicking the "turn off DRM" button you are circumventing the copy-protection and so, technically, in breach of the DCMA? Just how twisted would MS have to be to implement a honey-trap just so they could sell the RIAA a list of the theoretically guilty?
    </PARANOIA>

    Disclaimer: no, even I don't really believe this. But, hey, food for thought, eh?

  • by Jim Norton (453484) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @11:55AM (#4077363)
    Sure am glad that I run Linux now... this whole DRM thing is going to get out of hand within the next 2-5 years.

    Of course, when TCPA/Palladium hits it'll be integrated into hardware and will probably kill off any solution that ISN'T Microsoft-based. I sure hope some other hardware manufacturer will make non-TCPA-compliant hardware during the fallout.

    Welcome to hell. Here's your copy of Windows. :)
  • This will go well (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Badanov (518690) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @11:59AM (#4077408) Homepage Journal
    The first time someone wants to replay their child's birth (or conception :o)) MPEG and they are informed they can't unless they use the internet or they jump through the right hoops. Then at that point will DRM be an infringement on a person's own right to play their own content on any machine they want? What about burning the image of a child, as an example, playing little league you want to send to the folks at home? Does this DRM mean that those images can only play on the originating computer? I guess in MS's world, content managament means they can manage any content that plays on any of their licensed products. Wasn't this, like, declared illegal summer 2001? Help me out here, you folks who are so in love with Redmond's products... Enlighten me... You know MS is so fixated on digital rights management they don't even consider what their obligations are to the world at large, the obligations that though the new paradigm is they own the software you are using and you have only those rights they grant you, at some point there must be a delineation of responsibilities by MS: that they may not interfere with your online or offline activities, EVEN IF ILLEGAL, unless they go through the same processes that law enforcement agencies must go through to build a prima facie case; where is MS's obligation? Doesn't their use of the internet to manage XP constitute broadcasting and is subject to the same strictures that everyone else is under the FCC? Even in computers it would seem to me that citizens in a republic such as ours (USA) must be protected from outlaw contracts such as EULAs.
  • by gelfling (6534) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @12:40PM (#4077800) Homepage Journal
    Because when it drops it will look something like this:

    The Software players themselves will clock out and have to be relicenced. This licenced code will recognize that all of the media files are 'old' and they have to be relicenced as well. And Oh did I mention that the licence to the objects will use a 3 way handshake that couples a corresponding key in the OS itself and will embed a keyed licence in the objects themselves so they will only play on a machine that already has a licenced OS with a licenced player playing licenced media files.

    And if you had three legs the third shoe will look like this.

    All media files will be 'owned' by someone else, probably the DMCA licence owner and they will have the ability, through your licenced OS to revoke the licence of a media file at any time for any reason. You will receive a bill in the mail, like your phone bill, that charges you for listening to or watching those media files and it will be 100% usage based.

    And if you had a fourth leg the last shoe dropping will look like this.

    All Libraries will be privatised and they will charge you to borrow books which will be slowly phased out anyhow in lieu of digital media. They will charge you for each viewing of each page on a per view per page basis.

    And if you are a starfish it will loko like this.

    Eventually there will be a literate class and an illiterate class distinguished my wealth just like in Medieval times. Long live the revolution!
  • by foobar104 (206452) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @01:01PM (#4077993) Journal
    Nobody is going to like this, but I'm going to say it anyway. These sorts of problems wouldn't exist if computers had a unique serial number in them.

    I work a lot with SGI computers. Software on SGIs is licensed with FlexLM, and FlexLM depends on this thing called the license host ID number. On an SGI, that host number is burned into a special chip on the midplane called the NIC, for number-in-a-can. (Yeah, another instance of an overloaded acronym.) SGI's have had these for years and years.

    When you get a software license, you provide the vendor with your license host ID, which is that number-in-a-can number. The vendor generates a license that will only be valid on your computer. Because the NIC is a piece of hardware, you can wipe your disks to your heart's content, and your license keys (as long as you keep copies of them) will continue to work.

    It's a pretty foolproof system. I don't know precisely how it works, but there are at least two NICs in each computer, and new components are shipped from the factory in a special blank state, such that the old, failed part can be replaced with the new part and the system will flash the new NIC chip with the system's license host ID at power-up. Or something like that. All I know for sure is that I've had virtually every piece of my SGIs replaced at one time or another, and I've never had a problem with the license host ID.

    I want to re-emphasize that this is not a new thing. SGIs have had NIC chips on them for as long as I can remember. Computers from other vendors may have them, too, but I couldn't say.

    Now, if PCs had NIC chips in them, or the equivalent, the sort of problem described in the article would never arise. Copy-protected music files could be linked to a specific license host ID, which is stored in hardware. Wipe your drives, upgrade your machine, whatever, as long as you keep the same license host ID, the licensed stuff on your computer will continue to work.

    Of course, you'd be unable to move your music files from one computer to another, but that's the whole point of the system, isn't it?

    Now, how do you think the Slashdot audience would respond if somebody-- anybody-- advocated putting NIC-like technology in personal computers?

    I think we're all going to have to acknowledge that some form of copy protection for media is necessary. The question then becomes, how do we (and I don't literally mean "we," but you get my point) devise a system that protects the media to the extent necessary, but that ensures as much convenience to the user as possible?

    Next time somebody advocates something like the Pentium unique serial number scheme from a few years back, don't be quite so quick to flame them.
    • I don't like these schemes, but at least SGI has it right.

      (I work with them too. Very nice machines with long lives.)

      The Number In a CAN is actually located in a part of the SGI that permits upgrades everywhere else. This way you can change almost the entire machine (CPU, disks, reload the OS, Graphics) without any software hassle.

      On O2 machines this number is on the PCI tray. Move that tray, and your software will work on the new O2.

      Octane has it in the Backplane I think, either that or the MainBoard. It is a small chip that can be moved if you need a new main board, if it is there.

      Indy has it on the main board. Dallas semiconductor. Socketed.

      Indigo uses a similar chip. Same.

      BTW you *can* change the lmhostid on Indy and O2 machines at least. Do a search on changing sysid, or hostid. There may be ways for others.

      This system is annoying, but at least SGI thought long and hard about that annoyance factor and tried very hard to make sure the users were able to make the very best use of the licenses they have. A lot of companies don't do the kind of engineering they do and it shows. That is a big part of why an SGI costs what it does. (Worth it if you need to run that sort of software.)

      Sidebar: You can get this sort of functionality on a PC, though I don't hear about it much. Get your FlexLM license tied to an ID on a hardware dongle, or better PCMCIA network card. Works the same and you can move your license at will without discussing it with your vendor, who will only entertain the conversation if you have paid your maint. contract in full to date...

      So, I guess I could live with some things done this way, but I don't want to. Besides, even high-end machines like an SGI can be cracked so what's the point? Apply this sort of tech to the everyday PC and it will get cracked sooner than later.

      We should focus on incentives for people to do the right thing, not technology based solutions that start us down a path of control that we all will regret.

  • by serutan (259622) <snoopdoug&geekazon,com> on Thursday August 15, 2002 @02:34PM (#4078811) Homepage
    I actually used to be a big fan of Microsoft. Evil Empire, shady business tactics, yeah yeah, whatever. I admired their goal of transforming the then-chaotic software world into a coherent, integrated whole that would do really cool things. Ask almost anybody at Microsoft ten years ago and they would have sincerely told you that was their mission.

    But back then MS was still truly a geek-run company, headed by one particular geek who had figured out how to hack the business world. Today lawyers and bean counters are running the show, and making tremendous amounts of money is the only goal. Today we get root authorization snuck into security patches, and circle jerking with the entertainment industry.

    Reading through all the MS instructions ... Personal License Migration Service blah blah... Personal License Update Utility yada yada... I translate these 4 or 5 paragraphs into one sentence:

    Do not use Microsoft software.

"Life, loathe it or ignore it, you can't like it." -- Marvin the paranoid android

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