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Old 06-20-2005, 05:04 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Company offers workaround for Sony's CD copy protection

Company offers workaround for Sony's CD copy protection

Indianapolis (IN) - A simple mechanical way for Windows users to defeat SunnComm's MediaMaxx copy protection scheme, used widely in audio CDs produced by Sony BMG, is being offered on request via e-mail by SunnComm itself, the company's vice president of marketing and sales, Scott Stoegbauer, told Tom's Hardware Guide today.

The scheme was developed by SunnComm through its MediaMaxx division in order to prevent listeners on Windows-based PCs from easily making copies of audio CD-based music as MP3 files. Other software currently produced by SunnComm does enable legitimate copies to be made in Windows Media format (WMV), which cannot be (easily) burned to CD.

Workaround such as this one are not new; in fact, one was published by a Princeton college student in the fall of 2003 as a demonstration of how easy protection schemes are to defeat. That year, SunnComm threatened to sue the student, and later withdrew the threat after the Electronic Frontier Foundation pledged to support his legal defense. So SunnComm's decision represents a change of heart, as Stoegbauer explained: "We want to make it possible for people to use music in an authorized fashion." Authorizing customers, stated Stoegbauer, will also assure the company that they are using recognized software with strong digital rights management services, such as Microsoft's Windows Media Player 10.

What prompted SunnComm to make the workaround information available on request, stated Stoegbauer, has been an ongoing delay in Apple reaching an agreement with record labels - including Sony BMG - with regard to an official understanding or implicit license for iPod users to copy CD-based songs onto their mobile units. The final step in these negotiations, stated Stoegbauer, "is the record labels arriving at an understanding with Apple, so Apple supports it on their side. We are waiting for Apple and the labels to work out the arrangements and the agreements to support the technology... In the meantime, it wouldn't be very fair to take a user that's bought one of these CDs, and force them to not be able to use the music the way they used it without our technology." The average user, he stated, will accept his company's end-user license agreement when the company gives them options for making better use of their "fair use" of audio CD content.

This news flatly contradicts wire service reports last Thursday, carried by many online news sources and blogs, that Sony BMG was offering the workaround to its customers. According to Stoegbauer, Sony BMG does not maintain such a list of customers. The reports led to speculation as to whether publication of the workaround had been authorized by MediaMaxx Technology Group or by SunnComm, its parent company, which had vigorously defended MediaMaxx in the past. The workaround itself is nothing new, confirmed Stoegbauer, having been discovered and publicized by independent sources in 2003.

"Any contact information referring to customer support, [including] the URL on the CD, comes back to our company; it does not go back to the record label," stated Stoegbauer. "So any news article that said that things are coming out of Sony BMG to show how to circumvent MediaMaxx technology, is absolutely incorrect."

For now, MediaMaxx technology--and its workaround--only directly affects Windows users; Apple and Linux OS users aren't impacted one way or the other. Doesn't using Linux constitute a workaround in and of itself? "These aren't holes in our technology," Stoegbauer responded. "No matter what we do, somebody's going to figure out a way around it. It is the most important thing to offer 100% playability across the board." He added, the goal of 100% playability could be jeopardized if his company spent too much of its resources toward thwarting unauthorized use on "a niche platform."

Making the workaround available to customers on request, Stoegbauer told us, is "a way to keep the average honest CD buyer reasonably happy."
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