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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Micro$oft patches fair use

Schneier on Security has an interesting post today about Microsoft's repeated patches to their DRM (which seem to come far more often than actual security patches). He thinks that Microsoft is fighting a losing game against crackers (can I call them crackers when they are only trying to access their own files for fair or unregulated uses?), and we could agree more! From the article:

In the absence of regulation, software liability, or some other mechanism to make unpatched software costly for the vendor, "Patch Tuesday" is the best users are likely to get.

Last week, a hacker developed an application called FairUse4WM that strips the copy protection from Windows Media DRM 10 and 11 files.

Now, this isn't a "vulnerability" in the normal sense of the word: digital rights management is not a feature that users want. Being able to remove copy protection is a good thing for some users, and completely irrelevant for everyone else. No user is ever going to say: "Oh no. I can now play the music I bought for my computer in my car. I must install a patch so I can't do that anymore."

It should surprise no one that the system didn't stay patched for long. FairUse4WM 1.2 gets around Microsoft's patch, and also circumvents the copy protection in Windows Media DRM 9 and 11beta2 files.

That was Saturday. Any guess on how long it will take Microsoft to patch Media Player once again? And then how long before the FairUse4WM people update their own software?

Certainly much less time than it will take Microsoft and the recording industry to realize they're playing a losing game, and that trying to make digital files uncopyable is like trying to make water not wet.

When is Microsoft going to learn what Google has known from the start? Usablility = user satisfaction = profit. Locking people in isn't the way to make money, Tzar Balmer, setting them free is!


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