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Microsoft

Microsoft Media Player "Security Patch" Changes EULA Big Time 771

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the under-the-guise-of-security dept.
MobyTurbo writes "In an article on BSD Vault a careful reader posts that in the latest Windows Media Player security patch, the EULA (the "license agreement" you click on) says that you give MS the right to install digital rights management software, and the right to disable any other programs which may circumvent DRM on your computer." So if you want your machine secure, you also want microsoft to have free reign on your PC.
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Microsoft Media Player "Security Patch" Changes EULA Big Time

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  • extortion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by s20451 (410424) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @12:26PM (#3792264) Journal
    How can it be that they can change the EULA in order to disseminate a security patch? Isn't this essentially extortion? If I disagree with the EULA, and someone exploits the security hole the patch was designed to fix, can Microsoft be held liable?
  • Easy choice (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ZaneMcAuley (266747) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @12:34PM (#3792307) Homepage Journal
    Nobody forces you to use WMP.

    Just use a different media player.

    BlazeMediaPro, Winamp, more, take your pick.

    oh and yeah, add microsoft.com to your hosts file :D
  • by Beatnick (560520) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @12:38PM (#3792334)
    It's just to win points with DRM advocates. It's an underhanded means of controlling its "users" from the perspective of the DRM folks. I would be interested to know if there's been some discussion between MS and the DRM folks to ensure/track this sort of thing.

    And in the balance: security vs control.

    Either the villanous attackers are in control/capable of control
    OR
    Microsoft is in control.

    Geez. It's a lose-lose situation.
  • Re:extortion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by brsmith4 (567390) <brsmith4.gmail@com> on Saturday June 29, 2002 @12:40PM (#3792345)
    How can it be that they can change the EULA in order to disseminate a security patch? Isn't this essentially extortion?

    No. M$ has lawyers that would have picked that up pretty quickly. Do you think they would want another scandal, in the wake of the anti-trust suits and now the accounting problems that are happening all throughout corporate america? I don't think they would be that stupid as to cause another magnifying glass to be scrutinizing them. They are just playing the dumb pawn in the RIAA/MPAA game. If they were to be tried for 'extortion', they can simply plea that they were conforming to the DMCA by preventing its users from engaging in illegal activity thus eliminating their liability.

    If I disagree with the EULA, and someone exploits the security hole the patch was designed to fix, can Microsoft be held liable?

    No, because if you disagree with the EULA you are automatically forbidden from applying the security patch in the first place. If you didn't install the patch because of disagreement from the EULA, then you have no right to the security 'benefits' the patch brings. So in short, if you don't and you get hacked, its your own fault, not theirs.

    All this microsoft legal stuff is quite fascinating. I am still waiting to hear that M$ has been over stating their earnings. In their case, they are probably understating (for tax purposes)
  • Re:extortion (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bsane (148894) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @12:44PM (#3792366)
    Exactly- agreeing to this EULA would be similar to signing a contract under duress. At least it would be in the unlikely situation that the EULA would stand up in court on its own.
  • Groan.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cybermace5 (446439) <g.ryan@macetech.com> on Saturday June 29, 2002 @12:47PM (#3792382) Homepage Journal
    One of these days they will go too far.

    Every move Microsoft has made follows
    Machiavellian politics to the letter.

    It's no longer about money, it's about
    power. Microsoft will continue to find
    ways to gain more control of computers,
    and eventually will try to directly
    attack other operating systems and make
    them illegal. Microsoft doesn't even have
    to worry about serving customers anymore.
    There's almost too much momentum to over-
    come here, folks. The only way that our
    computers will belong to us in the future
    is to make sure that we control how they
    are used. Keep the hardware in the hands
    of smaller manufacturers who have to
    compete. Keep the software in the public
    domain wherever possible.

    At this point, even Apple looks good com-
    pared to Microsoft. They have to listen
    to their customers, they have adopted con-
    cepts from better operating systems and
    made it easier for users to use a com-
    puter for any purpose they desire.

    It doesn't matter what OS you use; BSD, Linux,
    Solaris, or any of the other options. But by
    choosing something other than Windows you
    will help keep control in your hands. At this
    point it would take thirty years for Microsoft
    to go out of business, but we need to be looking
    ahead. Do not accept these incremental attacks
    on your freedom.
  • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ryanr (30917) <ryan@thievco.com> on Saturday June 29, 2002 @12:59PM (#3792431) Homepage Journal
    mmm...Troll food. I'll answer anyway.

    Most companies' idea of DRM limits you as to where you can put your music. And that measn not allowing it go go on a device that doesn't support the right flavor if DRM, if it supports it at all.

    So, example scenarios:

    You buy a $500 MP3 player device. It works great for a while hooked up to your Windows box. MS kicks on DRM one day, and you can't upload music to it anymore. It might be your rightfully-owned music, mind you... you could have ripped them all yourself from your own CDs.

    Microsoft decides that MP3 files can't properly support DRM like WMA files can. So, they turn off the ability to play MP3, or maybe they delete them, or convert them to WMA. Since your portable player doesn't support WMA, you're screwed. Oh, and MS just happens to benefit financially since they control the WMA format, codecs, etc...

    Maybe they do something really silly like force you to put the physical music CD in your drive whenever you want to play a digital song that was ripped from that album. Sounds stupid, I know, but what was the last game you played on CD that didn't require the disk in the drive to run?

    The basic problem is that someone else's idea of what is reasonable to do with digital music will rarely match up with mine. I want to take a CD I bought, and pretty much use the music on any device I have that can play music. The problem is, of course, that the ability to do so also gives me the ability to share music on Kazaa if I choose.

    I'm not neccessarily trying to argue that sharing music is legal or right (though I do believe the music companies are idiots for their handling of the situation.) I'm just saying that if I'm to retain my ability to play my music on any device that I want, I will also retain my ability to share it, that's just how it works.

    Fortunatly, the cat is well out of the bag, and it's just not possible from a technical standpoint to prevent someone who can code and build their own machines from doing so. There are just too many MP3, Ogg, whatever players out there, and too many free OSes to stop it.

    They would have to make it illegal to have hardware that would cooperate with the software of your choice. They would have to make it illegal to reverse-engineer systems in the privacy of my own home for my own use. They would have to make it illegal to attempt to bypass copy protection mechanisms, or even discuss it. They would have to give the copyright holders what amounts to police powers to show up at any time, and demand to see your license documentation under penalty of decades in prison.

    Oh, wait...

  • by heimotikka (588619) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @01:04PM (#3792448)
    "its purpose is
    twofold: (1) to make a point about the absurdity of hidden "agreements"
    that buyers cannot know about until after sale, and (2) to be able to
    honestly say that I never accepted any EULA, and thus my use of the
    software is limited only by copyright law, just like a book or a CD."

    Hmm... and removing that EULA click-through page you won't be liable? And the other trueth is that if I close my eyes I'm invisible.

  • by Winterblink (575267) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @01:17PM (#3792498) Homepage
    Come on. The second anyone finds that Winamp's been disabled because of something Windows Media Player installed behind the scenes, Microsoft will be fighting back a shitstorm unlike any other it's faced. I find it highly unlikely you'll log into your Windows machine one morning and find nothing will work other than Windows Media Player.
  • by marxmarv (30295) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @01:40PM (#3792588) Homepage
    Fuck that too. As a system administrator, I refuse to work at a company where all developers have unlimited root access on the production network. I've seen too much stomping about production by developers (and their code) with no sense of Tao, and it's made my life incredibly frustrating in the past. There's no reason for you to be noodling about anywhere near production if the app is well-designed, well-partitioned from the system and keeps its tentacles out of everything.
    I've seen those companies that require you to get IT for every little thing. The usual result-- IT cops a major attitude, nothing gets installed, everything breaks, and no one gets a damned thing done.
    If your code is a web application, there is no reason, alibi or excuse for your code to run as root, to write files outside of its own chroot jail, to run privileged code, or to bind to privileged ports UNLESS your site uses custom Apache modules or is so big that it must use ASLB. That said, it's nice if a workstation's /usr/local is writable by the user of that workstation and IS leaves a pristine read-only copy around for you or them to rsync if the need arises.

    If you develop on Windows, well, there's your problem.

    -jhp

  • Re:extortion (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 29, 2002 @01:59PM (#3792662)
    In fact, the EULAs basically have no real validity : all that is basically common sense is already granted to the author of the software (no dissasembly to hack it for instance), but the clauses which seem inapropriate -- and exessive (give us your first born sons) are in fact invalid. For two reasons :

    a) A contract cannot be passed for certain things -- the law protects people from themselves (you cannot make yourself a slave)

    a) For certain stuff (IANAL -- but I did take law classes : I'll tell you the spirit of it, don't ask me the details), like the passing of IP, a _written_ form of the contract is _requested_. And certainly, this is indeed such a clause
  • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by carambola5 (456983) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @02:05PM (#3792685) Homepage
    They would have to make it illegal to have hardware that would cooperate with the software of your choice.


    Microsoft is well [slashdot.org] on their way [slashdot.org] to making hardware do this by itself. Then, all they have to do is invest a little more in America (ie: buy a few more Congressmen) and, voila, every computer in America has one of these suckers. Goodbye Linux. Goodbye ability to do whatever you want with your own music.

  • by Steve Franklin (142698) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @02:10PM (#3792715) Homepage Journal
    Not always.... Don't forget Ceausescu and what happened to him on Christmas day. The power ultimately resides in the people and when they finally get fed up enough with the anal retentive morons running things no power elite can stop them. This is the kind of "representative" government that existed long before congresses and representatives. Bill Gates and Microsoft Corporation need to keep this in mind before they try to push the envelope just a little further. Not a threat. Just a statement of how things work in the real world beyond the boardroom. History does not teach that people are submissive. It teaches that they have a relatively long fuse. But that fuse always has an end. It's a mathematical certainty.
  • by jd142 (129673) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @02:37PM (#3792803) Homepage
    So we're updating machines at work to w2k by flashing an image on to the hard drive. Being the nice people we are, we've even backed up people's music for them. When we restored one woman's music, media player refused to run until it had been updated. So I updated it, checked that it ran the little demo it comes with and left. 10 minutes later I get a call that it won't play her music. Turns out that because the music had been ripped on what it thought was another machine, it refused to play it. Never mind that the hardware was exactly the same, except for the addition of 128 megs of ram. The hd had been formatted and a new os installed (essentially) so as far as media player was concerned, the files were now on a different pc and so it wouldn't play them.

    I tried to explain to her that Bill Gates thought she was stealing music. I'm not sure it took though; I think she secretly thought we weren't letting her play it. Yeah, we'll back up a gig of music on the tape, spend the time restoring them and then not let you play them. She eventually just said she'd bring the cd's in again.

    There may have been a way around all this, but for such an obvious non work related thing, wasn't going to do it. Didn't feel like installing winamp because she'd been so annoying and whiny about the whole thing.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 29, 2002 @02:51PM (#3792854)
    I agree with you, however the point the guy is trying to make is "where's the proof it was me that agreed to this contract?" You see, what's the MOST scary about all this DRM shiat, is that once that stuff is on your computer and creating 'digital fingerprints' of you, the user logging into this computer right here, then that silly EULA DOES become binding. Why? Because The Man has the encrypted keys and digital proof that it was indeed you who logged into your computer, it was you who exhibited the same pattern of logging in, surfing the 'net for 20 minutes, upgrading the latest Winblows 'security' patch, and then surfing out for a quick look at some pr0n and to grab a few copyrighted mp3's from Kazaa, just like you always do. And therefore, it was YOU who should be prosecuted for 'stealing' all that copyrighted music and videos over the Internet.

    Such overwhelming evidence of a 'pattern of abuse' would most likely NOT do well for you and your argument about 'not signing the EULA' in a court of law, if it comes to this stage. And quite frankly, it is coming to this, and we do need to fight it!

  • by TheRealStyro (233246) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @02:52PM (#3792859) Homepage
    This smells so illegal... First include an application in the OS that has a security hole, a few months later act surprised that someone discovers it, firstly deny any such problem exists than finally recant and recognized the problem, build a patch a few months later but include in the attached legal document aa disclaimer for any responsibility for the patch, application(s), and OS, and that third-party applications may be disabled/removed/erased without the owner/user permission at any time. Grrr...

    Kinda like buying a new car and not noticing the dealership & manufacturer deny and responsibility for any item and/or service. Then find that if the dealership and/or manufaturer doesn't like any third-party something(s) you put into/onto the car (tires, stereo, etc.) they can eject/confiscate/destroy the third-party something(s) at any time. In a few months you get some new tires from some dealer down the road and as your cruising home on the interstate at 60 the front tires are ejected. Later the court throws out the lawsuit since you violated the dealship/manufacturer EULA...

    Time to buy another drive and try the various "open" OS's again....
  • by yerricde (125198) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @02:54PM (#3792863) Homepage Journal

    IE's PNG support sucks balls.

    As of version 5.5.2, Microsoft Internet Explorer will view almost any non-transparent PNG image and almost any binary-transparent indexed PNG image. IE 5.5 and 6.x work well with my site [pineight.com], which uses PNG and JPEG exclusively.

    CMYK encoding

    According to this page [w3.org], PNG supports CMYK color space.

    YCbCr, L*a*b

    I couldn't find anything one way or the other about these color spaces.

    Resolution Metadata, Extensible Metadata

    The PNG format contains a field for the physical (pixels per meter) resolution of the image.

  • by sjames (1099) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @02:56PM (#3792873) Homepage

    How is this interesting? When you sign or accept a contract, you are bound to it, whether you read and understand it or not. If you don't understand it, don't agree to it until you do understand it.

    I note that most EULAs reservie the right to change the EULA at any time without notice. How about if when I click 'I Agree', I also say I hereby claim the right to alter this agreement at any time by posting notice in my underwear drawer!

    Why not, it's just as fair. If the corporations don't like it, they shouldn't accept my money. If the courts have any sense of fairness left in them, they will either uphold both or rule both to be invalid.

  • by schmaltz (70977) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @02:57PM (#3792877)
    This EULA's a precurser to M$ actually installing DRM and anti-anti-DRM software on your computer as part of the next security patch.
  • by Stary (151493) <stary@novasphere.net> on Saturday June 29, 2002 @03:06PM (#3792904) Homepage Journal
    How could you be liable for something you never accepted? What about if somebody else installs a program on my computer with an EULA that says that Evil. Inc has the right to confiscate any computer equipment that runs this software? That's a bit like holding me liable for a contract you wrote while in my apartment. Or how about if Windows came pre-installed on my computer? Or what about if I bought the computer used with all the programs installed already?

    Let's take it from another angle: You buy an ice cream. When you open the wrap cover, you find a small agreement saying "in order to eat this ice cream, you must agree to also stand on your head and make a sound like a horny lion, ten times, in a public place". So what do you do, sign it or return the ice cream? No, because tossing it into the nearest waste basket would make your afternoon a nice walk in the park enjoying your ice cream - since just because somebody tries to force you into "agreeing" to something before using a product doesnt mean it's illegal for you to use it without agreeing.

    A side note: That'd be "truth" you're looking for.

  • by rakslice (90330) <rakslice&gmx,net> on Saturday June 29, 2002 @04:05PM (#3793107) Homepage Journal
    If this patch was distributed through Windows Update as a critical update, and thus was auto-installed on my machine through my XP Auto-Update configuration, then it's not like I've agreed to a new EULA, right? It was automatically installed; I was never given an opportunity to disagree to a new license.
  • Re:Liability issue (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sphealey (2855) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @04:10PM (#3793120)
    You own a car. You license software. Tucker Motor Car Company can't revoke your deed to the car, but Microsoft can revoke your license that you're essentially renting from them.
    It says that on the software package, I agree. Can you point me to some case law agreeing with that interpretation? {check with Al Gore for the definition of "controlling legal authority" ;-) } When I hand over cash at Best Buy and take home a box of Microsoft Windows Xp, it has every aspect of a "sale" transaction. Microsoft can call it a "license", but that does not necessarily mean that it is actually a license transaction.

    sPh

  • by moncyb (456490) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @04:29PM (#3793179) Journal

    You say the cons for Linux and Macs are that they don't have many games. However, why not just buy gaming consoles for play. There are at least two non-Microsoft competitors in that market--Sony and Nintendo. Maybe some of you have reasons not to like them (they seem to be obsessed with copy protection too), but I think they are much better alternatives to MS. As an extra bonus, you don't have to mess with hardware configurations and stupid compatiblity problems, or wait for long boots...

    ...and yes there are games that are computer only, however it seems to me that recently all the good games are on console anyway, and the computer game section of stores are almost dead. I mean last time I looked, The Sims was the most exciting game there! Lame.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 29, 2002 @04:35PM (#3793203)
    has anyone realised that M$ can just say linux is "DRM circumventing" and destroy it on your PC.
    this may seem a little far-fetched but even so they do seem to be running out of options
  • by inode_buddha (576844) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @05:05PM (#3793295) Journal
    isn't this the same sort of "bundling" activity that got MS into trouble in the first place wrt Netscape/IE? It's not as pervasive on the front-end now (from the end-user's perspective), but it's all over the back-end... where the real money probably is. Not that I really give a crap either way -- I switched over to 100% OSS/Free software about 5 years ago, and I don't have any desire to actively trade in certain file formats. For that matter, I've only bought 2 music CD's since the format was first invented. Reason why? It didn't take long to realize what was going on in the industry, so I simply boycotted it altogether. I don't think I'm missing much either, judging by the crap on the car radio going into work this morning. The entire DVD thing was a real yawner for me; same shit, different day. When will the content owners actually take responsibility for enforcing their ownership, instead of foisting their problems (such as really antiquated business models) upon the IT industry and its users? For that matter, perhaps some of the IT industry has equally antiquated business models. Bah.
  • Real Time Strategy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BumbaCLot (472046) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @05:11PM (#3793314)
    Unfortunately the console will never be a good platform for real-time strategy games, or first person shooters. These games require a mouse and keyboard to play. Age of Empires (published by Microsoft) was one of the best selling PC games in history. The same goes for Turn-base strategy games as well. Civ3 anyone? I am all for RMS's ideology, but until I see a great RTS/TBS game on linux I will stick with Win2k. Console are fine for driving, sports, and fighting games, but when you need maximum control and aim, a PC is the ONLY way to go.
  • Mission (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ruvreve (216004) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @05:12PM (#3793321) Journal
    A mission for the enraged /. reader, discover what server(s), domains, IP addresses access a windows PC to check for DRM compliance and disable software.

    Then publish this information on every website possible and allow everybody to update their firewalls blocking any sort of access to these places. And MAYBE send the information to Linksys so they can put a option in their "DSL/Cable Router" to block any sort of access to it.

    Linksys may be able to increase sales by advertising just this feature to the average consumer.
  • Ok, so what. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WhiteKnight07 (521975) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @05:51PM (#3793413)
    Just find somebody who is less than 18 years old to install it. Since they are a minor and therefore unable to enter into a binding contract the EULA is void.
  • Re:Groan.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Professor J Frink (412307) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @05:55PM (#3793431) Homepage
    One of these days they will go too far.

    They did. Years ago. The mindless worker drones didn't have the nouse or inclination to do anything about it. Many IT departments didn't have the nouse, inclination or sheer balls to do anything about it. Managers everywhere didn't have the nouse, inclination, balls or forsight to do anything about it. All the gamer freakz and AOLers and etc certainly didn't have the nouse, inclination or balls to do anything about it ("I can't play these cool games on anything else, whine whine whine!"). The US government in its usual fawning, apologist mode when it comes to someone with a few bucks just rolled over and let them off even when found guilty (guilty of really quite trivial things too, even when anyone out here with half an ounce of clue knows just how much they're screwing over *everyone* in many more ways than just providing a free browser; that's just the top of the iceberg. Mr Judge, so how about we all stop pissing about and actually *punish* a *criminal* company for a change, eh? Dream on...).

    So, MS just carried on. In fact, they've come back even worse as far as I'm concerned and now all the spineless cretins are going down, drowning in all the odious filth that MS passes off as 'Security' and 'Stopping nasty pirates' and so on, many believing every downright stupid and blatantly untruthful word and paying out hand over fist for the privilige.

    OK, screw em, that's their decision, but the one massive flaw in the old 'Live and let live' philosophy is that by letting MS get away it and with everyone and their dog just jumping on the wagon to join the ride is that the whole sinking ship is taking *me* with it if all this crap passes through and becomes law where I live meaning that I can't just sit down and sodding use the system and software *I* want to use in the way that *I* want to use it without harming so much as the tiniest hair on the teeniest fly, and making my life as a unix admin orders of magnitude more hassle than it has any right to be as MS constantly flip protocols and file formats and god knows what else around every five minutes for no other apparent reason than to make the lives of people like me difficult (as if we're just gonna give up or something; they can think again).

    So to all you MS apologists and users (when you have any form of choice in the matter) here's a big FUCK YOU for pissing on everyone's parade including your own. Thanks.

    Frink

  • Missing the Point (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tlambert (566799) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @06:00PM (#3793447)


    All of you people talking about removing/subverting/ignoring/legally challenging/etc. the EULA are ignoring an important fact.

    It doesn't *matter* if you legally accept the terms of the EULA or not, since those terms merely spell out *how the software will operate anyway*.

    Say there is a magic "Get out of EULA Free" card that came with your Microsoft Monopoly game.

    Say you use it.

    That's not going to stop the software from disabling other software on your machine, interfering with its operation in a supposed attempt to ensure "Digital Rights" are observed, or installing other components into your OS automatically, without asking you for permission.

    The software *doesn't know from EULA*.

    In other words, you can debate the legality all you want, but that's not going to change how the code operates, once it has been installed on your machine.

    -- Terry
  • by ceejayoz (567949) <cj@ceejayoz.com> on Saturday June 29, 2002 @06:01PM (#3793449) Homepage Journal
    The Windows box has an EULA on it that you accept by opening the box. Using the program means accepting the EULA, even if you hack the program to hide the EULA on install. Go on, try this out in court, they'll laugh at you... "Yes, your Honor, I illegally altered the program so that it wouldn't show me the agreement, so I don't have to follow the agreement! Haha!"
  • Re:Groan.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kadehje (107385) <erick069@hotmail.com> on Saturday June 29, 2002 @08:59PM (#3793907) Homepage
    Microsoft will continue to find ways to gain more control of computers, and eventually will try to directly attack other operating systems and make them illegal.

    You're wrong on the "eventually" part. This campaign against other operating systems, as well as other technologies that threaten MS's dominance. What do you think the SSSCA/CBDTPA/S. 2048 bill is all about? Why do you think that Intel, IBM, and just about every other major tech company is screaming that they're scared shitless about this bill? Right now, Microsoft is going for checkmate in the technology game and this bill is their first move in their campaign. Should Microsoft even partially succeed in this campaign to bring every other tech company to its knees and force them to pay tribute (both financially and in policy matters) to Redmond, Microsoft will become the most powerful modern corporation in history.

    Although this legislation has the proverbial snowball's chance of passing this time around, I feel that its main provisions will be enacted by the end of the decade unless Congress and Microsoft both get bludgeoned severely. These provisions may get enacted in a piecemeal fashion, but the two factors that will cause S. 2048 to become law are (a) Microsoft's huge war chest from which it can make "campaign contributions" and (b) Congress's tendancy to accept these "contributions" in exchange for favorable legislation for the contributor. The most obnoxious part of this legislation is the fact that it requires all hardware made in or imported to the United States to implement one DRM scheme dictated either by industry consensus or by the Commerce Department in 12 to 18 months if the industry can't reach a consensus. In addition, antitrust concerns will not be applicable to the process of reaching this DRM standard.

    Here's the killer for all the other players in the tech industry: Microsoft holds most of the important patents for implementing DRM in software as well as major portions of implementing it in hardware. Unless another company's DRM research pans out no later than a year after this provision were to become law, there would be no alternative to whatever scheme Microsoft comes out with. Then, the Commerce Department would then impose the Microsoft standard on the nation's technology industry, extending Microsoft's grasp from the PC world to a significant portion of the U.S. GNP. Sun and IBM would be at the mercy of Microsoft, and since these companies are enemies of Gates & Co., it is likely that Microsoft would be able to use its control over these DRM patents to marginalize or even destroy these companies by making it impossible for these competitors to release new, innovative products that would, by law, include these DRM technologies.

    Intel, AMD, Cisco, and other companies that primarily make hardware and most importantly don't produce software products that compete head-on with Microsoft's will also have a harder time profiting. Though it wouldn't be in MS's interest to destroy them, the folks in Redmond would be interested in taxing these companies based on a portion of their revenues for access to DRM technologies that they would need to sell new products. And MS would probably also wield enough muscle to force AMD and Intel to design future processors to run only future versions of Windows. If the Pentium 7 proved capable of running Linux, BeOS, or even Windows 2000, Microsoft could flush Intel down the drain faster than you can say "Enron."

    Intel and IBM have advocated that the market determine the fate of DRM schemes. This will allow American businesses and consumers to determine which ones get adopted and which ones fall away. It should not be the government's right to state that Americans have the choice of buying a PC with Palladium installed or not buying a PC at all. It especially is not the government's prerogative to grant a company what is effectively an unregulated monopoly to a major portion of the U.S. economy, as every software and computer hardware company would be under the foot of Microsoft in a post SSSCA world.

    We Americans like to boast about the fact that we reap the benefits of participating in a "capitalist" economy. Capitalism, in the ideal sense of the word, has never been practiced in history, just as communism has never been truly enacted in a country. If you define capitalism as the "Golden Rule" of "he who has the gold rules", then perhaps by vision of capitalism should really be called "laissez-faire socialism" or something. In my book, as soon as a movie studio buys the DMCA, or Microsoft buys the CBDTPA, or any other company purchases legislation that treats itself or its industry differently than the rest of the economy, it's proof that the U.S., like the rest of the world, is really a plutocracy. I think that the Microsoft situation is really just a symptom of a much larger illness of the American economy.

    The next several years will determine the fate of the American economy and as well as the U.S. role in world affairs for the next several generations. This claim covers a lot more than Microsoft. It covers the tendancy of the U.S. government allowing Big Business to take on a bigger and bigger role in dictating legislation and policy matters. It may be that the Enron and WorldCom fiascos, the mega-mergers of the 1990s, the artificial "oil crisis" that caused the price of gasoline to exceed $2.50/gallon in some parts of the U.S., and the tens of billions of dollars worth of tax breaks that major employers across the country have been able to extort from cities and states have pissed Americans to the point where they feel the pendulum has to start moving the other way. I really hope we've reached that point, because if we're not there now, things may never change. If we were to continue on the present course, I think in the next 30 years, we're going to see the game of capitalism end once and for all, and the handful of winners of that game forming an oligarchy that will control the U.S. and its sphere of influence for the forseeable future. We would get to the point where each major sector of the economy is subject to the stranglehold one company which carries enough power to destroy any challenger to its market share before it can gain a foothold. There would be one dominant software company (in this post I have discussed my fear that this would be Microsoft), one dominant electronics company, one dominant energy company, one dominant bank, one dominant food supplier. The U.S. was actually pretty close to this point shortly after 1900, with Standard Oil, Ma Bell, the bank trusts and the like, and it took a remarkable shift in government policy (antitrust laws, worker safety laws, etc.) to change the American economy into a more truly competitive game. The U.S. is nearing the high-water mark of industry consolidation reached at the beginning of the 20th century. The industry consolidation scenario has repeated itself; I really hope that the popular uprisings that occured as a result of that are about to repeat themselves too.

    Please tell me that the scenarios I've described are unrealistic. I really hope I'm being paranoid and that Microsoft will become merely a player and not The Player of the 2010's technology industry. IBM was stopped in the 1970's and 1980's in the courts (ironically enough it was never even convicted of antitrust violations), hopefully Microsoft will be next.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 29, 2002 @09:11PM (#3793955)
    If you develop on Windows, well, there's your problem.

    Who the cares right now if it pays the rent.

    Me UNIX/Java programmer, me unemployed. If a company wants to give me $$ to write VB or VBA or VC++ or C#. I can't very well say no.

    And if you think that something like that could never happen to you. I really hope your right, because snobbery doesn't go very far in a tight job market.

  • by marxmarv (30295) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @12:37AM (#3794535) Homepage
    As a janitor, I refuse to work at a company where employees are allowed to eat in their offices.
    Not quite an accurate analogy. As a clean room scrubber, I refuse to work at a company where employees are permitted to eat in the clean room. Or as a plumbing technician, I refuse to work at a company where employees are encouraged to flush everything down the loo and don't know better than to pee all over the floor. I simply refuse to work in places where people are permitted or, worse, encouraged to wallow in their own idiocy and create train wrecks on a daily basis and compel someone else to mop it up for them without the least bit of respect or deference.

    In many situations, system administrators are responsible for system uptime and often given zero authority to enforce, create or even suggest policies which get in the way of whiny developers, regardless of the resultant increase in code quality[1]. Talented software engineers are a lot harder to find than talented system administrators because hiring managers perversely ignore most of the people who can do the job right, merely because said applicants are over 35. Most companies would rather try to replace a sysadmin than a software engineer because the chief job of the system administrator in a small-to-midsize organization is to hide and absorb institutional incompetence.

    Then again, any software engineer who would demand root on a production system is probably insufficiently skilled to understand basic computing concepts like "separation of privilege" (as seen very recently in OpenSSH), "compartmentalization", "principle of least surprise", and so forth. Far from being engineers in any sense of the term, they're at best "code jockeys" and ought to be physically beaten on a daily basis with classic computer science texts. 90% of them are nothing more than whiners with degrees, and the other 10% design software for the users -- all of them including the poor sot who has to restart that crashy server at 2am every second or third morning.

    So, if you can afford to turn down jobs because the software engineers have root access, then hooray for you. But you don't want to get in a pissing contest like that at most companies because the developers will usually win.
    I left the technology industry about a year ago, and until more of the antipatterns shake out I don't plan on returning. Unfortunately, the corporate circle jerk has much invested in maintaining these antipatterns so I don't expect the situation will get better soon. As much antipathy as I have for people, professional body piercing sounds like a far preferable career with less bullshit and higher hourly pay. For that matter, so would pizza delivery or auto parts order desk.

    -jhp

  • by imr (106517) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @09:02AM (#3795302)
    it seems to me that this news is about the right this eula gives them to actually disable those programs because they do the kind of services you describe.
    Fishy, isn't it?
    Can you still talk about a free market if those kind of eulas are legal?
  • by Melantha_Bacchae (232402) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @10:42AM (#3795673)
    zoloto wrote:

    > You've neither agreed to the EULA, and you're
    > protecting your system by patching it.

    Unfortunately, while your method may keep one from agreeing to the EULA, it hasn't disabled any of Microsoft's software that carries out the problematic actions the EULA warns about.

    The only thing your method does is enabling a person to use the software without agreeing to its license. Congrats, you just found a new way to invoke the wrath of the BSA!

    "At this moment, it has control of systems all over the world.
    And...we can't do a damn thing to stop it."
    Miasaka, "Godzilla 2000 Millenium" (Japanese version)
    Don't worry, Godzilla stopped it! ;)
  • by MSZ (26307) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @10:53AM (#3795726)
    Consider the following scenario:
    at a public event, a computer is left on for people to view a web page. I come to the computer and find some way to run a program. I run an installer (maybe that I wrote myself), that displays an EULA saying "You must donate the equipment running this software to Evil. inc". I click "I agree" happily, finish the install and then leave.
    Does that make the owner of the computer bound by that license? I sure would hope not.


    If you're M$ or other large corporation with money to spend on lawyers, he'll be bound. It will be cheaper to give away the machine than to fight in court (US court that is).

Memory fault -- brain fried

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