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Is Microsoft Using RIAA Legal Tactics? 239

Posted by kdawson
from the if-you-can't-beat-'em-sue-'em dept.
Nom du Keyboard writes, "CNET reports, 'Microsoft has filed a federal lawsuit against an alleged hacker who broke through its copy protection technology, charging that the mystery developer somehow gained access to its copyrighted source code.' Looks to me like since they can't figure out how else he's doing it, they'll sue on this pretense and go fishing for the actual method through the legal system. They clearly have no proof yet that any theft of source code actually happened. This smacks of the RIAA tactics of sue first, then force you to hand over your hard drive to incriminate yourself. Isn't this something the courts should be putting a stop to at the first motion for dismissal?" Viodentia has denied using any proprietary source code, according to CNET.
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Is Microsoft Using RIAA Legal Tactics?

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  • Why is it so hard? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by soft_guy (534437) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @03:05PM (#16218717)
    Why is it so hard to believe that he read the assembly and figured out how to crack the DRM from that?
  • by musikit (716987) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @03:06PM (#16218747)
    because windows is so complex not even MS can figure it out. they dont think this dude could.
  • gnireenignE (Score:3, Interesting)

    by burndive (855848) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @03:10PM (#16218817) Homepage

    Wouldn't this fall under the category of reverse engineering for interoperability? As long as he isn't re-publishing copyrighted code, I don't see what their problem is.

    IIRC, The program doesn't even circumvent the DRM, it just waits for WMP to do it, and then reads some of its memory.

  • by fleck_99_99 (223900) <bela@nOSPam.maine.rr.com> on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @03:15PM (#16218913) Homepage
    Sounds like a logical assumption, but it's a bit like claiming a driver went from Point A to Point B, 100 miles apart, in one hour must have been speeding, though there was no witness to the driver actually speeding.
    I see where you're going with this, and I agree that Microsoft's assertion is invalid, but your assertion would, in fact, be pretty darned compelling evidence. It's called the Mean Value Theorem [wikipedia.org].
  • by Fordiman (689627) <fordiman@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @03:19PM (#16218979) Homepage Journal
    Best quote:
    'Analysts say that "Viodentia" hasn't proved that Microsoft's DRM tools are fundamentally flawed ... Any DRM out there is going to be cracked'

    Sounds like it's not Microsoft's DRM tools that are flawed, but DRM itself.

    Well, duh, guys.
  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @03:27PM (#16219157) Journal
    Here's a more relevant quote:
    Microsoft is also contacting other Web sites that have posted the FairUse4WM tool, asking them to remove the software, on the grounds that it contains copyrighted company code.

    Company representatives declined to speculate on exactly how "Viodentia" gained access to copyrighted source code. The code in question is part of a Windows Media software development kit, but is not easily accessible to anyone with a copy of that toolkit, Microsoft said.
    Anyone want to explain the logic behind that statement?

    MS gives out the SDK
    The SDK contains source code that is "not easily accessible"
    Someone accesses the source code.
    MS cries foul!
  • by rlp (11898) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @03:33PM (#16219263)
    DRM is an arms race that the defender is going to eventually lose. Microsoft realizes this and is using the legal system to try to intimidate their NEXT adversary in the DRM battle. If they can successfully make an example of the person who bypassed their DRM this time, the next person may think twice. And yeah - it stinks.
  • by arivanov (12034) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @03:36PM (#16219299) Homepage
    You are correct as far as the current crop of security through obscurity DRM is concerned. The next crop coming with Vista and the next MS Office will tie DRM to a crypto module on the motherboard (available in 90% of the PCs coming down the production line today) or to a personal certificate (or both). These will not have these flaws. More importantly with Vista + Fresh MS Office it will be possible to use DRM on MS office documents so RIAA will no longer need to push DRM down our throats. 90%+ of the businesses out there will do that for them as this provides a measure to prevent information leaks and costly disclosures. The DRMless computer will become a rarity in the hands of enthusiasts and the market forces will wipe it out from free circulation. This is not far off - 2-3 years at most.
  • by glomph (2644) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @03:41PM (#16219383) Homepage Journal
    despite their DRM being yet another monopolistic trap.

    It's about DRM being like gun control (don't get me wrong, I HATE guns and private gun ownership):
    DRM punishes the honest, and does nothing about people who are going to steal.

    Make 'legal' online music consumption easy for the consumer, and they will be happy, and you will make money.
    Treat them like criminals, and... well, you'll just be cultivating this behaviour.
  • Solution: Countersue (Score:3, Interesting)

    by coinreturn (617535) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @03:47PM (#16219499)
    Hacker just needs to countersue, saying Microsoft could not have issued a patch that undid his DRM-removal without access to his source code. The arguement is the same, and with the time for Vista to ship as evidence that Microsoft cannot turn around updates quickly, source-code or no.
  • Re:5th amendment? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FellowConspirator (882908) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @03:52PM (#16219555)
    The 5th Amendment would not generally apply, since it's a copyright infringement claim and thus not a criminal offense. The 5th Amendment pertains to crimes, not torts. Further, the 5th Amendment is understood to refer to the government compelling you to implicate yourself through testimony, not a third party or through evidence.

    That said, the as-of-yet-unchallenged Digital Millennium Copyright Act clearly makes "access" to copyrighted works without a license illegal if they are "digital". Under that law, "access" to "digital" copyrighted works is indeed a crime. In that case, if the government got involved in the prosecution the 5th Amendment may very well apply with regard to whatever testimony you give.
  • Re:SCO? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by neoform (551705) <djneoform@gmail.com> on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @04:44PM (#16220365) Homepage
    This is actually a pretty common tactic. I was sued half a year ago by a former employer who believed i had stolen their code. They had the most horrible evidence that anyone who knew anything about computers would have known to be bullshit, but the judge didn't know a mouse from a monitor so he granted a search and ceasure, lucky me, they got to confiscate my computers for 2 months AND got to poke around throught all my files. Of course the judge didn't give two shits that i work from home and need my computers to earn a living as a contractor..
  • Re:gnireenignE (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cayenne8 (626475) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @05:13PM (#16220821) Homepage Journal
    "IIRC, The program doesn't even circumvent the DRM, it just waits for WMP to do it, and then reads some of its memory."

    I dunno...there was a slashdot discussion with an argument similar to this. He did not technically crack or break any DRM. The WMP by nature decrypts the file, in order to play it. Now, right after WMP decrypts it...it is a file in memory just like any other file/code, and I don't know of any rules or laws out there that say what you can or cannot do to any bit of data in memory...especially if it is in a decoded, freely readable format. Are you 'forced' to play it through the speakers? What legally keeps you from directing that data to another file, or hell...to the printer if you saw fit?

    It seems the legalese people try to argue this kind of crap to the letter of the law. And from what the DMCA seems to rule against is cracking the DRM on a file...but, I see nothing in it saying what you can or cannot do with the data once the DRM has been legally removed.

    I think by definition, while yes you may have circumvented the way someone intended you to use the system...you in fact have not circumvented the DRM itself, and I think that is what the DMCA specifically tries to outlaw.

    At the very least..like another poster said, couldn't this be defended as a way to allow interoperability with other applications/oses and the like, which DMCA does allow?

  • Thanks for that link. I had never read it before.

    I found one claim in there particularly interesting:
    We shouldn't forget despite all this that Windows Vista remains the largest concerted software project in human history. The types of software management issues being dealt with by Windows leaders are hard problems, problems that no other company has solved successfully. The solutions to these challenges are certainly not trivial.

    I wonder...why is that, exactly? Why is Vista such a massive project?

    It's a serious question. I mean, it's not like they're building HAL-9000 here. It's an OS. A microcomputer OS. Which really, as far as I can tell, doesn't do a whole lot more than a bunch of other OSes that are on the market already. What does it do that's so much more complex, fundamentally, than what OS X does? Or Linux? Or any number of other OSes? Why, exactly, is it such a freaking huge project?

    If the size estimates [wikipedia.org] I'm reading are accurate, at 50 MLOC, Vista is still smaller than OS X at 80 MLOC (comparisons to Linux are tougher because when someone says "Debian has 160 MLOC," it's not clear if that's just the base system or including all the applications or what). Admittedly, OS X borrowed a lot of code from NeXT, but Microsoft has a lot of code they could steal from previous Windows versions and other projects. If they chose not to, then that was a conscious management decision on their part.

    If this guy's characterization of Vista development is true, they have more problems than a slipped schedule; they need to be asking why the damn thing has turned into that much of an epic project in the first place. This is not like IBM building the S/360 here; they're not wandering that far off into uncharted, never-before-attempted territory, based on every description of Vista I've ever seen or heard of. Yet they're making it that much of an effort, either by choice or mismanagement.

    Vista, Linux, OS X: it does the same thing. Ultimately, they're both ways of managing the filesystem and the computer's hardware resources, and presenting those resources to programs in a standard manner on one end, and presenting a GUI to the user on the other. Sure, they're different ways of doing things, but they're all solutions to the same basic problem. It's even the same hardware resources and architecture that they're supposed to manage -- it's not as though the premise of each is that different.

    Frankly if what that article says is true, Vista might have a second, more dubious distinction: the most wasted effort ever spent on a project since the Russians built that expensive lawn ornament [nasa.gov].

    If this guy did see the source code and was able to reverse engineer it, Microsoft ought to offer him a job. Apparently, they need the help.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @06:25PM (#16221683)
    Heh. Slashdot is a handy thing, isn't it? :)

    I first heard of the program several weeks back, when there was another article about it. Or maybe someone mentioned it in a comment on a different article. Regardless, I heard about it on slashdot a few weeks back. Thanks to this program, and my finding out about it here, DirectSong http://www.directsong.com/ [directsong.com] made four sales they wouldn't otherwise have made.

    I play Guild Wars. I have a friend who plays Guild Wars. The music in this game is -amazing-, and we both love it. He found the soundtracks availble for sale from DirectSong. He didn't buy them, though. They came as Windows Media Audio, with DRM attached. But he told me about finding it.

    A few days later, I remembered reading about FairUse4WM, so I googled for it and downloaded it. Then I went to DirectSong to see what they offer, ended up buying both the Guild Wars and Guild Wars:Factions soundtrack, and promptly stripped the drm off them. I told my friend about FairUse4WM, and that it worked for music from DirectSong, because I'd just used it. I sent it to him over msn, and he ended up buying both soundtracks too.

    Boom. Four sales that wouldn't have been made if not for FairUse4WM.
  • by StikyPad (445176) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @06:26PM (#16221699) Homepage
    No, no.. it's like a guy going from point A to point B, 100 miles apart, and then saying that since the air freshener is no longer potent.. no, wait. It's like you saw some guy arrive at point B from point A, and assumed that your curvy road was the shortest distance between those two points, but he actually took a helicopter. Wait, even better: It's nothing like cars and/or transportation at all.
  • Re:2 things. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Cow Herd (Anonymous) (600893) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @03:45AM (#16225641)
    Unless, of course, the singularity has DRM.
    It's a pity my mod points expired a couple of hours ago, or I'd donate you a point for this!

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