What do the labels think they’re accomplishing with CD-based copy protection? Here’s a story about the first copy-protected CD to reach #1 on US charts:
Like other recent copy-protected albums, the Velvet Revolver disc includes technology that blocks direct copying or ripping of the CD tracks to MP3 format. It also comes preloaded with songs in Microsoft’s Windows Media Audio (WMA) format, which can be transferred to a computer or to many portable digital music players.
As in earlier tests by BMG and SunnComm, the copy protection on the Velvet Revolver disc can be simply disabled by pushing the “Shift” key on a computer while the CD is loading, which blocks the SunnComm software from being installed. The companies say they have long been aware of the work-around but that they were not trying to create an unhackable protection…
The inability to move songs to Apple’s popular digital music player, as well as to other devices that don’t support Microsoft’s Windows Media digital rights management services, is a serious shortcoming. Jacobs says SunnComm recognizes that–and that the company’s next version will go beyond the Microsoft files and be able to create multiple kinds of digital files that will be compatible with the iPod.
But for now, iPod-owning Velvet Revolver fans don’t have a direct alternative.
“We are actively working with Apple to provide a long-term solution to this issue,” a posting on SunnComm’s Web site reads. “We encourage you to provide feedback to Apple, requesting they implement a solution that will enable the iPod to support other secure music formats.”
What is this supposed to accomplish? Obviously, it’s not going to deter anyone with a reasonable amount of technical savvy, given that pressing the shift key isn’t rocket science. So it’s hard to see this having a significant effect on piracy. On the other hand, preventing people from transferring their music to their iPods is a significant inconvenience that mostly affects legitimate users. Even if we set aside the privacy and security problems with SunComm’s technology, does it even make any sense from a business perspective to use this software? It’s not likely to slow any determined pirates down, but it’s guaranteed to piss off those of us who just want to listen to our music on the portable device of our choice.
Incidentally, it’s worth mentioning that SunComm could enable iPod compatibility tomorrow if it were willing to allow users to put songs on their iPods in MP3 format. Why don’t they? I’m not sure. Extracting an unprotected MP3 from an iPod is at least as technically difficult as pressing the shift key. So it’s not clear to me how enabling iPod compatibility would make any real difference in the “security” of their DRM scheme, even if they had to put the music on the iPod in an unencrypted format.