And so the battle rages on.
I write, naturally, of the revelation that some canny folks have found a way to strip protected Windows Media files of their digital rights management (DRM) protection. This kind of thing has been done in the past with FairPlay, the DRM scheme used by Apple and its iTunes Music Store. However, this is a far bigger deal because the Windows Media hack means you can strip DRM from any of the unlimited number of files you download from a subscription music service such as MTV’s URGE.
No big surprises here. The old rules apply: That which can be locked, will be unlocked by a 12-year-old boy.
From a stroll around the Web, it’s clear that Microsoft has already taken measures to keep the tool, FairUse4WM, from doing its job. Because I have to do this kind of thing to keep bread on the table, I located a copy, attempted to make it work its magic on my Dell PC, and failed with an arcane Windows Media Player error. Another dash around the Web revealed that additional measures must be taken to circumvent Microsoft’s circumvention of FairUse4WM’s circumvention of protected Windows Media files.
I’m willing to jump through one or two hoops to see just what’s what, but when I’m called upon to delve into Windows’ code-filled bowels—hacking and rehacking files in an endless game of cat and mouse—quite frankly, I begin to think about using my time for more productive pursuits.
And maybe that’s what the copy-protection merry-go-round comes down to. The media companies understand the immutable 12-year-old boy rule. Their job is not to completely prevent these hacks, but build systems that can react quickly to them. And as a bonus, they can make their work difficult enough to circumvent that all but those who find such puzzles intriguing will eventually give up.
So no, I don’t believe, as some have suggested, that this means another nail in the coffin of the subscription media model. Last time I looked, subscription television via cable and satellite were alive and well, despite successful efforts to remove the protection from pay-for TV programming. So too shall it be with subscription music services. Dealing with hacks is just another cost of doing business.