How not to do copy-protection: Sony Music

Error #1: take a really broad definition of “backwards compatible”

Smith said the goal of the XCP technology is work with record labels and help them in better controlling the amount of copies made per user. He agreed that copying CDs for fair/personal use is acceptable, however, certain users exceed that limit. Now, he said, record labels and other software developers have the capability to limit the number of burns per CD. He further stated that record labels and others could control various aspects of copying, such as the quality of music at which the data is burned onto the new CD – in addition the number of burns.
The company said its technology is backwards compatible. Sony added that it has shipped approximately two millions compact discs that are equipped with XCP.
Sony tests CD protection technology (May 2005)

Error #2: assume all your customers are evil and should be protected against themselves

Our proprietary OD-DRM (On Disc Digital Rights Management) enables Record Labels and content owners to provide copying features such as controlled copying to hard drive, protected burning to CDR and transfer of protected files to portable devices. Consumers can therefore be enabled to make limited copies on CDR for personal use at the discretion of the Record Label but further copying is denied as these CDRs themselves are copy protected with no further OD-DRM.
from XCP Press Protect

Error #3: assume all your customers are stupid and won’t discover what you’ve done

The firestorm began when Mark Russinovich, a computer security expert with Sysinternals, discovered evidence of a “rootkit” on his Windows PC. Through heroic forensic work, he traced the code to First 4 Internet, a British provider of copy-restriction technology that has a deal with Sony to put digital rights management on its CDs. It turns out Russinovich was infected with the software when he played the Sony BMG CD Get Right With the Man by the Van Zant brothers.
from The Cover-Up Is the Crime (Wired)

Error #4: provide a really streamlined uninstall process

Mr Gilliat-Smith said Mr Russinovich had problems removing XCP because he tried to do it manually something that was not a “recommended action”. Instead, said Mr Gilliat-Smith, he should have contacted Sony BMG which gives consumers advice about how to remove the software.
Getting the software removed involves filling in a form on the Sony website, visiting a unique URL and agreeing to have another program downloaded on to a user’s PC that then does the uninstallation.
from Sony slated over anti-piracy CD (BBC)

Error #5: even when it’s discovered, no one will do anything against it

And because we are increasingly technology aware, your ever-increasing assault on not only our fair use but also our common sense will virtually guarantee that we use our God-given ingenuity to find a way around whatever bizarre restrictions you see fit to impose. Why? Not because we’re dying to break the law, but because you have sold us a crappy product, and, fundamentally, because it is not our responsibility to protect your profits.
from DRM this, Sony! (CNET)

It’s a pity the CD standard was developed by a company (Philips) and not by a standard body that is independent of commercial pressure. Otherwise the record companies could have been forced to call their shiny gray discs something else, because they are not CDs/Compact Discs. But Philips (former owners of Polygram, now Universal) won’t be hurrying to counter the amateuristic copyright-control efforts of Sony, Warner, Universal and the others.

I was already complaining about this last year:

Result: my Windows Media Player keeps crashing on it – mostly taking my PC with it, because the CD-ROM becomes inaccesible. My MusicMatch won’t play it, and I haven’t even tried RealPlayer, because I don’t want to reboot more than 3 times in a day, life’s too short. So I can only look at the cover and wonder what it sounds like.
from Portable audio & copy protection

💬 copyright 💬 music