The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'copy protection'
Freedom To Tinker has a tutorial on how to create "copy-protected" CDs, describing how the protection works:
Notice that the tracks are grouped into two sessions -- essentially two independent CDs burned onto the same disc. Unprotected CDs that combine audio and data files contain audio tracks in the first session and a single data track in the second. The only difference in the passive protected CD you just created is that the second session contains two tracks instead of one. ... This simple change makes the audio tracks invisible to most music player applications. It's not clear why this works, but the most likely explanation is that the behavior is a quirk in the way the Windows CD audio driver handles discs with multiple sessions.
For an added layer of protection, the extraneous track you added to the disc is only 31 frames long. (A frame is 1/75 of a second.) The CD standard requires that tracks be at least 150 frames long. This non-compliant track length will cause errors if you attempt to duplicate the disc with many CD drives and copying applications.It says that this only works on Windows. I wonder whether this is the same scheme as used by EMI Australia, circa 2004. Their scheme resulted in errors reading the table of contents under Linux, with tracks having anomalous lengths. Strangely enough, it only worked on some drives: a then-recent Pioneer DVD drive choked on it, but an old 24X CD-ROM (borrowed from a beige G3 Macintosh) had no problems.
Despite these limitations, who wouldn't enjoy finding a homemade copy-protected CD in their stocking? They're a great way to spread holiday cheer while preventing anyone else from spreading it further.
(via bOING bOING)
Never ones to allow reality to get in the way of the Great War on MP3 Terrorism, Sony BMG, the company behind the copy-protected CD rootkit, have announced that they will be adding copy protection to CDs in Australia. Perhaps someone in the Australian office missed the memo about DRM having been thoroughly discredited throughout Sony BMG by the recent rootkit fiasco. Though the company has announced that the CDs will magically prevent users from making copies without causing the problems that affected users of their CDs in the US, so that's alright then.
It looks like Sony's CD copy protection compromises Macintoshes too; at least if you're trusting enough to enter the administrator password. Which just means that Sony's copy-protection geeks haven't found a local privilege-escalation exploit in MacOS X that they can use. (I'm sure that Sony would believe that they are within their rights to do this because their prerogative to control access to their intellectual property by all means necessary overrides the user's right to maintain the integrity of their computer, and the ability to use it to potentially use Sony's IP in unapproved ways.)
(via bOING bOING)
Another reason to avoid "Copy Controlled"/"Copy Protected" CDs: some of them (at least the ones from Sony BMG) install rootkits on your Windows PC; ones which, if an attempt is made to remove them, disable your CD-ROM drive. Someone at Sony BMG should go to jail for this, though probably won't.
ReBirth, the 303/808/909 emulator/music production tool/toy of the late 1990s, is now free (as in beer). Propellerheads have put ISO images of it, as well as demo songs and mods (i.e., skin/sample packs), up for downloading. The software itself is unmodified; it apparently doesn't work with OSX, it still checks for the CD every time it starts (a useless exercise in "copy protection" when the CD is a burnable image), and even shows the old EULA which prohibits use on multiple machines (though the web site tells you that the new download license overrides that).
What would be cool would be if Propellerheads released the source code. They wouldn't lose any competitive advantage by doing so, and would stand to gain good will, while hackers with more time on their hands than Propellerheads would be able to update it (from getting it to run on OSX to porting it to new platforms, from Linux to hacked PSPs). And, of course, getting rid of the pointless CD check on startup.
Incidentally, the ISO image for the PC version isn't a pure ISO9660 image but has a large quantity of 0s at the start. If burning it with cdrecord (i.e., under Linux), you will need to first strip the nulls off with something like:
dd if=rebirth_pc_installation.iso of=rebirth.iso bs=4096 skip=75
There have since been more 303 emulators; there's a commercial VST/AU plugin here which is said to be good. And then there's Muon's Tau, a free-as-in-beer 303-esque softsynth. In the open-source world, there is a rather rudimentary open-source attempt at 303 emulation, written by Your Humble Narrator a few years ago, here (it runs on Linux and uses Curses).
A PDF document showing the "EURion constellation"; this is a constellation of five 1mm circles found on European and British banknotes, and recognised by colour photocopiers. (The piece doesn't show exactly which five circles are the constellation, though if it's there, it shouldn't be too hard to find it.) I'm not sure whether the pattern used on US banknotes (and now recognised by commercial image-processing software) is the same or different, or what other anti-copying patterns are used on other currency. Though if each country had its own, it would use a lot of CPU cycles to detect. (via jwz's comments)
I'm Wayne Kerr, and if there's one thing I hate... it's intentionally corrupt CDs; and if there's one thing I hate more than intentionally corrupt CDs, it's websites which selectively neglect to tell you that the CD you're about to buy is fux0red, whilst at the same time giving warnings for other dodgy CDs. Case in point: I ordered The Thrills' So Much From The City from amazon.co.uk, after noticing that its page didn't have a "this CD is copy protected" warning (and, by contrast, their page on Radiohead's Hail To The Thief did). Guess what I noticed when I took the CD out of the packaging.
Does anybody know whether either the US or UK release of The Thrills' So Much For The City is "Copy Controlled" (i.e., intentionally defective)? The Australian one is (as all EMI releases are here); though the US releases of the last Radiohead and Massive Attack were clean. Unfortunately, online record shops don't tell you.
First we had disposable mobile phones (did those ever take off?); and now the latest development in disposable technology is self-destructing DVDs, engineered to become unreadable within 48 hours, thus protecting the integrity of the intellectual property encoded thereon.
Isn't it amazing that so much effort is being put into removing value from objects and making things more fragile and less usable. First there were intentionally broken CDs, sadomasochistic "digital rights management" file formats and software "copy-protection" systems which impede upward compatibility (aside: the main reason why MacOS X software can't run MacOS 9 VST plug-ins is because, with commercial ones being copy-protected (i.e., engineered to depend on low-level quirks of MacOS 9; anywhere else, this would be considered bad programming), they would be unable to run, and there was no point running just the free ones). And now, the wonder of modern technology allows us to have products which turn into garbage within 48 hours, taking up space in landfills and leaching god knows what toxins into the groundwater. But that's just the price we have to pay for protecting the basis of civilized society, the inviolate rule that intellectual property is sacrosanct.
France stands up to EMI; a French court orders EMI to issue refunds to customers whose "Copy Controlled" CDs didn't play in their car CD players or computers. Contrast this with the Vegemite-Eating Surrender Monkeys' capitulation to the Recording Racket on the same issue.
Yesterday, my free, non-copy-protected replacement copy of the Morrissey Under the Influence compilation CD arrived in the mail. I can confirm that it rips without problems. As soon as my next paycheque comes in, I'll buy another copy of the crippled version for the liner notes, pribably using the defective disc for some decorative purpose. (And yes, I'm going to spend $25-30 on the booklet; given Morrissey's liner notes, it's almost the case that the disc itself is an auxilliary companion piece to the booklet.)
I presume that DMC are going to send the second, non-copy-protected pressing into the shops at some stage. No idea whether they're recalling the corrupt discs or labelling the second pressing in any way.
(The collection itself is quite interesting; there's a fair amount of old-time rock'n'roll, rockabilly and other rootsy stuff there, as well as a bit of '60s pop, punk (from the Ramones), reggae/dub, and some oddities (such as The Sundown Playboys' ethnic boot-scooting jig Saturday Night Special and Klaus Nomi's piece of neo-classical goth-fodder, Death). And, of course, a track by the New York Dolls (who sound much as I imagined them).
A while ago, I bought a copy of Morrissey's Under The Influence compilation CD, only to find that the disc was copy-protected and all but defective for my purposes. I sent off a letter of complaint to DMC. Today, I received an email from them, apologising for the situation and offering to mail me a newly pressed Red Book-compliant copy of the CD (sans artwork/liner notes) to replace the drink coaster I had purchased. Now that's what I call customer service.
I just picked up the Morrissey "Under the Influence" compilation CD. When I took off the shrink-wrap, I found:
This CD is copy protected and cannot be played on PCs or Macs.
Surely enough, the drive on my machine at work (which had no problem playing or ripping
Midbar Cactus 2.0 EMI Copy Control) fails to see the disc at all.
There was no warning of the disc being anything other than a CD anywhere on the outside of the packaging; certainly no "Don't Buy Me" stickers; one has to open the jewel case to see the notice and realise that one spent A$30 on a booklet and a drink coaster.
I intend to take the CD back to JB Hi-Fi and demand my money back, and/or complain to the ACCC or some other government body.
Update: I took the CD back to JB HiFi today. They gave me a refund in cash; the fact that the CD was not labelled as defective probably had a lot to do with it.
I've just ordered Radiohead's Hail to the Thief from the U.S. The local copy, you see, is "copy controlled" (i.e., distributed on a deliberately defective CD which doesn't work in some computer CD-ROMs and other devices). It works well enough if you run Windows and run a player application on the CD, not minding the poor quality of the low-bit-rate WMA versions provided and having to have the disc in the drive the whole time and trusting EMI's proprietary player program not to spy on you, delete your MP3s or fux0r your registry out of malice, stupidity or both, but if you use Linux, you're SOL. Unless you're lucky and your CD-ROM drive ignores the "Copy Control" voodoo and lets you rip everything without a hitch; but IMHO, that's not good enough, and if the local EMI subsidiary disagree, they can do without the hefty subsidies I've been paying them over the years. And with the peso being at a high, ordering from the U.S. is affordable again.
This isn't the first EMI disc of which I've ordered a Red Book copy from abroad. A while ago I picked up Goldfrapp's new one, Black Cherry (which is OK, though not as good as Felt Mountain; and it does seem that she's trying to be fashionable and jump on the '80s tinny-synth neo-electro bandwagon like everybody else), and Martin Gore's Counterfeit2 (which is very, very nice; basically a collection of covers, done with the combination of cold electronic glitches and bleeps and aching humanity that Depeche Mode fans will feel right at home with; I'd say it's probably better than any Mode since Violator, in fact). I also picked up the quasi-official fan edition of David Bridie's Hotel Radio (which is also excellent, and not as far from Martin Gore's territory as one would think).
Of course, some EMI titles have fallen by the wayside; for example, I probably won't be bothered to import the new Placebo album.
EMI executive waffles on "copy control", the behemoth's vaunted CD copy-protection scheme, repeating the usual homily about CD-R/MP3 piracy killing the music industry and unconvincingly denying consumer concerns. Meanwhile, EMI are quietly releasing unprotected Red Book CDs; first the new Radiohead single came out clean, and now the new album from those known anti-corporate radicals The Dandy Warhols is out and bears no "Don't Buy Me" stickers.
Melbourne designer type Stephen Marovitch picked up the new Norah Jones album, with the intention of playing it on his PowerBook. Unfortunately for him, the disc in question is from EMI, who are in the habit of releasing intentionally defective CDs which choke Macintoshes. So he did what anybody would do and made a copy of the CD, exactly what the "copy control" mechanisms were meant to prevent.
"Just a courtesy email to inform you, that as a result of problems experienced playing the Norah Jones CD containing your Copy Control measures on Apple OS10.2 Titanium Laptop, Windows 2000 workstation and Windows XP workstation, I have now been forced to copy your CD just to listen to it," he wrote.
"Please congratulate the genius that concocted this anti-pirating strategy."
Marovitch said he was unlikely to buy anything from the same label again.
Recently, David Bridie released a new album, probably his best solo work. Unfortunately, he's signed to EMI, so it never came out in Red Book format. Bridie doesn't have enough clout with EMI to get them to release a legit Red Book pressing that rips on your Linux box, doesn't kill your iMac and plays on your iPod, so he has taken matters into his own hands.
Here is the word from EMI Australia's projects manager for new media. "The new David Bridie CD has been released on a Copy Controlled CD. It has an embedded player that will allow you to play the CD on the PC so it is not impossible to play the CD on a PC." This obviously doesn't apply to all and so is still a pain. I apologize in this. I'm not a big enough seller to determine policy. If anyone so desires, send me an email, and I'll burn a copy off the master and send out with the artwork in return for a cheque for the cost of the CD in the store so that you can still enjoy listening to music the way to which you are accustomed. Hopefully this will not get too out of hand, and I won't be spending 6 hours a day in the Enormodome burning CDs.
Bravo to David Bridie; it's good to know that there are artists with the courage and integrity to take a stand like this. I'll definitely be sending him a cheque.
Incidentally, having heard the album, I strongly advise people to take him up on the offer. Hotel Radio is a great mix of Not Drowning-esque songwriting and world-class glitchy electronics (from Nick Littlemore). However, the version in the shops is corrupt, and such chicanery should not be encouraged.
(Speaking of EMI releases, I saw a limited edition version of the new Blur in PolyEster; it comes in a red book (like the Amnesiac limited edition, only smaller and with a Banksy stencil on the front), and appears to be, appropriately enough, a perfectly kosher Red Book disc. Chances are the regular version will be fux0red like every other EMI release made in Australia.)
Blogger and former teenage role-player Rory weighs in on copy-protected pseudo-CDs comparing them to an anti-photocopying trick used by a RPG company in the 1980s:
But publishers in the early '80s saw the advent of cheap plain-paper photocopying as the End Times, and some of them took measures to prevent it. The most memorable was the Tangerine Game. It wasn't actually called the Tangerine Game; this was a game with a manual printed on tangerine-coloured paper. Which photocopies as a sheet of solid black. This masterstroke was, unfortunately, self-defeating. Tangerine paper is incredibly hard to read, and rules that can't be photocopied are hard to share with friendsthe same friends you want to play the game with. So we never bought or played the Tangerine Game, and now I can't even remember its name.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is investigating complaints against EMI over its crippled CDs. The complaint does not claim that copying CDs is a right, but instead argues that the audio provided for PC users is of inferior quality. Though isn't the ACCC now run by a pro-business figure appointed by Howard? I suspect that it may not be as keen to take on big business as it was during the Fels days.
Information on CD copy-denial systems and how they work.
I got my hands on four EMI Copy Controlled pseudo-CDs today, for research purposes. One of them appears to be a regular Red Book CD with no bogosities, but the other three have corrupt TOC data. It's funny because generic IDE CD-ROMs, like the one on my old Mac, rip them perfectly, whereas both the DVD and CDRW drives on my Linux box choke. More on that later.
Apparently that poxy "copy control" thing EMI are putting on all their CDs isn't confined to Australia: they're doing it in Canada too. And
they've made this guy pig-biting mad; so much so that he's starting a campaign against it. He actually went to the EMI offices, threatening to post details of circumvention, and demanding
one hundred billion dollars proper Red Book copies of the CDs he bought which won't play in his car stereo.
Hmmm... there are direct-action possibilities there. Anyone up for a die-in outside the local EMI offices? Or perhaps a Ron Rude-esque hunger strike would be more appropriate? What's your best anti-copy-denial protest idea?
Those "Copy Controlled" CDs EMI have been foisting on the public
aren't proving very popular. Apparently, they don't play in some car stereos, and the top-s3krit Windows software that auto-installs when you try to play the CD may do things to your registry without your consent. EMI, of course, won't tell you what it does because it's a secret and if people find out how it works, then the
terrorists pirates will have won. I've heard of people successfully ripping them on Windows and/or Linux, though they may have been mislabelled clear CDs (given that no software automatically started).
I wonder how long until recorded music comes with a shrink-wrap license prohibiting you from circumventing copy-denial mechanisms or making unencrypted MP3s of it, and indemnifying the company for any changes made to your system software?
(I can't see EMI's security-through-obscurity scheme holding up for very long, especially since it doesn't rely on "trusted client" PCs or anything. Soon enough, some guy without a girlfriend will break it and upload the details to a server somewhere. Yes, he may go to jail for it, but that hasn't stopped virus writers.)
I just got a copy of the US pressing of Massive Attack's 100th Window (thanks, Lisa; I hope you're enjoying the Ninetynine CD). Why the US release? Well, the main thing that distinguishes it from the Australian release is no copy-denial mechanisms; i.e., it's a Red Book CD which plays and rips in any drive.
(Yes, I know that some people have successfully ripped the Australian "Copy Controlled" release. However, it's the principle that's at stake; and I'm sure that if people swallow this imperfect "copy controlled" disc, EMI will attempt to iron the bugs out of future releases (such as, say, the upcoming Morrissey album, and the next Radiohead album). However, if EMI's beancounters (who largely run things at major labels these days) notice that sales are higher in unrestricted territories, that may make them stop treating customers as potential criminals.)
(Does anybody know what the economics of the "copy control" technology are; i.e., how much does EMI pay to cripple a title, and do they pay per CD, per title, or outright? If they pay a percentage of the CD price per disc, then the tide may turn sooner against copy-denial, unless it actually makes people buy more CDs. Of course, the suits in charge would want to hold on despite losses until there are no unencumbered copies available in any territory. Though how long they hold on after people start MP3ing their CDs through the analogue outputs of their CD players is uncertain. Eliminating sound cards without built-in watermark detectors with anything less than a perfectly efficient global police state would be impossible; as far as audio goes, the "analog hole" is here to stay.)
Anyway, back to 100th Window. The album differs from the, umm, prerelease slightly (they've chopped a second or two off the start of Future Proof, and padded the space after the last track with some sort of filtered arpeggio texture). The artwork is also quite nice. Anyway, if you're in Australia and wish to buy an unrestricted copy, places like Amazon will sell you the US release. Or just find a US penpal and offer to trade them something from here. Think of it as globalisation for the people.
The recording racket's spokesweasels say that 2002 will be the last year in which most CDs aren't copy-protected. Mind you, that's only for major-label CDs; chances are, unless they somehow coerce pressing plants into stopping making Red Book CDs, the plain old CD will remain the dominant indie medium. (So either (a) the RIAA will see the light and stop pissing off consumers, or (b) the RIAA will move to wipe out alternatives (i.e., by clamping down on distribution of non-RIAA artists and buying lawmakers) and herd consumers into a marketplace where listening to music means renting homogeneous manufactured bands from major labels.) (via Techdirt)
An Israeli company has developed CD-ROMs which cannot be copied. The CDs contain a smart card with a photodetector and LED and a chip containing a decryption key; to decrypt itself, the software requests the key from the card. Though I'm skeptical about the practicality of such a system; CD-ROM drives are read-only devices, and whether or not the software can control the laser enough to communicate with the chip (to send requests for codes) seems rather uncertain, given that it's not part of any standard that drives have to comply with.
Perhaps having realised that going out of one's way to inconvenience customers is not a good business model, Hollywood may be giving up on Macrovision, the copy-denial mechanism that prevents you from connecting a DVD player to a VCR. Warner Home Video have released the Harry Potter DVD without Macrovision encoding in the UK; this means that you can plug your DVD player into your VCR and pirate it for all your friends untrammeled. Or, if you have an older TV without A/V inputs, you can plug your DVD in through your VCR and watch it, full stop. Mind you, Macrovision costs the studios a few cents per disc, and is fairly easy to bypass with (as yet not illegal) "signal enhancers".
A good piece on how CD copy-denial mechanisms work, why they can be easily defeated, and why the "stopping MP3 piracy" argument made for them doesn't make sense, and is a smokescreen for their true purpose: recording companies extending their control to the way customers access their music, with a view to forcing them onto a pay-per-play or rental model. Which would be the holy grail of late-capitalism; driving up profits by giving the customer less and otherwise compelling them to pay more for it, or what K.W. Jeter called the "turd in a can". (via bOING bOING)
Read: Dan "VisiCalc" Bricklin on why copy protection robs the future:
Copy protection, like poor environment and chemical instability before it for books and works of art, looks to be a major impediment to preserving our cultural heritage. Works that are copy protected are less likely to survive into the future. The formal and informal world of archivists and preservers will be unable to do their job of moving what they keep from one media to another newer one, nor will they be able to ensure survival and appreciation through wide dissemination, even when it is legal to do so.