The digital rights management (DRM) software used by Microsoft to ‘protect’ music files so they can only be played using Windows Media Player, has once again been broken.
FairUse4WM first appeared in August 2006 on the Doom9 encoding forum, as a tool to strip the DRM from music files designed to play in Windows Media Player. A patch pushed out by Microsoft to fix Windows Media Player’s security flaw was subsequently cracked again by the originator of FairUse4WM, who identified him or herself only by the name “Viodentia”.
As a result, some providers had to shut down their Windows Media Player-utilising services, a prime example being Sky and its movie download service.
Microsoft filed a federal lawsuit against Viodentia for allegedly stealing its source code. Viodentia denied the claim and, unable to identify the hacker, Microsoft dropped its suit earlier this year. But now the utility is back, with a renewed focus on Windows Vista and the Zune, Microsoft’s answer to the iPod.
On Friday, a newly registered Doom9 user called “Divine Tao” (an anagram of Viodentia) pushed out a new crack, with the words: “This post introduces a new tool for uncovering the individual keys from Microsoft’s DRM blackbox components (“IBX”), up to version 11.0.6000.6324. Lacking the source code to the extant programs, I can only offer this output of my own efforts.”
Reports from Doom9′s users and the Web site Ars Technica indicate that the new crack works, which poses a problem for the Zune Marketplace music store. Microsoft had no comment on this latest development by the time of press.
The music industry has in any case been slowly moving away from the use of DRM, which many users see as overly restrictive. In April, Apple — proprietor of the iTunes music store — and EMI announced that they would henceforth be making music tracks available without copy protection, for a price.
Some music companies have in the past included DRM on physical audio CDs, but all have now dropped this approach in the wake of incidents such as the Sony “rootkit” debacle. In that episode, Sony was caught out hiding DRM software on some of its CDs that surreptitiously downloaded to users’ computers, sometimes with disastrous effects. Sony is currently suing the DRM provider, Amergence/Sunncomm, over the incident.
Posts and content related to Microsoft DRM. Find information on Zune DRM and the new Microsoft Zune Digital Rights Management software.
|Location: Fairhaven, MA, USA|
|Description: Heavy acoustic music from the woods of Massachusetts. Recommended for fans of Pink Floyd, Opeth, Alice in Chains or Porcupine Tree.|
|Biography: Mountain Mirrors started in the woods of Massachusetts with a Radio Shack keyboard, a four-track and a drum machine. Jeff Sanders, the man behind Mountain Mirror’s eclectic mix of psychedelic-laced folk, has been entranced by music as long as he can remember. A fan of all types of music, Jeff listened to metal artists like Anthrax and Metallica in his early teenage years but discovered esteemed songwriters like Nick Drake and Damien Rice as he grew older. It was this mix of influences that made Jeff realize that a musician need not be tied to one genre or another but rather to create music that they feel inspired by and in turn hopefully inspire others.
With his sophomore release, the self-titled Mountain Mirrors, Jeff explains that his influences go far beyond music, “I’m influenced by subjects I’m interested in just as much as this constant barrage of music. I love shows like “Unsolved Mysteries” and “Ghost Hunters,” “The Shield” and “The Sopranos”. Quentin Tarantino movies. Anything disturbing.” And so with song titles such as “Stay Evil”, “Your Time Has Come” and “Karmic Dogs” you might be surprised to find that the songs aren’t necessarily as menacing as they might seem. Stonerrockchick.com, in a review of Jeff’s first album (Lunar Ecstasy), described Mountain Mirrors as “fit for poets, travelers and seekers” and it’s an apt description. Take, for instance the song “Stay Evil”; the song as Jeff describes it was written “about following a spiritual path and finding some enlightenment.” A perfect blend of insightful spirituality and eclectic arrangements make Mountain Mirrors a subtle and powerful listen.
Jeff started his musical journey surrounded by friends who also dreamt of a life entrenched in music. Jamming long into the night, the group of musicians were the bane of many neighborhoods Jeff recalls amusingly. “I was always terrorizing someone’s neighbors, jamming all day until we got kicked out. Then it turned into partying in the woods and talking about taking over the universe with our music.” His first band was named Thunderkiss, largely a cover band. Jeff enjoyed the friendship and the opportunity to perform but knew that writing original songs was the only way he could satisfy himself. He went through a handful of other bands, a combination of original and cover material included in the sets and decided to ultimately strike out on his own.
When Jeff created Mountain Mirrors it was merely himself and a handful of equipment, writing and recording all vocal and instrument parts. After his time spent in a variety of band set-ups it was only natural that he wanted to work solo but when recording began on the new self-titled release he was eager to include other musicians. The contributors include Elad Fish on drums, Claire Fitch on cello and Guy By-Tor on bass. “They’re phenomenal, absolutely sent from Heaven.” Jeff says.
Stonerrock.com wrote of Mountain Mirrors, “”If you want your ass rocked off on every cut, or don’t want to be surprised, or don’t like exploring the space inside your skull, this is not the album for you. For those mental travelers who enjoyed “Lunar Ecstasy”, you simply will not believe how far Jeff Sanders has taken his music and what his bandmates (– this is a band!) add to the mix, and you really need to get this! And, if you aren’t familiar with his work, and if the idea of a swirling, lysergic, acoustic, dark, treacherously beautiful hybrid of pop and instrument appeals to you, this is definitely the first Mountain Mirrors album to get.” An undiscovered talent, Jeff Sander’s Mountain Mirrors takes folk and turns it on its spiritual ear.
Mountain Mirrors has just released their self – titled, second album via the internet. According to Jeff Sanders of Mountain Mirrors, “This time, I wanted to get away from the one-man-band thing…and hooked up with drummer/producer/keyboard player Elad Fish. Elad turned out to be sort of my George Martin.” Jeff works in a collaborative style with a variety of musicians including Elad Fish, cellist Claire Fitch, keyboard player Oren Selas and bassist Guy Bar-Tor. This all-acoustic album is a departure from Mountain Mirrors previous release which utilized Massive Attack / Portishead style drum loops as a backdrop to his dark, evocative and reflective sound.
The self-titled Mountain Mirrors was shaped by the varied interests of founder, Jeff Sanders. Jeff explains that this album encompasses a wide array of influences which include his favorite TV shows such as “The Shield” and the cinematic work of directors such as Quentin Tarantino. “Anything disturbing” as Jeff puts it. And so with song titles such as “Stay Evil”, “Your Time Has Come” and “Karmic Dogs” you might be surprised to find that the songs aren’t necessarily as menacing as they might seem. Stonerrockchick.com, in a review of Jeff’s first album (Lunar Ecstasy), described Mountain Mirrors as “fit for poets, travelers and seekers” and it’s an apt description.
Take, for instance the song “Stay Evil”; the song as Jeff describes it was written “about following a spiritual path and finding some enlightenment.”
Mountain Mirrors signed on with Magnatune , an innovative, internet site which provides listeners with a great variety of indie music. Magnatune (http://www.magnatune.com) is a future-thinking all-digital internet label specializing in the sale of digital albums. They seek to be an antidote to “big label music”. Their motto is in fact “We are not Evil”.
Music fans can listen to full songs or albums, and then make the decision to purchase. The label is betting that the best way to get people excited about music is to let them hear it. Their entire catalog is available for easy music licensing for films, television, games, etc.
Besides digital downloads at Magnatune , physical CDs featuring full artwork by Jeff Gaither are also available at CD Baby and the Mountain Mirrors website. And soon also at all major digital stores, including iTunes , Rhapsody and Napster.
Link to the new Mountain Mirrors disc at Magnatune: http://magnatune.com/artists/albums/mountain-mountain/
ABOUT Mountain Mirrors:
For a limited time, Mountain Mirrors is giving away a free digital download of their “Lunar Ecstasy” CD with every album sale from Magnatune, CD Baby or www.mountainmirrors.com. You will recieve your download link usually within 24 hours.
“It is a perfect and delicious album to listen to and relax with a good glass of wine within reach.”
“The slightly folky acoustic guitars, sweet drum cadences, subtle keyboard sounds, and most importantly Sanders’ otherwordly vocals, when combined, do invite comparisons to names like Opeth, Nick Drake, Pink Floyd, and even Alice In Chains’ unplugged material, but overall, the music presented on this disc is in a league all its own.”
“Mesmerizing, minimal, and sweeping, the music of Mountain Mirrors definitely leaves an impression. It is a sense of subtle Deja Vu; as I listen to this, I find myself wondering if I’ve traveled on the path this album conjures in my mind once or twice before. Sparse and hypnotic, this is the equivilent of a night full of surreal dreams. I can think of no other album I’ve heard this year more worthy of five stars. “
If you would like to review or podcast this CD, please email Teresa at Magnatune for your special credit card number to buy your own hi-fi copy at Magnatune. Here is Magnatune’s note to reviewers and radio stations.
Click here to read about Magnatune’s music licensing feature.
Paul Thurrott of WinSuperSite.com and Leo Laporte of LeoVille.com have a great podcast interview with David Caulton from the Zune marketing team. Dave is a sharp individual and really knows his business about the Zune player and where Microsoft is going with the Zune product line. It’s an hour long audio interview available in mp3 format that is well worth the download. The cover quite a bit about the Zune including some of the shortcomings in the device such as copy protection and other drm services as well as what direction Microsoft is taking with the new line.
Dave opens up the question of podcasting support and they hit him on it. Dave acknowledges the need for podcast support but dances around about when. Dave is very good at these things and there are no commitments on when we’ll see podcast support but it’s beginning to appear like it will be some time before we do see it. Dave comments on the importance of fixing the current Zune players with firmware updates focused on stability and addressing the minor issues found in the current software.
They point out how impressive the hardware configuration is but note the markets disappointment in what the Zune can actually do right now. Dave counters with how important it was to them to provide a stable base to begin with and hints we’ll see a lot more from future upgrades. There is no road map to when we’ll see updates and Dave is vague on what we can expect to see in future features.
The current Zune setup covers the basic needs for an mp3 player to be competitive with the target audience in the current market place. It may not meet the needs of many enthusiast or niche users. The ability to build a device with features consumers are looking for is why Microsoft has jumped into the hardware business with Zune players and Dave mentions what might happen with Zune 2.0 and beyond players. They also go into some detail on the content deal signed with Universal Music and how important content is to the device success as well as how to approach the fight with Apple. They touch on DRM and why they we’re forced to drop Plays4Sure in favor of their own device and closed ecosystem and some great information on what people are actually doing with their mp3 players.
It’s a great interview with a knowledgeable Zune team member. If you’re interested in what is happening with Zune and the future of the devices it’s a great interview to catch. You can download the mp3 interview from http://www.Twit.tv and play it on your Zune or iPod..
Windows Weekly 17: David Caulton of the Zune Team
David Caulton, Zune team member since 2005, welcomes us to The Social.
I’m personally getting a huge kick out of the whole debate about whether music should be sold DRM-free. To me, that’s like asking is someone would like to have free beer. The answer is, “of course!” The thing I find fascinating is that just because Mr Jobs writes a letter saying DRM should be removed, people think he invented the idea. This is very far from the truth. People have been debating this issue since 1998 AT LEAST. Companies (including the labels) have been experimenting for awhile now in Europe and other regions selling MP3s. Lastly, there are companies that have actually *gasp* made a business out of this practice. Case in point is eMusic. It is a great service (especially if you like Jazz) that is all you can eat DRM-free music. There is absolutely a place for DRM. Things like subscription services couldn’t exist without it. But, existing business has shown it is possible to sell DRM-less music and make a profit. Will the record labels eventually come around? Your guess is as good as mine. But, to act like this is something novel is just plain silly in my opinion.
Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz last week gave some insight into the companyâ€™s future music strategy at a talk in New York, stating: “Within 12 months, probably, you’re going to be able to walk into a Starbucks and digitally be able to fill up your MP3 player with musicâ€. He also added that “over the next 6 to 18 months you will see us look at it, perhaps test itâ€. The question is – why would people buy their music at Starbucks in the first place?
It is fairly clear why it makes sense for Starbucks to sell music: diversification of revenue streams; increasing foot traffic and time spent in stores; as well as the opportunity to increase sales per customer. However, Starbucks removed CD-burning machines out of most stores that trialed them last year. It seemed like a natural step to replace those machines with technology for downloading music to MP3 players, since the general trend in the music industry is towards digital delivery – so far so good. But the question remains, why would people buy their music at Starbucks?
One reason might be if Starbucks were to give customers some kind of incentive to do so, perhaps a free song with your latte. So who might provide that free song? Apple seems like a prime candidate due to its existing involvement with Starbucks. However, Apple would not have any motivation to discount its songs, with such a strong market leadership position.
Note that Howard Schultz said “MP3″ player in his informal prediction. Currently iTunes does not sell songs in MP3 format; consequently iPods are rarely referred to as MP3 players. The use of the word â€œMP3â€ is most likely carefully chosen language so that Schultz can keep his options open, since there are a number of candidates besides Apple that would be highly interested in a partnership with Starbucks.
The most obvious contender would be, of course, Microsoft’s Zune, which also has another advantage to the current generation of iPods â€“ its Wi-Fi support that in theory, could be used to conveniently transfer songs wirelessly to the player in Starbucks.
However, in Zune’s existing form, the player can only temporarily share songs with its own kind rather than buy or download songs from a central location. But that is likely going to change, and if you read our interview with Zuneâ€™s Head of Artists Development, Richard Winn, Zuneâ€™s editorial voice would not be a bad fit with Starbucks. However, Zune is locked down with DRM-restrictions and its pricing is ridiculously complicated.
Two other WiFi alternatives for Starbucks, though doubtful, include: SanDisk’s new Sansa Connect player and the little New York-based upstart Music Gremlin. Another alternative is for Starbucks to simply team with an independent MP3 store like eMusic or MTVâ€™s Urge. But remember, no one is really making money from selling music online; the money is in the hardware or related services.
The Take Away: I think there are clear advantages for both sides (Starbucks and an established music retailer) in working together to create attractive offers for customers who want to experience new music with their coffee. However, iTunes is the 800lb Gorilla in the music downloads space and does not need Starbucks. A partnership of this type might seem like a no-brainer at first glance, but if you think about it, it does not make much sense. Instead, if the business development execs at Microsoft Zune simply got their act together and stop messing around with weird pricing, restrictions on sharing on songs that only lasts 3 days and open up to selling songs in MP3 format – they would be an ideal partner for Starbucks. Both parties would potentially have a lot to gain in form of marketing and co-branding.
But the question remains, why would people want to buy music at Starbucks? Unless the pricing just makes it a good deal, I donâ€™t really see a good reason.
You’ve got to feel a little sorry for the Zune team over at Microsoft. The notion of an “iPod killer” may be as tough to sell as a “Windows killer.” They came late to a music player scene that’s already shaken out the weak competitors. They’re pushing Windows Media formats, but people demand MP3 Ã¼ber alles. With Apple’s iPhone mobile media wunderkind announced just before the expected uptick in Zune sales, the timing couldn’t have been worse. To top it all off, reviews of the Zune have mercilessly flogged the almost-cool features crippled by digital rights management (DRM).
DRM has been grabbing headlines of late, not only because of its hindrance to new products and technology such as the Zune — with its three-day self-destruct for wirelessly transmitted music and the slow smothering of the PlaysForSure program — but for DRM’s increasingly apparent general futility. To wit: like every scheme before it, the AACS DRM built into the new Blu-ray DVD format was cracked a few days ago. This, only a month after its sibling HD-DVD fell to a similar technique that extracts encryption keys from the media. As one headline put it, “Blu-ray joins HD-DVD in pile marked ‘owned.’”
Well maybe we have seen the first sign of the fall of DRM on the Zune player. No, I’m not talking about the plethora of Zune hacks out there. I’m talking about the man who started Microsoft making comments about how useless DRM can be. He admits that not even Microsoft has been able to do DRM right and it may signal a shift in their thinking when it comes to DRM.
The idea that DRM is here to stay seems a sure bet but the consumer ultimately has the choice in what they buy and if Microsoft feels that DRM hurts sales they have the power to make changes. The wireless sharing features of the Zune make it more difficult to enforce DRM and in order to really open up the wireless they will need to relax the DRM restrictions.
Maybe future Zune players won’t have so many restrictions on the Zune to Zune sharing and it will help the players gain acceptance to a wider market share. I think the content sharing is the key to Zune success and DRM seems to be getting in the way of things.
Gates confessed to a round table of prominent bloggers that “no one has done it right” when it comes to Digital Rights Management. This is despite Microsoft recently creating yet another DRM format for it’s new Zune MP3 player.
Gates went on to say Digital Rights Management “causes too much pain for legitimate buyers” trying to distinguish between legal and illegal uses. He declined to elaborate on how Microsoft would address this.