Tag: drm

Sega Saturn DRM cracked

Sega-Saturn-Console-Set-Mk1It has taken more than 23 years, but hackers have finally broken the tough DRM which surrounded the Sega Saturn and might have saved the console from extinction.

Engineer James Laird-Wah wanted to get through the DRM to harness the Saturn’s chiptune capabilities.  The Saturn was looking doomed because there was a shortage of replacement parts coupled with an increasingly common fault with the drive.

Normally you could run the games from modern USB stick, but the Saturn came with some spooky DRM which made it darn difficult.

Laird-Wah by-passed the drive altogether and hacked into the Video CD Slot so it can take games stored on a USB stick and run them directly though the Saturn’s CD Block.

Laird-Wah said that he has got the Saturn to the point where it can boot and run games. He has also put in some audio support so it also has sound.

Right now he is the only one in the world who can write Saturn files to a USB stick. But he is not resting on his laurels. Laird-Wah wants to go back to his original plan which was using the Saturn’s chiptune to load samples and store your songs on the USB.

He has not issued any time-table for the release of his hack. But if enough people adopt it, it will go some way to preserving the Saturn and its games library.


Apple to roll back Jobs’ music stance

gty_steve_jobs2__dm_111006_wmainSteve Jobs gave up on DRM on his iTunes music service because it spectacularly failed in every way possible, but now Apple is looking at rolling back that view and is bringing the hated DRM back in.

Next week Apple is probably going to launch another streaming service, and the Tame Apple Press is getting all warmed up to promote it as a cure for cancer. What they will not tell you is that it is DRMed up to the nines. In fact it is only going to work on Apple products – which we guess means that the only thing being listened to will be Coldplay, U2 and Justin Bieber.

In 2007, Steve Jobs wrote a fiery essay on Apple.com called “Thoughts on Music” which has mysteriously disappeared from Apple’s site. It contained one of the few things that Jobs wrote which we actually agree with.

The labels had forced Apple to use DRM in the early days of iTunes, and Jobs clearly recognised that although Apple and the iPod had emerged as the early winners in digital music, the effort required to maintain DRM over time – or license Apple’s DRM to other companies – would be better spent making new products and services.

“If anything, the technical expertise and overhead required to create, operate and update a DRM system has limited the number of participants selling DRM protected music… If such requirements were removed, the music industry might experience an influx of new companies willing to invest in innovative new stores and players. This can only be seen as a positive by the music companies.”

Despite rumours, it is not the labels forcing Apple to use DRM. It is Apple wanting to lock its customers into a single egosystem paying monthly subscription fees. This is the other side of Jobs’ philosophy which clearly did not mesh with the above quote.

In other words, Apple does not care if your listening “experience” is marred, or if new companies enter the industry just so long as you are listening on the right gear. U2, Jimmy!

Removing DRM increases sales

A study by the University of Toronto has found that removing digital rights management from album boosts revenue rather than losing it to pirates.

The study showed that music revenue increased 10 percent on general content and 30 percent on other content.

What this shows is that buyers do not like it when you place restrictions on content and will buy something else instead.

DRM has been a complete disaster. Pirates found it easy to circumvent, but it had a nasty habit of bricking machines that it could not cope with. People buying pirated versions were sometimes getting better quality because they lacked the DRM which made paying customers’ life a misery and actually discouraged them to buy it.

The working paper published by University of Toronto researcher Laurina Zhang was based on a survey of 5,864 albums from 634 artists and compared the sales figures before and after the labels decided to drop DRM.

The effect works if Big Content tries to bring in DRM-like controls using things like album release dates, music genre and regular sales variations over time.

Older albums selling less than 25,000 copies saw their sales increase by 41 percent and overall lower-selling albums got a 30 percent sales boost. DRM only seems to work for top selling work.

According to Zhang, the 30 percent sales increase for lower-selling albums can be explained by the fact that DRM-free music makes it easier for people to share files and discover new music. The finding that removing DRM from top-selling albums has no effect on sales makes sense, since the discovery element is less important for well-promoted musicians. 

DRM could drive you around the bend

Moves by Renault to install a battery with digital rights management (DRM) restrictions that can remotely prevent the battery from charging have been slammed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The new Renault Zoe comes with a “feature” which locks the owner into a contract with a battery maker which is enforced by a DRM within the car’s computer.

This also lets Renault use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to stop people tinkering with the car software so they can install a battery of their choice. All this means, you will not be allowed to fix your car without permission and only with official parts. You cannot jailbreak the car.

In a statement, the EFF said that DRM has led to users losing altogether the ability to watch, listen to, read, or play media that can’t be “authenticated.” Video games with online components now routinely reach an end-of-life period where the company providing the authentication decides it’s no longer worth it to operate the servers.

This could mean that Renault decides that it’s not cost-effective anymore to verify new batteries and leaving car owners without a car. This is assuming that the DRM works and does not cause some failure further down the line. 

Sir Tim Berners-Lee and W3C sold humanity down the river

Moves to install DRM functions within the web standards have been slammed by a top IT author and developer.

Simon St. Laurent, who is the co-chair of the Fluent and OSCON conferences and the writer of books including Introducing Elixir, Introducing Erlang, Learning Rails 3, XML Pocket Reference, 3rd, XML: A Primer, and Cookies is furious with Sir Tim Berners-Lee for allowing the W3C’s to focus on digital rights management (DRM).

He said that programmers who design and build Web systems, are going to be forced to use something which could be very onerous in many ways and get nothing in return.

Writing in his bog, St. Laurent said that the W3C has surrendered without asking for anything in return.

He said Sir Tim is well aware of the tarnish he’s applying to his creation and is saying that no-one likes content protection, or the constraints it places on users and developers, or the over-severe legislation it triggers in countries like the USA.

But he said that the saddest part of that discussion, is that users or developers get nothing out of bringing in DRM.

St. Laurent said that most of my technical work still revolves around the W3C, so he is at crossroads.

It was the first time he had ever doubted the intrinsic goodness of the W3C.

“While HTML5 and CSS3 certainly reinvigorated public interest in the W3C, this is yet more reason to pick and choose the useful bits carefully,” he said.

At the moment the only think that anyone is getting from DRM being installed under the bonnet of the world wide wibble is that there is a strong message not to trust anyone, St. Laurent said. 

Germans come up with novel ebook DRM

A group of German researchers has come up with a novel form of DRM for e-books.

Dubbed SiDiM, the DRM changes the text and punctuation of an e-book slightly in a way which is unique to each book sold.

While this will not stop the book being shared, it will serve as a digital watermark that can be used to track books that have had any other DRM layers stripped out of them before being shared online.

One researcher, Martin Steinebach, reasoned that consumers will be too paranoid that they’ll be caught if they share an e-book illicitly.

If it does get widespread use it will end the days of trying to restrict movement of e-books between stores and devices, and ties a book to a single account.

Getting rid of the DRM is easy and actually makes the book a lot less heavy in terms of code.

According to Wired, the changes are minor and most people would not find them.

The SiDiM consortium currently has two German bookselling partners. 4Readers and MVB, that it reports to, according to Herr Dr. Martin Steinebach. 

EFF growls at DRM in HTML 5

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) watchdog has formally growled at the inclusion of digital rights management (DRM) in HTML5.

The activist group argued that a draft proposal from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) could stymie web innovation and block access to content for people across the globe.

The W3C’s HTML working group is creating a technical standard for HTML5, an upcoming revision to the computer language that creates web pages and otherwise displays content online.

The working group has accepted a draft that includes discussion of Encrypted Media Extensions (EME), which will hard-wire the requirements of DRM vendors into the HTML standard.

EFF international director Danny O’Brien said that the proposal stands apart from all other aspects of HTML standardisation because it defines a new ‘black box’ for the entertainment industry. This black box is fenced off from control by the browser and end-user.

“While this plan might soothe Hollywood content providers who are scared of technological evolution, it could also create serious impediments to interoperability and access for all,” O’Brien said.

DRM always fails to protect media while dragging in legal mandates that throttle free speech. It also ends up locking down technology, and violating property rights by seizing control of personal computers from their owners.

Accepting EME could lead to other rights holders demanding the same privileges as Hollywood, leading to a web where images and pages cannot be saved or searched and ads cannot be blocked, O’Brien said.

EFF filed this objection as its first act as a full member of W3C. EFF’s goal is to broaden the discussion of the consequences of accepting DRM-based proposals like EME for the future of the web.

O’Brien said that the W3C needs to develop a policy regarding DRM and similar proposals, or risk having its own work and the future of the web become buried in the demands of businesses that would rather it never existed in the first place. 

EFF fears DRM inside HTML5 standard

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is fighting a new move by Big Content to install DRM into the HTML 5 web standard.

The World Wide Web Consortium’s HTML5 Working Group is looking at an idea to allow Encrypted Media Extensions, or EME into the core of web standards.

While the Working Group claims that EME does not add DRM to the HTML5 specification the EFF claims that this is like saying “we’re not vampires, but we are going to invite them into your house”.

According to EFF spokesperson Peter Eckersley for the last 20 years there has been an ongoing struggle between two views of how web technology should work.

One philosophy has been that the beb needs to be a universal ecosystem that is based on open standards and fully implementable on equal terms by anyone, anywhere, without permission or negotiation. It was this philosophy which gave us HTML and HTTP which lead to wikis, search engines, blogs, webmail, applications written in JavaScript, repurposable online maps and other goodies.

Then there is another view pushed by corporations that have tried to seize control of the web with their own proprietary extensions, Eckersley said.

These are the likes of Adobe’s Flash, Microsoft’s Silverlight, Apple, phone companies, and others who want more restrictive platforms which are intended to be available from a single source or to require permission for new ideas.

Eckersley added that that whenever these technologies have become popular, they have inflicted damage on the open ecosystems around them. Websites using Flash or Silverlight can’t be linked, indexed, translated by machine, accessed by users with disabilities, and might not work on some devices.

“The EME proposal suffers from many of these problems because it explicitly abdicates responsibilty on compatibility issues and let web sites require specific proprietary third-party software or even special hardware and particular operating systems,” Eckersley said.

The EME’s authors calle these “content decryption modules”, or CDMs. EME’s authors keep saying that what CDMs are, and do, and where they come from is totally outside of the scope of EME. They claim that EME can’t be thought of as DRM because not all CDMs are DRM systems.

But if the client can’t prove it’s running the particular proprietary thing the site demands, it will not render the site’s content.

Eckersley said that this is against what the World Wide Web Consortium is supposed to do, that is, creating comprehensible, publicly-implementable standards that guarantee interoperability.

The EFF’s view is that the WWW Consortium was not supposed to be on hand to bring about an explosion of new mutually-incompatible software and of sites and services that can only be accessed by particular devices or applications.

While there are claims that EME is not itself a DRM scheme, specification author Mark Watson admitted that in most cases it was and that implementations would inherently require secrets outside the specification’s scope.

According to Eckersley, the DRM proposals at the W3C exist in an attempt to appease Hollywood, which has been angry about the internet and wants it switched off by next Tuesday.

It has always demanded that it be given elaborate technical infrastructure to control how its audience’s computers function so that it can allow movies onto the web with its own DRM restrictions.

“Movie studios have used DRM to enforce arbitrary restrictions on products, including preventing fast-forwarding and imposing regional playback controls, and created complicated and expensive “compliance” regimes for compliant technology companies that give small consortiums of media and big tech companies a veto right on innovation,” Eckersley warned.

The EFF said that allowing DRM to exit undermines the reasons for which HTML5 exists. It was supposed to build an open ecosystem alternative to all the functionality that is missing in previous web standards, without the problems of device limitations, platform incompatibility, and non-transparency that were created by platforms like Flash.

HTML5 was supposed to be better than Flash, and excluding DRM is exactly what would make it better, Eckersley added. 

Microsoft bans used games

Software giant Microsoft is certain to declare war on the second hand video games industry and a leak has confirmed that its new Xbox will not allow them to run.

Rumours of an anti used game system for Microsoft’s next-generation ‘Durango’ Xbox console were leaked a couple of months ago, but according to VGleaks, there is evidence that the Vole is pressing ahead with the moves.

VGleaks has a very good deepthroat in Microsoft and come up with accurate specifications for Durango before. This time it has provided screenshots of an Xbox Development Kit (XDK) for Microsoft’s next-generation console.

These confirm a number of previous rumours that every next-gen console will include a hard drive with enough capacity to “hold a large number of games”. All games are said to be installable to the drive, and “play from the optical drive will not be supported”, which sounds bad for backwards compatibility.

This means that Durango game installations will be mandatory, while at the moment Xbox 360 games can be installed to HDD, but they require the disk to run. Durango titles cannot directly access data on discs once they’re installed, suggesting that the next-gen console may not require the disk to play games post-installation.

This means that Vole is developing an anti-used games system that requires activation codes for 50GB-capacity Blu-ray discs. There are references to an “always on, always connected” console which means that the machine will have to phone home to check that the software is not pirated or second-hand.

This is exactly the same sort of DRM which made SimCity unplayable and cost the EA Games CEO his job this week.

The leak also shows that there will be a new high-fidelity Kinect sensor without a tilt motor to be sold with every console. Microsoft recently showed a next-generation Kinect sensor without tilt motors which means that the new unit will be a lot smaller and compact.

The new Xbox is expected to come out in time for the Christmas rush. 

Google engineer spills the beans on DRM

DRM software is nothing to do with protecting software companies from piracy, a Google engineer has claimed.

Writing in his blog, Ian Hickson said that discussions about DRM focus on the fact that it does not work. However, this discussion focuses on faulty logic which claims that the purpose of DRM is to prevent people from copying content while allowing people to view it.

Hickson claims that the purpose of DRM is not to prevent copyright violations but to give content providers leverage against creators of playback devices.

He said that content providers have leverage against distributors, because distributors can’t legally distribute copyrighted material without permission. But if that was the only leverage content producers had, users would obtain their content from those content distributors, and then use third-party content playback systems to read it.

In no cases does DRM stop people from violating a copyright and in most cases the only people who are stopped from doing anything are the player providers who are forced to provide a user experience that, rather than being optimised for the users, puts potential future revenues first.

For example, they are forced to make people play ads, or build artificial obsolescence into content so that if you change ecosystem, you have to purchase the content again.

Hickson said that the fact that DRM doesn’t work is missing the point. It is working really well in the video and book space, even if the DRM systems have all been broken.

Licensed DVD players still enforce the restrictions and mass market providers can’t create unlicensed DVD players, so they remain a black or gray market curiosity.

Hickson said that DRM failed in the music space not because DRM is doomed, but because the content providers sold their digital content without DRM, they enabled all kinds of players they didn’t expect. Had CDs been encrypted, iPods would not have been able to read their content, because the content providers would have been able to use their DRM contracts as leverage to prevent it.

He thinks that DRM’s purpose is to give content providers control over software and hardware providers, and it is doing a damn fine job.