Microsoft is apparently examining its legal options after an as yet unidentified hacker last week managed to compromise its Digital Rights Management (DRM) anti-piracy technology, and post the results on the internet.
The technology is one of the many copy protection systems currently being bandied about by software vendors to prevent audio file piracy.
But a hacker known only as Beale Screamer managed to create a utility capable of bypassing the protection system known as FreeMe. Now the program is being widely circulated on the net.
According to Microsoft, over 275 companies have licensed the DRM technology as a protected system for distributing audio and video. The company said it is now working with its partners to minimise the risk posed by the hacker tool.
But it is thought Microsoft is still at a loss as to the coder's identity, even though it is looking to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to take legal action against the hacker.
Users of the FreeMe software would be able to copy and distribute Windows Media Audio (WMA) files without any sort of restriction. But Microsoft was quick to point out that last week's breach will only affect WMA version 7, released over a year ago.
The company said most of its WMA-based content is protected by earlier versions of the technology which has not been breached.
In an essay included as part of the FreeMe program, Beale Screamer explains that his actions are in defiance of the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
"When I buy a piece of music I expect my traditional fair use rights to the material," he said. "I should be able to take that content, copy it onto all my computers at home, my laptop, my portable MP3 player, ... basically anything I use to listen to the music that I have purchased. I can't do this at all with Microsoft's DRM scheme."
"I am neither a lawyer nor a copyright expert, so my personal opinions are really those of an interested outsider," he continues. But, "I *am* an expert on the technical issues involved, and plan on being a thorn in the side of the publishers until they adopt a more reasoned and reasonable approach."
To back up his warning to the publishers, he claims that the publishing industry has used the DMCA as a bludgeon to attack anyone who suggests that consumers and citizens have rights too.
"I hope people take my civil disobedience as an opportunity to send a message to publishers. To borrow words from Howard Beale in the movie "Network", just yell to the publishers "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" he said.
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