SDMI cracks revealed

Banned in America

The academic cracker crew led by Princeton University Computer Science Professor Edward Felten, which answered the HackSDMI public challenge of last September with 'unqualified' results, has received veiled threats of criminal prosecution under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) from the SDMI Foundation in hopes that the team will be cowed into withholding what it's learned from an upcoming computer science conference.

"Any disclosure of information gained from participating in the Public Challenge....could subject you and your research team to actions under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act," SDMI Foundation mouthpiece Matthew Oppenheim warns in a letter to the Felten team.

SDMI has cobbled up a few mediocre schemes to protect digital music by altering it so that SDMI-compliant music can only be played on SDMI-compliant systems. The group invited the world to crack its feeble technology with a proviso that those who succeeded would be forever sworn to secrecy.

Felten declined to go through with the SDMI challenge because the terms of the click-through agreement participants were forced to accept would have prevented his team from publishing their results. So he withdrew, but continued the research independently, much to SDMI's embarrassment.

Earlier this year, Felten was warned by his own lawyers that publishing the crew's findings could expose them to civil and possibly criminal action under the DMCA, and backed away from an opportunity to do so.

Since then, Felten and company have prepared a paper for the Fourth International Information Hiding Workshop to be held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania later this week, in which the team's exploits are well described. It's this limited circulation that the SDMI Foundation is so freaked about.

Thus the SDMI Association urges the Felten team to "assure that [their paper] is removed from the Workshop distribution materials and destroyed," and further to "avoid a public discussion of confidential information" related to SDMI's embarrassingly lame efforts to control music content distribution.

All right, you've waited long enough for the dirty little secret. We've got the Felten paper mirrored here. ®

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