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MS digital rights management scheme cracked

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An anonymous coder named 'Beale Screamer' claims to have broken the Version-2 Microsoft digital rights management (DRM) scheme, and has produced the source code and a DOS utility to un-protect .WMA audio files.

The author's zipped file, originally discovered on sci.crypt by Sam Simpson and posted by Cryptome's John Young, contains a well-written and lengthy description of the MS DRM weaknesses, a philosophical tract explaining why he thinks it necessary to crack, the source code, and the command-line utility.

The alias Beale Screamer, incidentally, derives from the lines of 'Howard Beale' in the movie 'Network', we're told. "Just yell to the publishers 'I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!'"

The motive here is said to be an assertion of fair use and a check against the abuse of copyright for purposes of consumer extortion.

A DRM scheme "used to give the consumer more possibilities than existed before," Screamer tells us. "I think the idea of limited time, full-length previews, or time-limited Internet-based rentals is excellent. If DRM was only used for this, in order to give us more options than we previously had, I would not have taken the effort to break the scheme. What is bad is the use of DRM to restrict the traditional form of music sale. When I buy a piece of music (not rent it, and not preview it), I expect (and demand!) my traditional fair use rights to the material. 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."

Well said; a tremendous amount of thought and effort has obviously gone into all this, and we have to wonder who this crusader is. A university connection seems all but certain. We've got a few feelers out, and hope very much that he'll submit to an interview soon.

There's clearly more to this story than meets the eye. For one thing, the quality of writing in the text files exceeds that in the code files, suggesting more than one actor. Readers are encouraged to share their insights as they read through the texts and fiddle with the code, using the byline link above. ®

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