MS preps DRM hack fix

Papering over the cracks

Microsoft is working on closing a loophole that creates a means to strip usage restriction from music files wrapped in its DRM technology. A program called FairUse4WM, recently posted on the internet, allows users to bypass Microsoft's Digital Rights Management (DRM) system.

FairUse4WM was first posted on the doom9 forum. The software has the ability to strip DRM from files protected with Windows Media DRM version 10 and 11, making it easier to transfer legitimately purchased music files onto mobile devices. Microsoft said it would update its software to prevent the tool from working. It's unclear when this update will become available.

Microsoft licences its DRM technology to online stores, such as Napster, who use it as a means to restrict the use of music purchased online so as to ensure copyright is not infringed. Marcus Matthias, senior product manager, Windows Client Division, told the BBC: "Microsoft is aware that a tool recently surfaced that circumvents Windows Media Digital Rights Management technology. Fortunately, the Windows Media DRM system has built-in renewability, we have an update to address the circumvention, and are working with our partners to deploy this solution," he added.

FairUse4WM, which has been reposted across the net making it readily available, is intended to enable fair-use rights to purchased media. It might, however, be used by the less scrupulous to remove usage restrictions from files downloaded via monthly subscription services. Users of these services can downloaded an unlimited quantity of music but (because of Windows DRM restrictions) they would normally not be allowed to play files if a payment is missed. FairUse4WM might be used to remove these restrictions.

However, those intent on obtaining music illegally would find it far easier to fill their boots through P2P file sharing networks, a point not missed by tech enthusiast site Endgadget, which has appealed to Microsoft to let the issue slide. Its appeal to Microsoft, saying that FairUse4WM is good for consumers can be found here. ®

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