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MS accuses DRM hacker of source code theft

Hunt for copy-protection nemesis goes legal

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Microsoft has launched a lawsuit against the unknown hacker who created a program to strip DRM code from Windows Media Player files.

The FairUse4WM system removed copyright protection from music files downloaded through subscription services such as Napster and Yahoo! Music. 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.

Redmond quickly issued a patch but the unknown developer, known only as Viodentia, quickly found a way around the update, much to chagrin of Redmond and its content partners.

Microsoft issued a further update, against the a advice of those who argued that FairUse4WM made paid for content easier to use. Microsoft realised from the start that its DRM code would be a prime target for hackers so it designed the code to make security updates far easier to develop than is the case with Internet Explorer, for example.

That wasn't by itself enough to deal with Viodentia, Microsoft decided, so (as is the local custom) Redmond decided to go legal. But instead of of following the obvious strategy and accusing Viodentia of circumventing its copy protection, Microsoft is claiming the developer must have access to its proprietary source code, specifically code related to its Windows Media software development kit, to have designed such an ingenious hack. Redmond has also sent out legal nasty-grams to sites hosting FairUse4WM code.

"Our own intellectual property was stolen from us and used to create this tool," said Bonnie MacNaughton, a senior attorney in Microsoft's legal and corporate affairs division told News.com. "They obviously had a leg up on any of the other hackers that might be creating circumvention tools from scratch."

Viodentia, who is not backing down in the face of legal threats, denies he ever had access to Microsoft source code in releasing a new version of FairUse4WM tool. "FairUse4WM has been my own creation, and has never involved Microsoft source code," the developer wrote. "I link with Microsoft's static libraries provided with the compiler and various platform SDK (software development kit) files." ®

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