Shift-Key Case Rouses DMCA Foes

Source: Wired News

[i]"""The recent flap about a Princeton University student who found a way to beat music CD copy protection reignited calls to change a controversial copyright law.

John “Alex” Halderman discovered that by simply pressing the Shift key when loading a copy-protected music CD into a computer’s hard drive, he could disable SunnComm Technologies’ MediaMax CD-3 software, which is supposed to prevent CDs from being ripped.

He published his finding on his website. On Wednesday, shortly after the disclosure, SunnComm’s stock plummeted 25 percent. The company then threatened to sue the student, charging him with violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA.

Under the law, it is illegal to bypass any technology measure in place that protects copyright material – perhaps even by pressing the Shift key.

Critics say it’s the absurdity of the unforeseen consequences of the DMCA, as in Halderman’s case, that necessitates a change in the law. The DMCA goes too far and sends a chilling effect through the academic community, they say.

“The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, though intended to stop digital piracy, is being used to squelch legitimate research,” said Fred von Lohmann, senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “If no one is allowed to examine and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these technologies, then these technologies will not improve.”

Halderman, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in computer science, said he was interested in checking out SunnComm’s product because it claimed to have strong copy protection. He tested a copy-protected album called Comin’ From Where I’m From by Anthony Hamilton.

“I wanted to see how these CDs differed from the earlier technology, but I was surprised at how easily it could be bypassed,” Halderman said. “You can tell someone in a sentence how to get around the copy protection: Press the Shift key every time you insert the CD, and that’s it.”

SunnComm CEO Peter Jacobs charged that Halderman’s report was inaccurate. He said the Shift key was not a workaround and called it a “design element” of the system. And the issue isn’t the Shift key. Instead, he explained that the company was upset that Halderman disclosed the copy-management file names and directions on how to remove them.

“I don’t think researchers have a right to publish a ‘how-to’ on how to perform illegal activities under the guise of research,” Jacobs said. “I think the DMCA says pretty clearly that one shouldn’t publish circumvention solutions that protect people’s digital property.”

Jacobs said SunnComm Technologies lost $10 million in market value this week after the research paper was published.

SunnComm said Thursday it would sue Halderman under the DMCA, inciting ridicule on forums like Politech. Gadflies suggested keyboard makers also should be sued for creating the offending circumvention device – the Shift key.

On Friday, SunnComm decided not to take legal action.

“I don’t want to represent a company that would do anything to cause any kind of chilling effect to research,” Jacobs said. “Clearly the kind of emotional issues that surround this whole thing made it more prudent for us to take a step back and concentrate on making the next version better.”

Von Lohmann said researchers have a right to publish what they learn and that the free exchange of ideas is critical.

“I think this really underscores the importance of DMCA reform,” he said, adding that this type of situation is what Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Virginia) hopes to address with the Digital Media Consumers’ Rights Act of 2003 (HR107).

Boucher’s bill would permit circumvention for fair-use purposes, including scientific research. He submitted the bill in January.

“First of all, the mere fact that the company would threaten to sue underscores more than ever the urgent need for the passage of my bill,” Boucher said. "It would not be a violation of federal law to circumvent a technological protection measure if the purpose of the circumvention is itself lawful.

“This is a classic fair-use right protected under the copyright act, but it is a right that is extinguishable under the DMCA,” he said. “I anticipate in the not-too-distant future we will be successful in changing the law.” “”"[/i]

Well i know that copy protection schemes are not to last forever, but a company paying for a protection that can be bypassed by simply pressing the shift key :rolleyes: :bigsmile:

The guys page explaining everything is the following:

Analysis of the MediaMax CD3 Copy-Prevention System

Anyone know what exactly the shift key on CD insert disabled? ie how this works?

Pressing shift disables Autorun, so the program won’t load.
Try inserting a game and pressing shift, you won’t get any menu :slight_smile:

That really has to be one of the worst copy protections invented. I mean come on, beated by pressing the shift key.

The funny part is that companies might have already paid for this sh*t … funny isnt it? :bigsmile:

I didn’t think about that.

Wheres a laughing face when you need one!!

:bigsmile: :bigsmile: :bigsmile:

I think M$ should be sued for making the exploit in the first place, and then the people that ARE sueing need to get laid and then shot in their face multiple times. And THEN, we dance on them.

Just my opinion :).

Well, remember that autorun can be turned off completely. I have had it permanently off since Win98. Would that mean that I would never notice the copyprotection in the first place?
Well, what do I care. EAC still wors like a charm. :smiley:

Hey Trondos long time no see :slight_smile:
Hows the tuna fish up in Bergen?

Well, remember that autorun can be turned off completely. I have had it permanently off since Win98. Would that mean that I would never notice the copyprotection in the first place?
Yep thats about it … what a protection eh? :stuck_out_tongue:

Protection? LOL! :bigsmile:

Things are great here, thanks! How about you?
A bit colder than Athens, I suppose. I have had to scrape ice off my car windows each morning this week.
ARGH! :frowning:

Well its somewhat cold down here too (21C) but i guess you would call that summer time :stuck_out_tongue:

Thats just plain dumb. As already pointed out earlier, disabling autorun will render the same effect. Why make a case against someone who uses a keyboard shortcut to disable it. Thats like not being allowed to use WindowKey+e to open windows explorer.

I think record companies are just getting desperate at this point, because there is ultimately nothing they can do.

Originally posted by Hemispasm
Well its somewhat cold down here too (21C) but i guess you would call that summer time :stuck_out_tongue:

Everything over 15 degrees goes as summer here…:wink: