Universal Music DRM-free

Universal is the latest record company to try selling its music with no DRM. The music will be available through several music stores, but not iTunes, on a trial basis through January. Boing Boing says the files will be MP3s but the Times article doesn’t say anything about format.

Net Radio Rates

Tim Quirk details how the new Internet radio royalty rates will cripple Rhapsody’s radio stations. The rates take effect in two days and it seems that the only thing you can do about it is contact your representatives and try to get the Internet Radio Equality Act through Congress.

Update: Net radio got a bit of a reprieve yesterday when SoundExchange told Congress that it wouldn’t enforce the new royalty rates on Sunday and would instead negotiate new rates with web broadcasters. What the new rates will be and how they will be determined in the future is still up in the air.

Cost Analysis of Vista Content Protection Greatest Hits

I listened to Cory Doctorow’s reading of A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection by Peter Gutmann. There are so many jaw-dropping passages in this paper that I thought a little collection of quotes would be useful for people who don’t want to read the whole thing.

Windows Vista includes an extensive reworking of core OS elements in order to provide content protection for so-called “premium content”, typically HD data from Blu-Ray and HD-DVD sources. Providing this protection incurs considerable costs in terms of system performance, system stability, technical support overhead, and hardware and software cost. These issues affect not only users of Vista but the entire PC industry, since the effects of the protection measures extend to cover all hardware and software that will ever come into contact with Vista, even if it’s not used directly with Vista (for example hardware in a Macintosh computer or on a Linux server).

In fact so far no-one has been able to identify any Windows system that will actually play HD content in HD quality, in all cases any attempt to do this produced either no output or a message that it was blocked by content protection.

In fact, Microsoft is imposing a higher standard of security for premium content than what’s been required in the past for any known secure computing initiative proposed for protecting data classified at TOP SECRET or TS/SCI levels… Just to make this point clear, the level of security that Vista is trying to achieve to protect video and audio is more extreme than anything the US government has ever considered necessary for protecting its most sensitive classified data.

In the introduction, I predicted that Vista’s content protection, the entire mass of complex and troublesome technology covered in this writeup, would last less than a week once the hackers got hold of it. Sure enough, shortly after Vista’s release, it was broken by an individual who was annoyed by the fact that he couldn’t play back his legitimately-purchased HD-DVDs on his legitimately-purchased HD-DVD player… As a result, both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray content can now be decrypted and played without image downgrading or blocking by the OS, and unprotected content is already appearing in the usual locations like BitTorrent streams. The fact that the legally-purchased content wouldn’t play on a legally-purchased player because the content protection got in the way was the motivating factor for the crack. The time taken was about a week. As a result, all of the content-protection technology (at least for HD-DVDs and Blu-Ray discs) is rendered useless. All that remains is the burden to the consumer.

Rushkoff Switches to Ubuntu

Author Douglas Rushkoff gets frustrated with Windows Vista, installs Ubuntu and loves it. I felt like quoting this entire post but I’ll restrain myself.

Yes, I’m working on it right now, and it makes even the Mac OS seem like a forest of unnecessary gizmos. Linux is blazingly fast compared with Microsoft’s OS, utterly simple, complete with any application you can imagine and – more amazingly – based on an entirely different philosophy than Windows. There’s a spirit of abundance and transparency in this Linux universe. Need something, and you just grab it. Pay, if you like, what you like, when you’ve determined its of value to you.

HD disk format wars are over

This funny Inquirer piece argues that you’d have to be an idiot to buy any high-def hardware or content.
>If you try and purchase any of this content, you descend into a DRM nightmare of incompatibility and legal mires. Your monitor will not work with your Blu-Ray drive because your PC decided that a wobble bit was set wrong. You just pissed away $6K on a player, media center PC and HD TV for nothing, you lose. The Warner CEOs kids have a nice new car to play their pirated CDs in though.

>On the other hand, if you downloaded that content, in HD no less, you save the $1000 on the Blu-Ray player, $30 on the movie, and it works seamlessly out of the box. The available content is much higher with piracy, and it is quite on-demand. You don’t need to sign up, give them your details to be sold to marketers who call during dinner and spam you, you just get the content you want, when you want, how you want. There is no iTunes/Plays for (not) Sure incompatibility, it just works. Piracy, the better choice(tm).