Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

SunnComm Sues Student Who Discovered Shift Key Copy Protection Workaround

from the the-DMCA-in-action dept

It was just three days ago that a student at Princeton made all sorts of news for discovering that the new copy protection system from SunnComm - being used on new CDs from BMG - had a pretty gaping hole: the copy protection could be defeated by holding down the shift key. Instead of taking this information and thanking the student for his free research into how their copy protection system was incredibly weak, SunnComm has decided to sue Alex Halderman for revealing that information, saying it was (of course!) a violation of the anti-circumvention rule of the DMCA. They say that their market value has collapsed because of the paper - but Halderman says he isn't worried. He points out: "I don't think telling people to press the 'Shift' key is a violation of the DMCA." Of course, the irony in all of this is that Halderman's graduate adviser is Ed Felten, the man the RIAA threatened to sue when he tried to present a paper showing how to break SDMI, an earlier copy protection scheme. After the publicity surrounding that threat, the RIAA insisted they were kidding, and it was insane to think they would ever sue a professor for presenting such a paper... Update: Another article on the suit suggests they may sue him for "maligning the company's reputation". I'm confused how it's maligning the company's reputation if it's true.

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  • identicon
    aNonMooseCowherd, 9 Oct 2003 @ 4:19pm

    SLAPP laws

    Some states have anti-SLAPP laws designed just for cases like this. The article doesn't say whether the company is threatening to sue in state or federal court.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    LittleW0lf, 9 Oct 2003 @ 5:23pm

    Turning off "Auto-Run" Feature

    I wonder if turning off the "Auto-Run" feature under Windows, using the standard tools provided by Microsoft (regedit or UIeditor), also defeats this mechanism, since pressing "Shift" temporarily disables auto-run. C2Tool in SDK might do it too.

    I did this as a security fix, since I don't like software automatically installing itself on my system without permission (with all the keylogging, identity theiving folks out there, you cannot be too careful,) but then again, I don't have too many Windoze machines to worry about anyway.

    Oops, now I may have violated the DMCA. See how easy it is to do kids? I'll wait for the cops to show up at my door.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AMetamorphosis, 10 Oct 2003 @ 7:48am

    Different perspective

    I certainly sympathize with this person who is being sued but in the long run, perhaps this will expose how absolutely absurd the DMCA really is. I mean seriously, ... getting sued for telling people that the Shift key allows someone to get around the supposed copy protection ? ! ? How is something like this construed as violating the DMCA ? If its that damn easy to circumvent then perhaps it will help to show that this whole issue has been blown out of proportion. I would think even the least computer literate judge could understand this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AMetamorphosis, 10 Oct 2003 @ 8:36am

    More information

    I found this over @ MSNBC and thought it was informative seeing that it was mentioned in a previous post:
    " In his paper, published on the Princeton Web site on Monday, the student explained that the SunnComm technique relies on installing antipiracy software directly from the protected CD itself. However, this can be prevented by stopping Microsoft Windows’ “auto-run” feature. That can be done simply by pushing the Shift key as the CD loads. If the CD does load and installs the software, Halderman identified the driver file that can be disabled using standard Windows tools. "

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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