Hiawatha Bray on CD protection

Posted by Pierre Igot in: iTunes, Music, Technology
October 14th, 2003 • 9:05 pm

Hiawatha Bray, writing for the Boston Globe, has a column in the SunnComm CD protection scheme that made the headlines last week because a Ph.D. student wrote a paper on how easy it was to circumvent it and that it was therefore irreparably flawed.

In the column entitled “Missing the point on antipiracy technology”, Bray tries to put a positive spin on this latest fiasco, arguing, for example, that the copy protection scheme used by Apple for the iTunes music store is just as easy to circumvent, yet no one calls it irreparably flawed. That is true, but it’s simply because Apple is coming from the extreme opposite of the spectrum (the online world), and is not trying to alter the MP3 format in ORDER to add copy protection to it.

Apple has followed the rules of the market and come up with their own file format (AAC). Whether this file format takes hold and becomes a standard will be determined by the market.

The recording industry, on the other hand, is trying to alter an existing format (the audio CD) and cripple it. Even if they were successful, I don’t see how this would ever be accepted by the market. It can only be enforced by a commercial monopoly with no regard for its customers.

Bray argues that both the iTunes scheme and the SunnComm scheme are “based on the assumption that most music listeners are honest.” This is simply not true. If they were based on the assumption that most listeners are honest, they wouldn’t include any form of copy protection. I am not sure exactly who is “missing the point” here.

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