[top o' the to a post on Dave Farber's IP list.]
With much more technical information than most readers will want, Mark Russinovich's blogicle on the SystemInternals blog describes how he discovered that the DRM included on Get Right with the Man CD by the Van Zant brothers made major and undocumented changes to Windows XP operating system.
It is vital, I believe, for consumers to receive as much notice as possible about DRM technologies being installed on their system(s). Notice should include an obvious way to remove the DRM software with the understanding that if removed, the content may no longer be accessed under the licensed rights.
Especially in a world without widely adopted DRM standards and interoperability among DRM systems, installing multiple DRM systems, each of which modifies key system components and hides files, almost certainly will lead to conflicts among these DRM systems. The likely outcome will be that consumers will be faced with resolving difficult technical problems that they are ill equipped in most cases to fix themselves.
Snippets from Mark's blogicle:
I entered the company name into my Internet browser’s address bar and went to http://www.first4internet.com/. I searched for both the product name and Aries.sys, but came up empty. However, the fact that the company sells a technology called XCP made me think that maybe the files I’d found were part of some content protection scheme. I Googled the company name and came across this article, confirming the fact that they have deals with several record companies, including Sony, to implement Digital Rights Management (DRM) software for CDs.
The DRM reference made me recall having purchased a CD recently that can only be played using the media player that ships on the CD itself and that limits you to at most 3 copies. I scrounged through my CD’s and found it, Sony BMG’s Get Right with the Man (the name is ironic under the circumstances) CD by the Van Zant brothers. I hadn’t noticed when I purchased the CD from Amazon.com that it’s protected with DRM software, but if I had looked more closely at the text on the Amazon.com web page I would have known....
The entire experience was frustrating and irritating. Not only had Sony put software on my system that uses techniques commonly used by malware to mask its presence, the software is poorly written and provides no means for uninstall. Worse, most users that stumble across the cloaked files with a RKR scan will cripple their computer if they attempt the obvious step of deleting the cloaked files.
While I believe in the media industry’s right to use copy protection mechanisms to prevent illegal copying, I don’t think that we’ve found the right balance of fair use and copy protection, yet. This is a clear case of Sony taking DRM too far.