Microsoft to patch app that strips DRM technology

Microsoft plans to fix an application that can strip Windows Media DRM from digital content.

Microsoft plans to patch an application that can strip Windows Media files of their DRM (digital rights management) technology.

Reports surfaced last week on the Internet that the FairUse4WM application could be used to remove Windows Media DRM 10 and 11 protection from digital media files. In response, Microsoft confirmed Tuesday that it will update its Windows Media DRM system to "address the circumvention," according to a statement from its public relations firm.

"Microsoft has long stated that no DRM system is impervious to circumvention -- a position our content partners are aware of as well," the company said in a statement. "That is why we designed the Windows Media DRM system to be renewable, so that if such events occur the system can be refreshed to address them."

FairUse4WM appeared on Aug. 19 on the Doom9.org site, an online forum for people who want to convert DVDs to digital media files they can save on a computer hard drive. A user called "viodentia" created the program to "enable fair-use rights to purchased media," according to a posting on the site. (http://forum.doom9.org/showthread.php?t=114916)

The existence of FairUse4WM could have serious consequences for Microsoft, which is competing with Apple Computer and other companies to provide all the software and services necessary to support purchasing and playing of various digital content via computers and other devices. DRM technology, which protects the copyright holders of digital media but is unpopular with users because it limits their ability to copy and share files protected by DRM, is a major component of that strategy.

FairUse4WM lets users who download music on subscription services that provide files protected by Windows Media DRM -- such as MTV Networks' Urge or Napster -- remove the DRM protection from those files, thus play them even without a subscription.

Digital music subscription services typically work by letting a user play an unlimited amount of music files as long as they pay to subscribe to the service; without the subscription, they can't play the files. It's likely that Microsoft's digital content partners would frown upon the idea that users could play Windows Media DRM-protected files from their services without paying for those files.

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Elizabeth Montalbano

IDG News Service
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