Thursday, December 4, 2008

Harvard team: Let consumers hack abandonware

As we all know when Digital Rights-based music or any other DRM products shut down, we no longer have access to these products. If we pay for it we should be able to use it as long as we live. This is now becoming a serious problem now that MSN music, Walmart music, Google's video store, and Yahoo music have all shut down and anyone who purchased music from these sources can only play them on one device, if they can play them at all. What if the consumers had the right to bypass these DRM protections once they expire? The team and Harvard is proposing just that! As we all know the Digital Millennium Copyright Act makes it illegal for us to circumvent DRM, but every three years the Copyright office asks for requests to make exemptions to these laws. This team from Harvard submitted a request that, in the event of DRM failure, users be able to circumvent the DRM protections on the failed software, so they could still use what they payed for. Without this users with any works that have failed DRM would not be able to transfer any of these works to other devices or even re-authenticate them for use on that same device. Say for instance Electronic Arts were to go bankrupt, millions of people would lose the ability to re-install or repair any software purchased from them. If this plan passes then researchers will be able to study the authentication messages flowing back and forth between the software and the DRM systems. This will allow them to learn how DRM works and how we could eventually lawfully circumvent it in the case of a DRM system failure or shutdown. This exemption for researchers has also been added into the plan sent to the Copyright Office for review. Lets hope it works, for our sake and for the sake of our DRM software, music, and games that we payed for. 

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