[rumori] pho: Secure Audio Path: Fight The Man

From: Don Joyce (djATwebbnet.com)
Date: Sun Feb 04 2001 - 21:27:29 PST

forwarded by Negativland.

>Well, what net news giveth it taketh away. Apparently Microsoft has gone ahead
>and incorporated "Secure Audio Path" software down to the kernel level.
>Basically they keep a stream encrypted until it's passed on to an
>"authenticated" sound card driver. While there are still ways around this, it
>may make some things tougher and is a huge step against actually providing
>consumers the capability to listen to their music as they want to.
>As one example, the page on Secure Audio Path at
>m/htm/understandingsecureaudiopath.htm explains that audio applications will
>no longer be able to apply equalization (e.g., bass boost) to an encrypted
>audio signal. Visualization programs are alotted an explicitly poor-quality
>version of the signal to which to perform visual effects synchronous with the
>music. Given the low existing quality of the Windows Media visualization
>plugins, you can bet this isn't going to help much. ("Worse than telephone
>quality" as quoted from their page.) And you've got to love how they've
>stuffed all of this DRM software into the kernel - those of you engineers on
>the list know that as you increase the size of the software that runs in
>kernel mode, you dramatically increase your chances of locking up the kernel.
>The whole reason behind putting programs in user mode is to protect them from
>each other and from the OS - that way if an application crashes, it doesn't
>take the system down with it, too. Stuffing all of this DRM software into the
>kernel sure isn't going to help things. My experiences with Windows Media
>protection have been pretty marginal, often causing lockups & crashes. And
>that was at the *user* level! [sigh]
>But it's the cryptographic signing of the drivers that takes this thing to a
>whole different level of insidiousness. In order for an encrypted stream to
>play, Microsoft has to approve the driver for your sound card and sign it.
>Without a signed driver, DRM content won't play. So every time your sound card
>company releases an update, you've got to wait to get it signed by Microsoft.
>The bad news is that they've already had a driver signing program for the last
>few years and that very few drivers are actually signed by Microsoft. With
>video DRM coming soon hereafter, what this really does is give Microsoft the
>power to determine what hardware it will allow to run Windows.
>If your sound card company went and helped the Linux community make a driver,
>MS might just accidentally take another couple months to sign your driver --
>in the interim your competitor might just jump into the market with the
>special features you had on your card and, through a good MS relationship, get
>their drivers signed and their cards deployed. Your time to market, indeed
>nearly the whole of your success, depends upon Microsoft. Soon video card
>makers will be in the same boat as well as hard drive makers (remember the
>encryption ATA functions?). The same goes for CD readers, DVD readers,
>burners, scanners, printers, even USB speakers. Why allow any venue for those
>pirates? Since, technically, every component in the system is "suspect to
>interception," and capable of assisting infringement, Microsoft can use this
>suspicion to force validation of all component drivers. Who is the arbiter of
>whether or not a driver is sufficient to be signed? Microsoft, of course.
>Those of you who are strongly in favor of DRMs are playing the fools right
>into Microsoft's hands. You are fighting free speech, fighting against
>consumer freedoms, and fighting against democracy. Worst yet, and you don't
>even realize it yet, but you are playing right into the hands of Microsoft -
>and you'll be so happy that all of your content is protected from those nasty
>hackers who would listen to your music for free. You'll be happy until
>Microsoft has you firmly by the balls and starts to squeeze. Because once
>everyone is using a Microsoft platform and the hardware vendors and software
>vendors are all in lockstep with their plan...what do you think they're going
>to do it for free? That MS has gone Open Source? No, they're going to start
>charging you, the content producers, obscene amounts of money to publish onto
>their framework. And you really won't have any choice at all in the matter.
>Because if you start publishing non-DRMed audio, your content won't play on
>Windows boxes. Lanier was right, but he was wrong about timeframes - this is
>all happening way faster than he predicted.
>Someday, with luck before it's too late, you songwriters, you labels, you
>artists and musicians and composers, you will wake up and realize that the
>hackers were on your side all along. That you were singing about freedom and
>they were hacking freedom. And the hackers aren't paid anything for their
>hacking and go, for the most part, unrecognized. And the musicians aren't paid
>almost anything for their music and go, for the most part, unrecognized. What
>a perfect, beautiful couple! And yet the framework of the present situation
>has pushed us against each other with swords in balled fists and chanted for
>blood, for us to smite each other.
>I don't know any hacker who doesn't think that musicians should get paid for
>their music. Some of my hacker friends compose music. I don't know any
>musicians that aren't excited by the subversive nature of the Internet and
>peered distribution mechanisms and, consequently, who don't respect hackers.
>Why don't we both work together, put down our swords, figure out how to put
>bread in each other's mouths (yes, even hackers are having a harder time than
>usual with that these days) and subvert the structure that has caused this
>unnatural schizm between us?
>Come, musicians, let me show you the beauty of Perl. Tou can show me how to
>compose a tune that will stick in people's heads. And maybe together we'll
>forge a hymn of clefs and compilers for a revolution that has only now begun
>to seed.
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