Practical Technology

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Sony DRM Hell Revisited

You can’t make up stuff like this. Sony has once more shot itself in the foot with an idiotic DRM (digital rights management) scheme.

Back in 2005, Sony introduced XCP DRM technology on to some of its CDs. The technology proved much better at ripping Windows PCs wide open to rootkit attacks than it did protecting content.

Now, in 2007, Sony has again introduced another horrible DRM scheme. This time around Sony is using the latest version of its own home-grown DRM technology called ARccOS. It works, if you can call it that by placing sectors containing corrupt data on the DVD. DVD players that know ARccOS can play it because they know how to follow the disc encoded map of the good sectors. DVD players, and computers, that don’t know ARccOS completely fail while trying to play the ARccOS ‘protected’ disc.

The logic is that DVD copying programs will fail in making usable copies because they can’t deal with the bad sectors. That’s utter nonsense. Any DRM system can be cracked, and SlySoft’s AnyDVD has been copying ARccOS protected DVDs since version v4.0.4.1 was released in the summer of 2004! Newer versions of ARccOS have been released since then, but AnyDVD has been keeping pace. There are dozens of other DVDs infected with older versions of ARccOS, but until this latest ARccOS showed up, they didn’t cause any trouble for DVD player users.

Now this new version of ARccOS has the improved and added ‘feature’ that prevents some DVD players from playing DVDs with the latest scheme on them at all. Computers? Let’s not even talk about them.

In fact, at least one of Sony’s own DVD players– the Sony DVPCX995V 400-Disc DVD Mega Changer/Player–can’t play it. In the Amazon.com forum for this player, users are reporting that such recent Sony DVD releases as Stranger than Fiction, The Holiday and Casino Royale aren’t playing. What happens is the movie’s introductory image briefly appears on the screen, the player tries to continue reading the disc, fails and then the unit powers off.

As you might guess, it’s not just a Sony player having trouble with the latest ARccOS. There are reports of DVD players from Harman-Kardon, Phillips, RCA, and Toshiba also failing to show these DVDs.

According to a blogger named Mick B, the Sony Electronics support desk told him that: “We know about this problem. Its our new copy protection that’s making these discs unplayable in some players including our own, we do not intend to change the copy protection. The only correction to this problem is a firmware update to your player.”

Adding insult to injury, though, there is no such firmware update at this time!

Unbelievable. Sony has created a DRM scheme that at least one of their own players can’t play! Sony promises Mick that there will be a firmware release real soon now. If you have another player, there’s no telling when it will be able to play your legally bought and paid for ARccOS “protected” DVDs.

If you want to play your DVD today, your only choice is to get a semi-legal DVD ripper program that handles the newest ARccOS.

There’s an old, and true, saying that when guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns. Thanks to the madness that is DRM, we’re all being forced to illegally copy our very own DVDs enable simply to watch them. In the 21st century, it would seem only outlaws can watch their own legally purchased DVDs.

The end of DRM cannot come soon enough.

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