Claim of spyware on Beastie Boys CD denied

 作者:纪甥     |      日期:2019-03-03 10:03:00
By Celeste Biever Suspicions that a new Beastie Boys CD automatically installs sinister software on a user’s computer have been denied by music company EMI, which released the CD. The suggestion, which started on an online message board, has caused a storm of controversy among fans of the US rap band and computer enthusiasts. Some of the CDs do carry copy protection software, which aims to reduce piracy. A posting on the bugtraq message board on claimed that when a copy-protected version of the album is inserted in a PC, software installs itself “automatically” and “silently” and stays there even when the CD is removed. That “sounds like viral malware behaviour to me”, the user wrote. If so-called spyware was installed, it could monitor a user’s habits and send back evidence of illegal behaviour says Barry Ritholtz of the Maxim Group in New York City, a consultancy for technology and media investors. But EMI and Macrovision of Santa Clara, California, which developed the software, refute these claims. “There is no spyware on the discs,” an EMI spokesperson told New Scientist. Currently, EMI only puts copy protection software on CDs sold outside the UK and the US, but it has been routine in 40 countries for the past 18 months. However, the Beastie Boys album, To the five boroughs, has become the highest profile release to have such software. Furthermore, EMI plans to roll out the software in all countries. EMI admits that one piece of software is downloaded on to a computer’s hard drive, but say this is only a graphical “skin” that provides the user with the stop, start and volume buttons needed to play the music. This also uninstalls when the CD is removed, the company says. The Macrovision media player and the compressed music files needed to listen to the music both run off the disc itself and are never downloaded onto the PC, EMI says. New Scientist has been unable to obtain a copy of a disc and has therefore we have not been able to test it for ourselves. The CD provides the proprietary media player so users can listen to the music through their PCs, but cannot in this case make copies or convert the files to MP3 format. Music companies hope this approach will reduce illegal online sharing of music. Even programmers who oppose copy protection software say that the software is unlikely to be spyware. “They are in enough hot water as it is,” says Slaven Radic, a professional programmer. But he and others think that automatically downloading any software is unacceptable. The issue has stoked an already heated debate. On the band’s official website, outraged Beastie Boys fans complain that the copy protection prevents legitimate uses of the music they have bought, such as making back-up copies and transferring the files to an i-Pod player. “You are essentially turning the person’s computer against them,” argues Alex Halderman, a PhD student at Princeton University in New Jersey, who in 2003 publicised how to circumvent another type of copy protection software, made by SunnComm Technologies of Phoenix, Arizona. Another high profile album release has also attracted recent attention because of its copy protection. Contraband is by Velvet Revolver, a group made up of some ex-members of the hugely popular Guns ‘n’ Roses. Its copy protection, supplied by SunnComm, is present on CDs sold in the US. It does download software onto a user’s computer, but asks for permission first. It also allows users more options than the Macrovision software, permitting three back up copies to be made and conversion to MP3 format. However, it is not compatible with i-Pods. The album far exceeded predicted sales and Sunncomm says this success is an example of the effectiveness of copy-protection software in battling piracy. But opponents say the high sales are simply because the members of the band are famous. “It is selling despite the copy protection,” says Ritholtz. Halderman argues that copy-protection software will not combat music piracy. “It makes illegal music even more desirable,” he says, because the software decreases the value of the paid-for music by reducing the number of devices it can be played on. Furthermore, some protection mechanisms can be easily circumvented. But Bill Whitlock, who markets SunnComm Technologies products, believes most people will not hack the software. Making them realise they are breaking the law is enough to discourage most people from illegal copying, he believes. More on these topics: