Hacker Breaks DRM, Microsoft Looks Into Legal Action

Microsoft might seek legal action against a hacker who at least partially compromised the company's Digital Rights Management (DRM) software, which is designed to prevent consumers from pirating music. In a self-described "act of civil disobedience," an anonymous hacker published the hack, dubbed FreeMe, on the Internet this week. Breaking DRM software is illegal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a statute implemented in 1998. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), however, is challenging DMCA's legality in a New York court.

"We're investigating our legal options," said Jonathan Usher, group manager for Microsoft's Windows Digital Media division. "Our real focus right now is working with our content providers." More than 270 companies, including music-subscription services such as Pressplay, use Microsoft's DRM technology to protect the songs they sell online.

The FreeMe code strips Microsoft's copy protection away from the music customers purchase online. Currently, DRM prevents customers who purchase such protected music from copying it to other devices, such as other PCs and portable MP3 players. Microsoft says that it will soon apply a patch to fix the problem.

"We learned about the hack on Friday and were on the phone with our content partners right away," Usher says, noting that Microsoft was prepared for a hack such as this. "We have built in a means to update the protections for cases such as this, and we're still implementing that renewability. We realized well before we launched it that technologies such as this are not unbreachable."

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