FWD: BRIAN LIVINGSTON: "Window Manager" from InfoWorld.com, Monday, May 21, 2001

  • From: Jerold Hargis <sigrah@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: technocracy@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 21 May 2001 14:48:21 -0400 (EDT)

Sorry for the size of the forward, but I thought the article would be of
interest.

------Original Message------
From: WindowManager@xxxxxxxxxxxx
To: j.hargis@xxxxxxxxxxxx
Sent: May 21, 2001 5:13:58 PM GMT
Subject: BRIAN LIVINGSTON: "Window Manager" from InfoWorld.com, Monday, May
21, 2001


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BRIAN LIVINGSTON:     "Window Manager"     InfoWorld.com
========================================================

Monday, May 21, 2001

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THE WATERMARK WAR

Posted at May 18, 2001 01:01 PM PST Pacific


SUPPOSE YOU BECAME aware of a problem that was costing
people millions of dollars without their knowledge.
But just before you were about to present your
findings at an international conference that had
accepted your paper, you were threatened with a
lawsuit by a consortium of large, self-interested
companies and compelled to withhold your report.

You may think, "That couldn't happen! Americans demand
intellectual freedom!" But something like that has
just happened, and it strikes at the heart of the
computer industry.

I'm referring, of course, to a squelched scientific
presentation at the Fourth International Information
Hiding Workshop, a respected security conference that
was held on April 26.

Researchers from Princeton and Rice Universities and
the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) had
preannounced that they had broken all four
copy-protection methods called the "SDMI Public
Challenge." But on the morning of the conference, the
authors withdrew their paper. The Recording Industry
Association of America (RIAA) -- the giant record
labels that fund the Secure Digital Music Initiative
-- had sent letters threatening lawsuits against the
authors, their employers, and the conference sponsors
(a good overview of the situation is
available at www.cryptome.org/sdmi-attack.htm).

I was surprised that the preannouncement was fairly big
news, but the quashing of the report was barely
covered even though this action directly threatens the
growth and innovation of the high-tech industry. Many
people in the computer and consumer-electronics fields
deeply desire a secure way to distribute digital information.

At the core of several nations' copyright laws is a
balance between the right of the owner and the right
of "fair use," especially the right of not-for-profit
and educational institutions to make limited copies.

When someone visits a library and makes a Xerox copy of
a chapter in Windows Secrets, am I outraged? Of course
not. The library paid for the book, and the visitor
wouldn't have bought a whole book just to get one
chapter. The market was expanded for all concerned.

This is exactly the kind of "fair use" that the RIAA is
now bludgeoning scientists to prevent.

This has nothing to do with Napster, which is accused
of wholesale copying. Instead, it has everything to do
with the public challenge that new technologies should
be subjected to before investors mobilize their
millions and consumers cough up their cash.

The academics who broke SDMI's inaudible digital
signature, or "watermarking," technology in no way
developed a program that would allow teenagers to
steal CDs. Instead, they reportedly determined that,
"No public watermarking scheme intended to thwart
copying will succeed." I believe it is this unmasking
of the futility of SDMI -- rather than the revelation
of some secret decoder ring -- that panicked the RIAA.

A basic understanding of SDMI will help us understand
why this is so. Audio files are playable in a variety
of devices: computers, car stereos, portable players,
and so on. Future SDMI-compliant devices will
supposedly be designed to play exact copies of
SDMI-encoded audio files, but not compressed copies
(for example, MP3 files). Let's look at the "Three
Rules of an SDMI Device."

1. An SDMI device must play any non-SDMI CD, because
older CDs have no watermark.

2. An SDMI device must play any newer audio track that
contains an SDMI watermark.

3. If an SDMI-encoded audio track is compressed, an
SDMI device must detect the distorted watermark and
refuse to play.

Because old CDs must play in an SDMI device (or no one
would buy one), a hacker need not decode a digital
signature, which would be extremely difficult.
Instead, a hacker need only alter a song's watermark
so an SDMI device can't detect that one is there.

Creating software to do this is trivial. SDMI could
simply concede that its encoder has no clothes.
Instead, the five conglomerates that largely fund the
RIAA (which controls 90 percent of the music sold in
the United States) decided to declare war on the
computer industry and its need for free, scientific
inquiry into proposed digital-security standards.

I support freedom of speech and thought, and I support
RIAA's right to write letters. But make no mistake:
When multibillion-dollar Goliaths threaten to sue
professors and colleges, it's an act of unmitigated
evil that civilized people everywhere should scorn.
The RIAA's repressive strategy would best be abandoned
in favor of win-win music-sharing technologies, such
as MusicMatch.com's new, $4.95-per-month Radio MX. And
computer pros, who stand to lose the most, should join
public-minded groups such as the Electronic Frontier
Foundation (www.eff.org/support). With a little
effort, we can beat the intellectual poverty of the RIAA.

Brian Livingston's latest book is Windows Me Secrets
(IDG Books). Send tips to
brian_livingston@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx Get Window Manager
free via e-mail each week. Sign up at
http://www.iwsubscribe.com/newsletters.



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MORE WINDOW MANAGER
For a complete archive of his InfoWorld columns visit
http://www2.infoworld.com/cgi/component/columnarchive.wbs?column=window

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QUOTE OF THE DAY:

"[Microsoft .NET is an attempt to] turn the Internet into a
big Microsoft subscription service -- taking services that
are currently free and turning them into revenue streams for
Microsoft."

--The Procomp group, which is funded by Microsoft's
competitors.

http://www.infoworld.com/articles/hn/xml/01/05/17/010517hnploy.xml?0521mnlv


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Copyright 2001 InfoWorld Media Group Inc.




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