Copy protection software developer Macrovision is set to roll out an updated version of its CDS 300 system that it claims can beat attempts to bypass Windows’ auto-run feature but goes some way to balance that by allowing users to burn copies of the CD for personal use.
CDS 300 was launched earlier this year and like older versions blocks access to the CD audio, ‘Red Book’ portion of a disc when it’s played on a PC. Instead, PC users are provided with compressed audio files, currently in Windows Media format (at 192Kbps on the test pressing we saw), on a data portion of the disc. While Macrovision initially provided its own playback software, CDS 300 ties into Windows Media Player.
CDS 300 relies on Windows’ auto-run feature to fire up WMP, but as has been well documented elsewhere this can be bypassed by holding down the Shift key, which in turn stops the software installing code that blocks unauthorised access to the audio session. CDS 300 Version 7, which is currently at an alpha testing stage before going beta next month, has sufficent hardware protection – errors in the data, essentially – to block attempts to rip a protected disc’s CD audio session.
The upshot, says Macrovision, is that users are forced to used WMP, which invokes the installer. This time round, users are asked if they want to install a “licence” on their PC, but on goes Macrovision’s Active Software Protection (ASP) code too, which actively blocks rippers and cloners. To be fair, Macrovision is keen to stress that the on-screen installation information admits that ASP is there, but how many users will take the time to read it, rather than dashing straight for the OK button, we wonder?
The company is also at pains to point out that ASP isn’t spyware, particularly having seen so many claims that its previous-generation CDS-200 system installed that kind of code. It didn’t – it just installed a player application. It’s SunnComm’s MediaMax C3 system that installs a driver to block ripping. However, be they right or be they wrong, spyware/malware/virus claims are going to be levelled at Macrovision when CDS Version 7 ships with its ASP installer.
UK marketing chief Simon Mehlman told The Register that ASP is 99 per cent effective against 15 of most common rippers and cloners, but admitted that protection isn’t at 100 per cent. Indeed, we note that iTunes isn’t on Macrovision’s list, probably because it allows users to rip discs through an error-correction mechanism that resembles those found in consumer electronics CD players.
Mehlman said Macrovision is actively researching coding to foil discs ripped on a Mac, and is working on a version of ASP for the Mac OS. If the company is successful in persuading Apple to license its FairPlay DRM technology, it will add iPod support – essentially by adding FairPlay-protected AAC tracks to each protected CD’s data session.