Circumvention of DRM and TPM
2008/7/10 Bill <firstname.lastname@example.org>:
If you have had reason to infringe or circumvent copyright
please reply to me off list with a short message giving
details of its type, need and purpose. All confidential.
There's no need for me to be confidential about the following example, since all actions performed were legal.
A friend and I ran a fairly serious amateur recording studio set-up about ten years ago. We recorded school concerts and local bands. We used to master to DAT or SADiE and give clients audio CD-Rs of the results. Sometimes we'd just master direct to CD-R. All these CD-Rs were recorded with a Philips CDR870 consumer audio CD recorder.
The CDR870 had two kinds of copy-protection mechanism. The first, SCMS, is well documented: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_Copy_Management_System
The second mechanism was this: the CDR870 would refuse to record on non-"consumer" CD-Rs. "Consumer" CD-Rs were, effectively, taxed by copyright owners: they would be sold at a higher price than regular CD-Rs (at that time, in London, they were typically £3 to £5 per disc, versus £1 to £2 for a regular CD-R) and the excess profit would be, in theory, distributed to people or companies holding copyright in sound recordings. The idea was that, if, for instance, I used my CDR870 to make copies of Madonna CDs for my friends, Madonna would not go uncompensated for those copies as long as they were made using "consumer" CD-Rs.
The trouble was we weren't interested in copying Madonna CDs. The CD-Rs we were making for our clients were not in breach of any copyright laws, and no license fee was due on them. To enrich unrelated third parties like Madonna simply so we could make CD-Rs for our clients of their own music (to which they owned the rights) on their request, was patently unjust. So we circumvented the system. It turned out that the CDR870 would record to regular discs if it was fed a "consumer" disc before setting it to pause/record and then prising open its tray to replace the "consumer" CD-R with a regular one. This way, we only needed to pay for one "consumer" CD-R in total, for the lifetime of the machine.
(NB. Why did we persist in using the CDR870 given that it had a lame copy-protection mechanism that we had to work around every time we used it? Because it was the only CD writer on the market that had the features we needed at a price we could afford, that's why.)