by Doug Reece - MP3.com
Aug. 17, 1999
Even as Microsoft officially rolled
out its MS Audio 4 technology today, hackers in the MP3
community were busy touting a new program of their own.
As first reported by Dimension
Music, a hack, dubbed "unfuck" by its anonymous
creator, removes security from MS Audio files.
MP3.com tested the program on an
encrypted MS Audio file of Tori Amos' "Bliss" single and
found that unfuck successfully removed security hooks from the
The unfortunate timing of both
releases could call into question Microsoft's ability to give, as
the company mentioned in today's statement, "content
publishers the ability to control and manage the distribution and
use of digital audio and video content, extending existing
distribution models and enabling new e-commerce
To date, several major labels,
including Atlantic and Columbia, have experimented with the MS
Audio format. Columbia parent Sony Music Entertainment announced
in May that it had teamed with Microsoft to distribute its content
However, an SDMI memo leaked to
MP3.com in June noted that programs such as unfuck could, at some
point, be cause for "revocation" by the music industry.
Generally speaking, this term indicates the process by which a
device may have its SDMI-compliant status removed.
The unfuck hack, like the
Audiojacker and Total Recorder programs that preceded it, also
raises some interesting legal and technical issues.
Dimension Music founder Angelo
Sotira believes limitations on encryption technologies, sometimes
placed there by government agencies concerned with issues such as
the Central Intelligence Agency, weaken security mechanisms
"We all know that on some
level the CIA is involved in encryption technologies and how
effective they can be," said Sotira. "The fact is that
they are saying encryption can't be too complicated, and as a
result, we're never going to reach a level where something is
uncrackable. If the CIA can do it, others can do it. What it
really comes down to is that it's just a matter of time."
According to the Digital
Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA),
"No person shall circumvent a technological measure that
effectively controls access to a work protected under this title.
The prohibition contained in the preceding sentence shall take
effect at the end of the 2-year period beginning on the date of
the enactment of this chapter."
Still, the DMCA also takes care to
provide an exception to its anti-circumvention rules: "a
person may develop and employ technological means to circumvent a
technological measure, or to circumvent protection afforded by a
technological measure . . . for the purpose of enabling
interoperability of an independently created computer program with
other programs, if such means are necessary to achieve such
interoperability, to the extent that doing so does not constitute
Upon learning of the existence of
the unfuck program, Microsoft representatives said they would take
action to correct any security cracks.
"Obviously, Microsoft takes
security very seriously," said a Microsoft spokesperson.
"We can't confirm anything, but are looking into it."
Meanwhile, Microsoft chairman/CEO
Bill Gates was bullish on the new codec.
"Today's release of Windows
Media Technologies 4 sets a new standard for audio and video
quality on the Internet," said Gates in today's statement.
"The delivery of Internet CD-quality audio with unprecedented
compression accelerates the availability of a whole new class of
applications and will usher in the next generation of digital
media over the Internet."