LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Princeton graduate student said on Monday that he has figured out a way to defeat new software intended to keep music CDs from being copied on a computer -- simply by pressing the Shift-key.
In a paper posted on his Web site late Monday, John Halderman said the MediaMax CD3 software developed by SunnComm Technologies Inc. (OTC BB:STEH.OB - news) could be defeated on computers running the Windows operating system by holding down the Shift key, disabling a Windows feature that automatically launches the encryption software on the disc.
Halderman said the protection could also be disabled by stopping the driver the CD installs when it is first inserted into a computer's drive.
Computers running Linux (news - web sites) and older versions of the Mac operating system are unable to run the software and are able to copy the disc freely, he said.
The CD in question, Anthony Hamilton's "Comin' From Where I'm From," was released by BMG's Arista label in late September. Music retailers praised the release, which BMG touted as a breakthrough in the industry's efforts to prevent music piracy.
"SunnComm's claims of robust protection collapse, when subjected to scrutiny, and their system's weaknesses are not only academic," Halderman said in the report.
A spokesman for SunnComm was not immediately available to comment on the report. A spokesman for BMG, a unit of Bertelsmann AG (news - web sites) (BERT.UL), said the company viewed the software as a "speed bump" to prevent mass piracy of the disc.
"We were fully aware that if someone held down the Shift key the first and every subsequent time (they played the disc) that the technology could be circumvented," BMG spokesman Nathaniel Brown told Reuters, adding the company "erred on the side of playability and flexibility."
Halderman, who has previously done research on CD copy-protection techniques and their effects on consumer sentiment, called the latest protection attempts into question.
"CD copy-prevention schemes that (depend) solely on software, as SunnComm's does, will be trivial to disable, and alternative strategies that modify the CD data format will invariably cause public outcry over incompatibility with legitimate playback devices," Halderman said.
The music industry has blamed piracy and online file sharing services for a prolonged slump in CD sales. Software like that from SunnComm has been seen as a way to slow down the tide of CDs being ripped into digital format and uploaded to the file sharing platforms.