Break Universal's protected music CD; with a DVD drive!

Our good buddy Patrick Norton (of TechTV's "The Screen Savers" fame) has discovered that it's possible to rip mp3's of Universal's music CD's, protected by the Cactus Data Shield system, using a DVD drive! (Just spotted the story in my mid morning browse of SlashDot).

With a purchased copy of the "More Music" CD, I discovered that it is possible to copy the disc and burn MP3s from it using software freely available for download online.

With the copy protection working, a Windows PC shows the files and automatically runs the CactusPJ audio player that comes with the CD. (The CactusPJ player features difficult-to-see buttons and needs a second window to show track info. It also shows up as possible spyware on Ad-aware 5.6.) In theory, it's the only way to play audio from a CDS-protected disc on a Windows machine. Without significant effort, you can't play this disc with any other player, nor can you rip it to MP3 audio -- in theory.

However, a number of computer systems with DVD drives don't "see" the copy-protected version of the disc. The systems that didn't see the copy-protected files -- files we understand are installed by Midbar Tech's Cactus Data Shield -- just showed a normal audio CD.

On the computers where the copy protection didn't work, you can see all 14 CDA tracks on "More Fast and Furious." While Track 1 wouldn't play (using WinAMP, WMP, MusicMatch, and so on), the rest of the tracks play normally. More importantly, all the tracks were rippable to MP3 format.

It turns out that the DVD drives in the systems we tested SEE straight through Midbar Tech's copy protection. The drives don't see the files CDS installs on the audio CD, nor are they confused by the table of contents tweaking done by the CDS.

We tested the DVD drive, an NEC DV-5700A, on a number of different Windows 98 and XP systems. None of the machines had any trouble seeing or ripping all the tracks, or playing tracks 2 through 14. NEC doesn't normally sell retail, but it supplies DVD drives to Dell. In fact, all of the Dell systems we tested saw through the copy protection.

This is copy protection? Here's a better question: Are all Dell owners with DVD drives who buy CDS copy-protected discs in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act? Perhaps, if they purchase the NEC DVD drive just for the purpose of circumventing the copy protection.

News source: The Screen Savers

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