BSkyB Shuts Video Service After DRM Crack

A crack in the digital rights management software for Windows Media caused a British television network to suspend its movie and sports content download service while it updates the DRM on its files. A program called FairUse4WM is able to strip the copy protection from files.

"In order to make an essential update to the Sky by broadband security system, we are sorry that access to all movies and some sports content has been temporarily suspended," TV network BSkyB said in a statement on its site. "We will keep you posted on progress and apologise for any inconvenience."

BSkyB is busy applying a patch quickly released by Microsoft to combat the problem. However, the FairUse4WM creators struck again not soon after the patch's release, updating the software to crack Windows Media DRM once again. There was a critical difference this time: unlike the first version, which stripped the DRM from an entire library, this version only worked on one file at a time.

DRM has become a point of contention among those who argue for more freedom on the Internet. Apple has been a target, both by the French legislature and a host of Scandinavian countries. Several interest groups have also spoken out on the subject.

The argument revolves around the right to take purchased content and use it as the owner sees fit. It is especially prescient in light of the iPod's success; while there is only one music store for the iPod, iTunes, there are dozens based on the Windows Media platform.

Such an unbalanced market has created a need for programs like FairUse4WM, although even those who have advocated for fair use advise against their use.

"Forget about breaking the DRM to make traditional uses like CD burning and so forth," the Electronic Frontier Foundation has said. "Breaking the DRM or distributing the tools to break DRM may expose you to liability under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) even if you're not making any illegal uses."

In any case, it has given some content providers like BSkyB cold feet, and they have pulled their services offline to apply the fix. Microsoft has assured its partners that it has a team "working around the clock" to close the holes opened by FairUse4WM.

The Redmond company said it would use "the built-in renewability features of Windows Media DRM" to send the fix to users, as it did the first time. Microsoft gave no timetable for when it expects to release another update.

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