The hot debate, aside from Intelligent Design, seems to be Sony XCP CD copy protection on the disk itself. Sony uses anti-piracy software on the disk that installs deep into the Windows operating system after a user accepts the EULA. It is mentioned in the EULA that anti-piracy software will be installed when accepting the agreement. However, what users are not aware of, is now your computer has a large gaping security hole for viruses and trojans. What’s new for Windows, right?
Sony claims that the design of the anti-piracy software was not intended to comprimise computers, but merely for a means to stop CD piracy. However, a virus attached to an email highjacks the XCP anti-piracy software and opens a backdoor to the user’s computer. Once the security hole is opened, the user’s PC becomes zombie-like downloading more viruses and trojans further infecting the computer. Of course, the user and his data are victim to thousands of crackers worldwide. Sony, has since suspended production of the XCP anti-piracy software on their CDs and have issued an apology to consumers saying they are working with security firms to make sure this doesn’t happen.
This is all great and stuff, but what does this mean for Linux? If the XCP software is installed on Windows machines, can the same be said about Linux? Well, I have a Sony BMG disk with the XCP software on the disk. When I pop the disk into my Linux box, I am not prompted with an EULA, and I can play the disk directly. One trick that Sony BMG and MediaMax have been doing is encoding data into the audio tracks to prevent converting the music to MP3s. The result, when using a Windows computer, is an MP3 with a lot of garbled junk during the music. The music is hardly audible. However, using my Linux computer, converting to an MP3 resulted in a clean track without all the garbage. This is only possible if the player or encoder encodes the music only, ignoring any data thay may be mixed in. Using the LAME MP3 encoder, I was able to extract perfectly clean MP3s. Continuing further, I was able to make a perfect backup of the disk without the software. Loading the newly copied CD into a Windows machine, I was not prompted with an EULA, and I could play the CD directly. Also, I could make clean MP3 tracks from the disk without all the garbage- still using Windows.
Moral? Use Linux. Of course, this isn’t to say that Sony will not develop the same anti-piracy software for Linux boxes. It is only time when Linux dethrones Windows as the superior OS, and Linux gains the attention of the Big 5 recording labels. However, designing such software will be difficult, as every distribution is different, and partitions can get very complex. Plus, if the user is not allowed administer priveleges, installing the software won’t be possible, thus risking hurting CD sales. So for the time being, using Linux means keeping the Big 5 at bay with their anti-piracy software. While I do not condone pirating CDs, you should be able to make as many backups as you please, seeing as you own the disk, and have the right to play those copies in your own personal CD player, as outlined by the Copyright Protection Act. Linux makes this possible.
Sidenote: If you are new to Linux, and have not yet installed the OS on your system, you can use a bootable CD to run the OS. Bootable disks do not install anything on your hard drive, and run almost as fast as if they were installed. Simply download a live CD from a LInux vendor of your choice, burn the disk, place it in your CDROM, reboot the machine, and enjoy using LInux. The only drawback to this method, is you would need 2 CDROMS on your computer if you want to use a live Linux CD and also backup a Sony anti-piracy infected CD, as the software needs to access the live Linux CD.