Sky hit by Windows Media DRM crack

British broadcaster suspends movie downloads after arrival of new software that breaks Windows Media patch.

A correction was made to this story. Read below for details.
British TV network BSkyB has suspended its broadband movie download service, after a Microsoft security patch on Windows Media's digital rights management was cracked.

A notice on the Sky by Broadband service's home page reads: "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."

The patch had been rushed out by Microsoft after the appearance of a utility, called "FairUse4WM," designed to circumvent the media player's DRM. As DRM aims to prevent unauthorized copying of content, such circumvention could have jeopardized the business models of several subscription services that rely on the technology.

Days later, the creator of FairUse4WM released a new version that cracked Microsoft's patch. However, while this version allowed individual files to be stripped of DRM, it did not enable people to download and strip subscription services' entire catalogs.

Microsoft's response has been to assure its Windows Media licencees via memo that it has teams "working around the clock" to beat FairUse4WM, according to Engadget, which originally reported the story.

"The issue is a Microsoft issue, obviously. At the end of the day, we're using Windows Media as the application, and therefore we need Microsoft to ensure that the service is secure," a representative for BSkyB said Monday.

"The responsible way is to take it down or suspend it until we've secured the new patch," the representative added. A statement made by BSkyB last week apologized to the service's users for the interruption, but claimed the suspension would "support the continuing development of legal services that will meet customers' needs in the long term."

The debate over DRM technology is becoming increasingly heated, with the Free Software Foundation backing an "Anti-DRM day," scheduled for Oct. 3. Many in the content creation industry argue the technology is necessary to protect intellectual property and stimulate creativity, while some in the opposite camp view it as a cynical attempt by media companies to gain greater control over customers' usage of their products.

"As we did with the initial circumvention, Microsoft will use the built-in renewability features of Windows Media DRM to deploy an update to address this circumvention," Microsoft senior product manager Marcus Matthias said in a statement. "We are working on an update and have alerted our content provider customers. When ready, we will work with our content partners to deploy this solution."

David Meyer reported for ZDNet UK from London. CNET's Ina Fried contributed to this report.


Correction: The digital rights management utility FairUse4WM was misidentified in the original version of this story.
Featured Video
This content is rated TV-MA, and is for viewers 18 years or older. Are you of age?
Sorry, you are not old enough to view this content.

Microsoft demos wearable holograms on HoloLens

Microsoft shows off holograms you can hold with a mixed-reality game called Project X Ray. The new game runs on the company's HoloLens platform.