September 19, 2020

SunnComm Responds

Hiawatha Bray’s story in today’s Boston Globe reports on SunnComm’s response to Alex Halderman’s dissection of SunnComm’s CD copy-protection technology.

”There’s nothing in his report that’s surprising,” said SunnComm president Bill Whitmore. ”There’s nothing in the report that I’m concerned about.” Whitmore said his company’s system is simply supposed to give honest music lovers a legal way to make copies for personal use, not to stop large-scale piracy.

This is hard to square with SunnComm’s previous assertion that the technology offers “an incredible level of security”, that it “met the toughest standards”, and that it passed tests in which the “security level offered by the MediaMax technology was pushed to the limit.”

It’s also worth noting that if your goal is indeed “to give honest music lovers a legal way to make copies for personal use, not to stop large-scale piracy”, you can achieve this goal perfectly by offering ordinary, unmodified CDs.

UPDATE (Oct. 10, 10:50 AM): Don’t miss this satirical “story” at Kuro5hin.

Comments

  1. Chris Tunnell says:

    I think it is important to note that this type of trick would stop a good portion of casual P2P users. It would be interesting to see some numbers on this.

    I also find it ironic that a company that is being used to help the RIAA fight against large-scale piracy states that it actually isn’t their goal.

  2. >> I think it is important to note that this type of trick
    >> would stop a good portion of casual P2P users.

    It might stop a good portion of casual users from making it available on p2p networks, but it does nothing to stop casual p2p downloaders from getting the tracks shared by those willing to go the miniscule extra mile to put it up. Then you have unsecured copies all over Kazaa, and it doesn’t really matter if the CD itself is protected…

  3. It only takes 1 person to crack a copy protection scheme in order to put a ‘clean’ copy up on a p2p network. Thanks to the viral distribution which p2p networks provide, 1 copy could turn into millions in a very short period of time.

    Companies like SunnComm sell a false sense of security to companies who are afraid that private non-commercial copying will somehow hurt their bottom line.

    Any copy protection that relies on the ignorance of the user to work effectively will have no impact on p2p distribution.

  4. “Lightyears Beyond Encryption” Sunncomm’s banner proudly exclaims, next read the financial disclaimer and then wonder why the company was buying back stock. Let’s hope this pompous company disappears very quickly amongst howls of derisive laughter.

    This is the best news I have heard in a long time. Shift key, indeed! Good work.

  5. Cypherpunk says:

    The music industry is pushing for the replacement of CDs by new formats like DVD-Audio and SACD, “super audio” CD. You can bet the copy protection on these formats won’t be disabled as simply as pressing the shift key! According to http://www.disctronics.co.uk/technology/dvdaudio/dvdaud_sacd.htm, these formats are encrypted, and unlike the CSS system used for DVD video, no software-based players will be allowed. We should not conclude from this latest fiasco that music protection is inherently impossible.

  6. Here goes the legal action…

    http://biz.yahoo.com/bw/031009/95573_1.html

  7. from the above story:


    SunnComm Technologies Inc. (OTC: STEH – News), a leader in digital content
    security and enhancement for optical media, announced today that it
    intends to take legal action against the writer of a critical report
    titled: “Analysis of the MediaMax CD3 Copy-Prevention System.” According
    to Peter Jacobs, SunnComm’s CEO, “The conclusions contained in the Princeton University grad student’s report issued last Monday were derived from incorrect assumptions by its author. The author did not ask for, or
    receive, SunnComm’s MediaMax ‘white paper’ documentation available on the
    technology prior to concluding that ‘MediaMax and similar copy-prevention
    systems are irreparably flawed …'”

  8. I am stuck now on Sunncomm’s disclaimer page and can’t scroll down to exit the page if that is the procedure. Do I have to hold down the shift key here and now? Yes, I am serious, stop laughing. All I want to do is find a contact in the company to complain about it. Maybe if they added a scrollbar, but that would have been covered in Windows 102.

  9. Chris Tunnell says:

    In response to CypherPunk:

    The problem with developing new formats is the adoption of players into the market. People use hardware players in cars, homes and so forth. This means that they can’t be upgraded with as much ease as software and thus an economic strategy of “no one can listen to our music unless they buy our hardware” will hurt more than P2P sharing.

    Also, how can we ever assume that one would be able to play a CD on an audio-player and not on a computer when computers are fancy CD-players.

    To Kaltes and Albert:
    Yes, you are right, but that makes a fair assumption that most sharers are downloaders.

  10. Cypherpunk says:

    Chris, you are right that switching to a new format is not easy. But the industry did it before with the transition from vinyl LPs to CDs, and they hope to do it again. Not only will the new format be more piracy-proof, but it could also force people to re-buy their entire collection as happened with CDs, an enormous revenue windfall for the music industry.

    Naturally, these are not the points on which the new formats are marketed. Rather, they are presented as providing better sound quality, surround sound, and fidelity improvements. The stereo magazines are full of raves about how great these new formats sound. It remains to be seen whether the claimed improvements are sufficient to motivate people to switch in large numbers.

    As far as computer players, the idea is that they will use some kind of protective hardware. You will be able to play your SACD on the computer but the keys and crypto won’t be in software. That was the error that allowed the creation of the DeCSS program, which relied on reverse engineering a software DVD player.

  11. As posted on slashdot, SunnComm are suing Alex, including an invocation of the DMCA (see the businesswire story here).

  12. Cypherpunk, there is already a software player capable of playing DVD-Audio discs – the latest version of Intervideo’s WinDVD has an optional plug-in available that will play them, no additional hardware required. Creative’s Audigy 2 can also apparently play these discs.

  13. SunnComm Says It Won’t Sue Halderman

    SunnComm, which had previously said it planned to sue Alex Halderman for publishing a critique of SunnComm’s CD anti-copying technology, has now backed off. According to Josh Brodie’s story in today’s Daily Princetonian, SunnComm president Peter Jacobs…

  14. Curtis Brown says:

    Cyberpunk,

    Thanks for the link to the disktronics site, I did not have that resource in my favorites and it is a very well written site.

    Why should consumers purchase new players and decoder cards for their computer just to play the DVD-Audio and SACD, “super audio” CD. What junk, I could find no discernable improvement in the proposed standard that the average user could enjoy. Who among us has the speaker/pre-amp/Amp systems and the sound engineered listening rooms that this improved quality would be apparent in. Speaking for myself I do not have a sound system of that quality in my home, much less my computer.

    In addition, where is the ‘backup copy’ provisioned in the right of ownership of audio and video media permits us. If the disk is damaged, are the vendors going to send a free disk out to the consumer? I think not!!! This is another attack on the consumer’s freedom to preserve their investment. Media cost are still very high and will go higher to recoup the high cost of the SACD pressing equipment.

    I am surprised that Phillips or Sony has not considered that case of IBM and the PS2 computers. IBM has learned its lesson, let us hope that Phillips and Sony might learn from the mistakes of history so they would not repeat them.

    What does all this mean? I believe that this a not too subtle attempt by the media industry to completely control what you listen to, what you watch, what you say. George Orwell would have raised the banner “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU!!!” and he would not have been wrong.

    Thanks for all your time.

  15. Cyberpunk,

    Thanks for the link to the disktronics site, I did not have that resource in my favorites and it is a very well written site.

    Why should consumers purchase new players and decoder cards for their computer just to play the DVD-Audio and SACD, “super audio” CD. What junk, I could find no discernable improvement in the proposed standard that the average user could enjoy. Who among us has the speaker/pre-amp/Amp systems and the sound engineered listening rooms that this improved quality would be apparent in. Speaking for myself I do not have a sound system of that quality in my home, much less my computer.

    In addition, where is the ‘backup copy’ provisioned in the right of ownership of audio and video media permits us. If the disk is damaged, are the vendors going to send a free disk out to the consumer? I think not!!! This is another attack on the consumer’s freedom to preserve their investment. Media cost are still very high and will go higher to recoup the high cost of the SACD pressing equipment.

    I am surprised that Phillips or Sony has not considered that case of IBM and the PS2 computers. IBM has learned its lesson, let us hope that Phillips and Sony might learn from the mistakes of history so they would not repeat them.

    What does all this mean? I believe that this a not too subtle attempt by the media industry to completely control what you listen to, what you watch, what you say. George Orwell would have raised the banner “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU!!!” and he would not have been wrong.

    Thanks for all your time.

  16. Cyberpunk,

    Thanks for the link to the disktronics site, I did not have that resource in my favorites and it is a very well written site.

    Why should consumers purchase new players and decoder cards for their computer just to play the DVD-Audio and SACD, “super audio” CD. What junk, I could find no discernable improvement in the proposed standard that the average user could enjoy. Who among us has the speaker/pre-amp/Amp systems and the sound engineered listening rooms that this improved quality would be apparent in. Speaking for myself I do not have a sound system of that quality in my home, much less my computer.

    In addition, where is the ‘backup copy’ provisioned in the right of ownership of audio and video media permits us. If the disk is damaged, are the vendors going to send a free disk out to the consumer? I think not!!! This is another attack on the consumer’s freedom to preserve their investment. Media cost are still very high and will go higher to recoup the high cost of the SACD pressing equipment.

    I am surprised that Phillips or Sony has not considered that case of IBM and the PS2 computers. IBM has learned its lesson, let us hope that Phillips and Sony might learn from the mistakes of history so they would not repeat them.

    What does all this mean? I believe that this a not too subtle attempt by the media industry to completely control what you listen to, what you watch, what you say. George Orwell would have raised the banner “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU!!!” and he would not have been wrong.

    Thanks for all your time.

  17. Folks

    Sorry for the mutiple posts. My browser did not go back to the comments page after clicking the POST button. I appologise for the inconvience.

    C. Brown

  18. Folks

    Sorry for the mutiple posts. My browser did not go back to the comments page after clicking the POST button. I appologise for the inconvience.

    C. Brown

  19. Cypherpunk says:

    Penguin, thanks for that information. I was wrong about DVD-Audio not providing for software players. It was SACD which will not allow for software players, according to http://www.sacd.philips.com/b2b/downloads/content_protection.pdf: “The descrambling algorithm is available in hardware only. The license contract does not allow the algorithm to be made available in software.”

    For DVD-Audio, http://www.dvd-copy.com/reference/dvd_audio_CSS2.pdf does discuss software implementations for DVD-Audio. They use a different algorithm than CSS which is supposed to be stronger.

    What happened with CSS is that the designers anticipated that a decryption key might be extracted from a software player, but they thought they could disable that decryption key on future disks. What they did not realize was that CSS was so weak that once the algorithm was extracted from the software player, cryptanalysis was possible and you could decrypt any DVD disk without even knowing a key! This is an incredibly bad job of crypto algorithm design. I hope for their sake that they did a better job on the new algorithm, which is called CPPM.

  20. The Trusted Technology Fallacy

    I’ve been thinking for awhile about the problem of trust and technology. Let me say up front that I’m not thinking (or writing) about the kind of every-day trust that we must place in technology to exist as human beings; that is, the trust that I exhib…