some questions on rip proof cds

  1. It seems that playing a cd you buy that is rip proof
    on a computer requires your use of microsoft products.
    Does this give microsoft a monopoly in the legal sense?

  2. Is it true that rip proof cds can damage some cd

  3. If I buy a cd and find it is rip proof, can I return it
    for a full refund? (I like to create mp3s for use in
    winamp and my mp3 player, and if I can’t I would want to
    be able to return the cd for a refund.)

  4. Is it illegal to write a program to create mp3s from
    rip proof cds, even if you only intend to create mp3s of
    cds you bought? (Not that I have the technical ability to
    do this, just curious.)

I guess so, technically… I’m not too keen on the legal-ese. I’d assume that once they become more and more popular, more third party vendors will distribute players, as well.

I believe so, yes.

It would depend on each store’s policy. I think most electronic stores will allow returns if the CD is in its original packaging, unopened. Otherwise, probably not unless there’s a physical defect with the CD. I’d check ahead of time to find out which are and aren’t “rip proof”. This won’t stop you from ripping MP3s, but it might make it more involved.

I don’t see why it would be. The CD is yours to do with as you please, IIRC.

Only for the first couple weeks, until it is cracked. And it would give Microsoft a monopoly until then, but the question is whether or not it is an illegal monopoly.

I hope not, or someone is going to replacing a whole lot of CD players out of their company’s pocket.

I’m sure this will depend entirely on the store, not the CD.

Depends on who you ask, what day of the week, the phase of the moon, and other interesting factors.

As a general rule no store will allow you to return a CD that has been opened, unless it is defective–and then they’ll only allow you to exchange it for the same CD. It’s pretty logical actually, without this policy what would stop everybody from buying the latest CD, recording it to cassette, and then returning it?

Wal-Mart, God bless them, will exchange sometimes - I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

Then again - and this is from a relative who worked the return counter at Wal-Mart - they even will take back used underwear!!! :eek:

Actually, in the US the DMCA (digital millenium copyright act?) specifically forbids reverse-engineering for the purpose of removing digital rights management schemes. This clause in DMCA is often cited as a huge flaw because it protects even trivial protections (e.g. ROT13).

Compare to the DeCSS case which applied to DVD but is otherwise exactly analogous to this situation. DeCSS landed non-US coders and a lot of innocent bystanders (e.g. 2600 simply linking to the code) in court for DMCA violations.

This doesn’t prevent you from actually cracking the scheme, but the OP asked if it was illegal and I believe the answer is “yes” as long as DMCA is on the books. Feel free to beat your Congressional Representative with a cluestick.

You’re probably right, but I thought (for some reason) that that portion of the DMCA applied only to distribution, not personal use.

IANAEOBL (expert on bad legislation…), but I think the comparison to the DeCSS case applies. DeCSS was written solely to allow people to play the DVDs they owned on their Linux machines with DVD players. Because of the proprietary nature of the DVD decoders, no “authorized” manufacturer had made a Linux version of the software, so the DeCSS authors simply cracked the encryption scheme and wrote a player. The industry group regards viewing legally owned DVDs as piracy unless you use an authorized app, so they prosecuted.

There may be some semantic legal points involved. It may have been argued that DeCSS could be used for piracy and the fact that it could also be used for “fair use” was not enough to make it legal. In any case, any copy-protection cracker for CDs is going to be on even more shaky ground since you can already use the CD (which was not the case with DVDs under Linux).

That’s the interesting one, I think. From what I know, many of the so-called rip-proof cds were NOT labeled as such. Because they were labeled as audio CDs, yet do not conform to the Red-book standards (If they did, they wouldn’t be rip-proof), they are defective. I think this is reason enough to get a full refund, if not from the store, then from the distributor. Perhaps you could even bring up fraud. Of course, this only applies to those cds which are mislabeled.

I’m almost positive that the DMCA prohibits any cracking. In fact, if I recall my copyrights class correctly, previous law only prohibited distribution of cracked materials; the applicable provision of the DMCA closed that loophole. Note that AFAIK no case has ever held that ripping mp3’s, even for purely personal use, is legal. I think it probably isn’t.

law-school graduate

I don’t think the reverse-engineering/cracking parts of DMCA would cover ripping of normal CDs to MP3 since this is just a read/write operation with a format change. There is no copy-protection to circumvent, so there’s no “cracking”. This would be covered by more traditional copyright law regarding distribution. I think there is precedent regarding using cassette tapes to duplicate albums which held that this qualified as fair use as long as there was no distribution of the copied work. However, IANAL and don’t have a cite.

However, if the CD is copy-protected, then DMCA would apply to anything done to circumvent that, fair use, non-distributed, whatever. Note that DMCA is worded so loosely that they could probably just say the CD was copy-protected, and the act of looking at the format to see that it wasn’t would qualify as reverse engineering.

Yes, I agree. To the extent my previous post suggests otherwise, assume it’s due to poor communication on my part.

As for copying CD’s to tape, the Audio Home Taping Act of 19xx was passed for just this reason. However, ripping mp3’s, even solely for backup purposes, might not be covered under this Act. I think it wouldn’t be for various reasons, but particularly because mp3’s are much more faithful to the original track than a tape copy. They’re also far easier to distribute. The inherent degredation in multi-generation tape copies was one the reasons why the recording industry and congressmen sympathetic to it were willing to live with this Act.


It does seem to give Microsoft a temporary monopoly but a monopoly is NOT illegal. It is only illegal to use your monopoly power to keep others from competing with you. Chances are good that other third party programs will become available so you don’t have to rely on Microsoft’s product alone.

Yes, it seems to be true. Supposedly some CD players will view the copy protection as errors and will constantly re-adjust the head trying to get what it thinks should be there. This constant readjusting adds a alot of wear-and-tear to the player and can cause it to fail much sooner than what would be considered normal.

Others have already done a fine job on these points.

Now that the DMCA makes DVD and audio protection illegal to crack by anyone, these two protection schemes will become the crypts of choice among terrorists, just watch. What the f-- was Congress thinking!!! This is worse than my Christina Aguilera CD virus idea.

Actually, I doubt there’s much threat of terrorists using the encryptions schemes from CDs or DVDs. These products use fairly trivial, easy-to-crack encryption. The industries involved are less interested in strong encryption than they are in the legal machinations that allow them to pursue pirates and limit unauthorized distribution. That is, they’re just as happy with weak encryption as long as they’re allowed to prosecute crackers.

OTOH, other groups like businesses, telecommuters, commerce systems (and yes, terrorists, but I refuse to buy into the lame argument that only criminals need strong crypto) care about the actual strength of the algorithm. If their crypto is cracked and their private business is exposed, the damage is done and any after-the-fact prosecution of the crackers is unlikely to provide remedy.

DMCA will limit the distribution of cracking kits for CDs and DVDs, but that doesn’t mean anyone seriously interested in security is going to adopt those algorithms. It’s just as easy to code up something strong and not have to worry about cracking in the first place.