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Written by Daniel   
Wednesday, 27 September 2006 09:29
Microsoft sues over source code theft
By John Borland
Special to CNET News.com
Published: September 26, 2006, 4:19 PM PDT
Last modified: September 27, 2006, 3:02 AM PDT
 
update Microsoft has filed a federal lawsuit against an alleged hacker who broke through its copy protection technology, charging that the mystery developer somehow gained access to its copyrighted source code.

For more than a month, the Redmond, Wash., company has been combating a program released online called FairUse4WM, which successfully stripped anticopying guards from songs downloaded through subscription media services such as Napster or Yahoo Music.

This latest round of copy-protection headaches comes at a delicate time for Microsoft, as it prepares to launch a music player and service that could put partners' noses out of joint.

Microsoft has released two successive patches aimed at disabling the tool. The first worked--but the hacker, known only by the pseudonym "Viodentia," quickly found a way around the update, the company alleges. Now the company says this was because the hacker had apparently gained access to copyrighted source code unavailable to previous generations of would-be crackers.

"Our own intellectual property was stolen from us and used to create this tool," said Bonnie MacNaughton, a senior attorney in Microsoft's legal and corporate affairs division. "They obviously had a leg up on any of the other hackers that might be creating circumvention tools from scratch."

In a Web posting early Wednesday morning, Viodentia denied using any copyrighted Microsoft code, and released yet another version of his tool.

"FairUse4WM has been my own creation, and has never involved Microsoft source code," the developer wrote. "I link with Microsoft's static libraries provided with the compiler and various platform SDK (software development kit) files."

This latest round of copy-protection headaches comes at a delicate time for Microsoft. In a few months, the company plans to launch its own digital music subscription service, called "Zune," paired with an iPod device rival of the same name. The package will compete with services from Microsoft's traditional partners, such as Napster and Yahoo.

The Zune service and device will use their own flavor of digital rights management, and this will not be directly compatible with Microsoft's partners' products, despite being based on the same Windows Media technology. The company is taking great pains to assure its partners that their PlaysForSure-branded products are still state of the art.

Two-pronged approach
At the moment, Microsoft is taking a two-pronged technical and legal approach to FairUse4WM that goes beyond the scope of its earlier DRM battles. Much More...

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