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Barely Legal

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In a fortnight Rixstep's Xfile may be illegal. As may Radsoft's X-file.

In less than a month the Unix command line may be illegal. All three are capable of circumventing copy protection schemes.

According to new laws being passed in Europe - and current legislation already on the books in the US and elsewhere - these programs are accessories to crime: they're both authentic file managers.

So they're actually illegal already today.

Think this is a joke? Wait and see. There's a movement afoot to make Linux illegal for precisely that reason. Already there are programs that may not be put in Linux releases for precisely that reason. They're considered illegal.

It's no joke.

Rocks & Hard Places

On the one hand there are technological breakthroughs. Companies come along who give people the means to record and copy files such as MP3s and MPEGs. That's the rock.

On the other hand companies come along who try to control how people use these technological breakthroughs. That's the hard place.

But the rock and the hard place can be the same company. Sony own a big chunk of Hollywood, and yet it's the same Sony who recently pulled the 'DRM rootkit' stunt.

??AA & Apple

Apple have wedged themselves between the rock and the hard place. They found a niche where previously there was none. Obviously people want to download music and media files in general. The ??AA want people to pay.

The ??AA wanted to use a subscription model. Apple told them they were nuts. They tried anyway - and failed miserably. Finally they crawled to Apple.

Apple start selling songs for $1. The ??AA watch as the money rolls in - and then get greedy again. They want variable prices. They want to be able to charge as much as $3 for a single song. Apple say no.

And one of the reasons the Apple idea works is that people don't have it easy copying their iPod songs back off the iPod to their hard drives. The ??AA don't really like people doing that. Fortunately Apple have the answer.

Getting ordinary users to not use Apple's own file manager is nigh on impossible. And many users will try to do everything with their iTunes client. Easy enough: all you do is put 'FairPlay' copy protection in both programs.

Each time either of those programs copies a media file, it 'bungles' the FairPlay data in the file. After a while (five copies) the programs say 'no'.

Of course the files themselves are simply data files and no more. They can't do any of this. But this means that any other method of copying those files won't 'bungle' the FairPlay data. And people will be able to copy their files freely.

And to make it even more difficult, the Apple file manager is able to hide these files from view. And the iTunes client cooperates with this scheme.

Of course all people have to do is use a tool like Xfile or drop to a command line.

The ??AA would therefore like to outlaw using any tool that shows you everything on your disk. That has to be Xfile, X-file, and the Unix command line.


Ponder for a moment what's going on here: for a small effort, all these copy protection schemes can be circumvented. Conclusion? They're counting on people being lame. So far it would seem they're right.

Round 'Em Up

There are more outlaws the ??AA can round up.

  • Radsoft's X-scan. This will list everything on a Windows drive. Microsoft specifically do not list file system contents - they list 'shell namespace contents'. This may or may not be congruent with what's on disk.
  • Radsoft's X-find. Same diff.
  • Rixstep's CLIX. This program has commands for copying iPod songs back to the hard drive. It will also list anything anywhere - just like the Unix command line.
           Title: iPod Copy
        Category: iPod
     Description: copy iPod songs to hard drive (<name> is the iPod volume)
    Command Line: cp -R /Volumes/<name>/iPod_Control ~/Documents
  • Rixstep's Xscan. This program can list the contents of an iPod and copy it back to the hard drive.
  • Rixstep's FileInfo. This program can unhide files and directories the ??AA want hidden so they're accessible even with standard tools.

Renegade Sites

Any website offering a means to circumvent copy protection may be closed down no matter the country of origin. Any website offering a hyperlink to another website with a means to circumvent copy protection may be closed down no matter the country of origin. The following websites may, for example, be considered 'renegade' in the future and closed down.

64 Studio, Agnula, aLinux, Arch, Ark, ASPLinux, Astaro, Aurox, AUSTRUMI, BackTrack, BeleniX, Berry, BinToo, BLAG, Boing Boing, CentOS, ClarkConnect, CRUX, Damn Small Linux, Debian, DesktopBSD, Devil, DragonFly, dyne:bolic, easys, Edubuntu, Elive, EnGarde, Feather, Foresight, FoX Desktop, FreeBSD, FreeNAS, FreeSBIE, Frugalware, FSF, GeeXboX, GenieOS, Gentoo, GNOME, GNUstep, GoblinX, GoboLinux, GParted, Groklaw, Helix, IBM, ImpiLinux, IPCop, K12LTSP, KANOTIX, Kate OS, KDE, KNOPPIX, Kororaa, Kubuntu, Kurumin, LFS, LG3D, Linspire, Linux Kernel Archives, Linux Kernel Mailing List, Linux XP, LiveCD Router, Lunar, m0n0wall, Mandriva, MediainLinux, MEPIS, Morphix, MoviX, Musix, NetBSD, Nexenta, Novell, Onebase, OpenBSD, OpenDarwin, OSDisc.com, PC-BSD, PCLinuxOS, pocketlinux, Puppy, QiLinux, Radsoft, Red Hat, Rixstep, rPath, RR4/RR64, Rubix, Scientific, Slackware, SLAX, SME Server, SmoothWall, Sorcerer, SourceForge, StartCom, STX, Sun, SuSE, Symphony OS, SystemRescue, tinysofa, TLMP, Topologilinux, Trixbox, Turbolinux, Ubuntu, Ultima, Underground, Vector Linux, VideoLinux, VidaLinux, Vine, VLOS, White Box, Wolvix, Xandros, Xorcom, Yellow Dog Linux, Yoper, YES Linux, Zenwalk.

For a complete list of renegade sites click here.

It Can Happen To You

You think you're immune? Think again. What are you reading right now? That's right: a web page with hyperlinks to and additional information about websites that have products that can circumvent copy protection. What happens if you menton this to anyone? What happens if you don't empty your web caches and someone else uses your computer and visits one of the above sites? You're an accessory, aren't you?

Don't let it happen to you. Stay offline and stay safe.

Click here to see the 31 May 2006 Swedish police raid on The Pirate Bay at YouTube.

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