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Anti-DRM Protest Part II in NYC
December 1, 2005
Thomas Mennecke
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Rootkits, viruses, DRM, and Trojans. Although very different from one another, in recent weeks they have become more synonymous. Thanks to the Sony-BMG XCP (Extended Copy Protection) fiasco, public reaction has escalated into public awareness. The public awareness generated by the inclusion of DRM (Digital Rights Management) has manifested in various fashions, including the recent DRM protest in New York City.

Many things have changed since the first anti-DRM protest in late October of 2005. The first anti-DRM protest was significant, but lacked a certain disconnect with the consumer. One month’s time managed to change, thanks to Sony-BMG Music. Only three days after the first anti-DRM protest, SysInternals’ Mark Russinovich discovered the existence of a rootkit on his computer. Once an obscure computer term with little public knowledge, the term ‘rootkit’ has been launched into the spotlight due to extensive mainstream media coverage. Although not necessarily associated with viruses, rootkits by design hide folders and files, making contained programming (in this case DRM) undetectable by anti-virus and anti-spyware programs.

Protesters handing out flyers outside Tower Records.

Armed with a central focus, FreeCulture@NYU once again gathered in New York City. This time, the target was Tower Records at 4th Street and Broadway. Although this corner was not as crowded as Union Square Park (by New York standards), this allowed FreeCulture@NYU to spend more time on their message and less time dodging pedestrians. It also allowed for an interesting encounter with the store manager of Tower Records.

During the early part of the protest, a member of FreeCulutre@NYU entered Tower Records to investigate the status of the Sony-BMG recall. As part of Sony-BMG’s recall effort, the music label ordered all stores carrying CDs with the XCP technology to remove such products from their shelves.

Tower Record’s store manager came out to discuss the recent Sony-DRM fiasco with Fred Benenson, founder and organizer of the protest. Members of FreeCulture@NYU asked the store manager directly if all CDs containing XCP technology had been removed from their public inventory. The store manager insisted that all CDs containing such technology were removed. In a scene reminiscent of Cinderella whipping out the second glass slipper, “Tom” whipped out his own glass slipper – however this time it was the very CD that started it all; “Van Zant, Get it Right With the Man” - purchased fresh from Tower Records.

The store manager reacted fairly, and understandably finding every CD with such technology is a time consuming process. He also promised to look into the situation further and remove any remaining XCP CDs. With Tower Records only a few blocks from FreeCulture@NYU’s home base at New York University, follow-up investigations will verify Tower Record’s promise.

Much like the first protest, the reception from pedestrians was overwhelmingly positive. It’s not often people accept flyers from protesters in New York, but this was a message that applied especially well to those about to enter Tower Records. Shouting “The record industry hates you!” drew not only laughter from those passing by, but also drew attention to the issue. Many individuals who stopped to speak with FreeCulture@NYU were surprised about the Sony-BMG rootkit fracas, its implications, and DRM in general.

Protest organizers outside Tower Records.

Interestingly enough, the protest drew the presence and support of Richard M. Stallman. For those unfamiliar with the name, his contributions certainly are recognizable. Founder of GNU, or GNU’s Not Unix, Richard Stallman’s contribution to the P2P world, albeit indirect, have laid the foundation for free software and networks such as Gnutella. A staunch supporter of free software and vehemently opposed to DRM, Stallman’s energetic contributions gave the protest a charismatic dynamic.

The Sony-BMG rootkit has been an essential aid in gathering public interest and reaction to DRM. Reports show the public is already questioning the acceptance of DRM, as record store managers in Canada have witnessed consumers either returning or rejecting copy protected CDs. In addition, sales of the Van Zant’s XCP album have plummeted on With public attention increasing and apathy waning, the movement against DRM only stands to gather additional support in the coming months.

This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
File-Sharing/P2P Related :: DRM

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