OK – is this a) AOL working to stay out of the Grokster/inducing infringements lines of fire; b) AOL trying to keep Microsoft from exercising its market power to protect its Janus/WM DRM; c) something else? And, is AOL doing this on its own initiative, or is there someone putting pressure on them already? AOL blocks music-copying feature
America Online is disabling a feature of its popular music software that had been used to evade copy-prevention features of digital music services, the company said Friday.
The company’s Winamp software was identified by bloggers this week as part of a process that transformed copy-protected music downloads into songs that could be burned by the thousand to CD. The tool had potentially affected any subscription service that used Microsoft’s media format, including Napster, Virgin Music and even America Online’s own music subscription plan.
AOL programmers are taking a series of steps to prevent its software from being used in this way, a representative said.
“Immediately upon discovering this flaw, we worked quickly to address it and to ensure that Winamp can continue to provide secure playback of Windows Media content,” spokeswoman Ann Burkart said. “A fix is being implemented today in existing players, and a new player will be posted for users to download.”
And, of course, there’s also this question – where does the Audio Home Recording Act exception fit in – is this, instead, an overreaction by AOL:
The process was essentially a high-tech version of recording a song off the radio. Antipiracy software, including Microsoft’s, typically prevents a direct digital copy from being made. But some software packages, dubbed “stream rippers,” allow a computer to rerecord audio as it is being played.
Finally, here’s something to make every AOL subscriber happy:
AOL has already removed the Winamp plug-in that made this process fairly simple. Programmers are developing a patch that will be automatically pushed to the software’s users. The patch will probably disable altogether the ability to play copy-protected songs in Microsoft’s format. [emphasis added]