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Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Users Bypass Copy Protection on Portable Napster


Users have found a way to skirt copy protection on Napsters portable music subscription service just days after its high-profile launch, potentially letting them make CDs with hundreds of thousands of songs for free.

Such users are already providing instructions to other would-be song burners through technology Web sites like BoingBoing. (http://www.boingboing.net). Napster is currently offering a free trial of its new Napster To Go service, which will enable users for a monthly $15 fee to download as much music as they want and transfer it to a portable device. They can also pay 99 cents for each track they want to burn to a CD.

That "rental" model for digital entertainment, backed by giant software concern Microsoft Corp. (MSFT.O: Quote, Profile, Research) and others, is getting its most serious mass-market tryout yet with Napster to Go.

But, according to various Web sites, thwarting the intellectual property protections of the service is as easy as a free software patch.

Engadget.com said by installing the digital music program Winamp and then adding a secondary program to Winamp called Output Stacker, users could convert the digitally protected files from one format to another that can then be burned, unencumbered, onto CDs. "We're not going to advise you to do anything untoward, but apparently if you install Winamp along with the Output Stacker plug-in you can convert those protected WMA files to WAV files and then burn them to CD without paying a penny. Or at least an extra penny," Engadget.com said in an item on its site.

A spokeswoman for Napster said that such endeavors were nothing new and the company was not too concerned. "The DRM (digital rights management) is intact. Basically, people are just recording off a sound card. This is nothing new and people could do this with any legitimate service if they want to use a sound card," she said. "This kind of attack has been around for a long time and it's just because of our higher profile that it has sparked such interest," she said.

She said the company had no record of who was doing the illicit recording.

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