Trouble With Velvet Revolver

Rants59 Comments

The other day I was talking about how Apple made me happy again. I threatened to just buy the CD at the store if not. Well, now and then I do buy the CD from Amazon. My reasons are: 1) if I like the band a lot and want the songs in the highest quality, 2) you get a hard copy that will last forever (vs. burning a CD-R), 3) weird sentimental value.

So I just bought the new Velvet Revolver CD. It showed up yesterday. There is a sticker on the package that says:

This CD is protected against unauthorized duplication. It is designed to play on standard playback devices and an appropriately configured computer. If you have questions or concerns visit www.sunncomm.com/support/bmg

Whatever. So I pop the CD in the computer so that I can rip it and put it on my iPod. The CD starts playing some auto play stuff and then an embedded Windows Media Player comes up in a web page and allows you to play the songs. Exit. I went into iTunes and hit Import to rip the tracks. When it finished I went to play the tracks and they were all garbled. What’s going on? Guess I ought to read that web page.

So on that Sunncomm site it basically says the CD is protected. It will only allow you to play it on a computer with its technology. You cannot rip tracks from the CD. It specifically states that you cannot move the songs to an iPod because they (in so many words) don’t like Apple and Apple isn’t working with them so screw Apple. Huh? No, screw you. I like Apple and I just bought your music. But by the way, this album is available at the iTunes Music Store.

After doing some research, it turns out that this company is putting their copy protection on more and more CDs. This one happens to be the first one that I have bought. So now what? How does this work? Turns out that when Windows starts to auto-run the CD, it quickly installs a hidden driver on your machine that is used to garble the sound of CDs protected by this technology. So now my computer is “infected” with this driver. Some grad school student figured this out a while back and let the world know if you just hold down the shift key, Window’s auto-run does not run and you have ready access to the CD. They threatened to sue him.

That solution is too late for me, I already have this installed. More research and system scans pointed me to a hidden driver on my machine called SbcpHid. You will find it in your Windows\System32\Drivers directory. So all you have to do is go into the Windows device manager, find it, stop it. Now you can rip. If you want it off your machine, you can uninstall it from there too.

While there was a sticker on the front of the CD, I found this to be very sneaky. I mean installing hidden drivers on your computer. The driver is not marked with any company name or details so you don’t know what it is. The timestamp of the driver was manually adjusted so you couldn’t tell that this was installed today. This sounds like most of the spyware that we are all trying to rid our computers of.

So where does that leave us? If you buy the music in a store, you can only play on these certain devices? If I would have bought this music at the iTunes music store, I am limited to what Apple wants me to do. So in this case, if I wanted a good old CD case and disc plus the music on my iPod, I would have to buy the same music 2 times according to the record company. That isn’t right. Fair use law dictates it. If the industry doesn’t get this figured out, we are going to be in trouble. For now, I guess you and I need to be selective about how we buy our music.