Mark Russinovich, one of the more badass ninjas of low-level Windows programming and the co-maintainer of the excellent Sysinternals website, recently discovered, while testing his rootkit detector, that Something Unwholesome had made its way onto a system that should by rights have been clean.
Upon investigation, he discovered that he’d inadertently installed it himself when listening to a DRM-encumbered CD, the ironically-titled Get Right With The Man.
This discovery has led to a media furor and very visible tug-of-war, chronicled on Russinovich’s blog, with Sony and Sony’s purveyor of DRM technology, First 4 Internet. First 4 Internet’s programmers clearly don’t understand the nuts and bolts of deep-down Windows programming nearly so well as Russinovich, leading to their advancement of some blatantly false assertions which Russinovich has proceeded to casually blow out of the water. It’d be amusing if the stakes — to wit, users’ right to use media they own on computers they own without worrying that one is going to try subverting the other — weren’t so high.
Russinovich is one of my heroes; his autoruns is on my very short list of absolutely essential Windows utilities. And yet there’s a certain irony lurking just under the surface here. Free-software advocates have argued, sometimes stridently, that proprietary systems are to be avoided because they tilt the balance of power away from ordinary users and towards the Powers That Be. This episode would seem to offer evidence that even extraordinary users like Russinovich are at risk of being bent over the barrel for as long as they choose to be serfs in someone else’s kingdom. Live by the sword, die by the sword, I guess. I suspect it’s too much to hope that the experience will lead him to focus his considerable skills upon free software, but it sure would be nice.
Tim suggested that I make T-shirts declaring “SONY ARE PIGFUCKERS” as an alternative to having the phrase tattoed across my chest. I replied that I could probably cover my costs by selling a few. I’m not sure about an exact design, though.