Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft

RIO: Security by Obscurity {broken}

Mighty Rio Now a Two-Way Street by Joe Nickell

9:00 a.m. 26.Jan.99.PST Software posted to the Internet in the past week will allow owners of the Rio MP3 player to do what manufacturer Diamond Multimedia had hoped would remain impossible. The hacks permit users to transfer data and music out of the portable unit and back into a PC.

"We're not happy," said Ken Wirt, vice president of corporate marketing for Diamond Multimedia Systems, based in San Jose, California. I think it's clear we have not intended to provide this capability with the Rio."

The new software adds functionality to the popular player, it also could put a chink in Diamond's defense in an ongoing court battle over the fate of the Rio.

Last October, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) attempted to block the release of the Rio, arguing that it was a recording device and therefore should be subject to provisions of the 1992 Audio Home Recording Act.

The law requires that manufacturers and importers of digital audio recording devices must notify the Federal Register of Copyrights, pay a royalty fee of between US$1 and $8, and build in controls to make it impossible for users to make second-generation copies of material.

Diamond argued in defense that, since files couldn't be copied or otherwise transferred from the Rio to other devices, the Rio is merely a playback device and was therefore exempt from the Act.

"We specifically disabled the ability to copy files from the Rio to other devices as a form of copy protection," said Wirt. "We've not released the specs that allow people to interface with the Rio outside its standard software interface."