Article 43


Friday, May 08, 2009

Network DRM


Is Lala’s DRM a new way to lock up music?

By Greg Sandoval
May 8, 2009

Michael Robertson, the gadfly of digital music, is once again pestering rivals about their business practices.

Robertson - the controversial founder of MP3 dot com, Linspire, and MP3tunes dot com - has accused Lala of attempting to transfer control of its users’ music to the recording labels.

Robertson claimed on his personal blog last month that Lala had developed an “insidious new plot” to entice its users to upload music to the company’s servers and then trap the music there by embedding digital rights management into the servers. This would enable Lala and the big music labels to exercise greater control over the tunes. He compared Lala’s plan with a “roach motel,” where songs check in but they can’t check out.

Robertson’s accusations generated little attention, possibly because he operates a competing site, MP3tunes-dot-com. Both companies enable customers to access music from the cloud, and one competitor badmouthing another won’t stop the presses. But in regards to Robertson’s accusations about Lala and DRM, the best support for the claims comes from Lala itself.

Robertson directed CNET News to a Lala patent application filed last year and titled “Network Based Digital Rights Management System.” In the filing, Lala describes what it is hoping to patent.

“A network-based DRM system manages digital media assets stored in the network,” Lala, which has been praised by music labels and has financial backing from Warner Music Group, states in the document. “The system provides consumers with access to the digital media from any device connected to an electronic network such as the Internet, while enforcing the intended uses by the copyright owners.”

“The Web restricted nature of the offering,” Lala writes elsewhere in the filing, “means that the digital assets are at all times controlled by the system and thus result in minimal piracy.”

The patent application proves Lala is trying to develop a new type of DRM, according to Robertson. Instead of wrapping individual songs in DRM, Lala’s plan calls for a network to act as a fortress that surrounds an entire music ecosystem.

Lala CEO Geoff Ralston confirmed that Lala filed for the patent but denied the company is trying to wrest control away from users.

“It’s a patent around Web Songs,” Ralston said.

Web Songs are one of the cornerstones of the company’s latest business model. Lala, which has switched focus from two prior models, now offers three main features. In the first, MP3s unprotected by DRM can be purchased and download for rates comparable to iTunes’. A second option offers users unlimited, ad-free streaming access to music they already own. The way this works is that users allow Lala to scan their hard drives and preserve a list of the songs the person owns. Lala’s system will then stream its own copies of the songs to the user. This way users don’t have to worry about losing their music to hard-drive meltdowns or misplaced music players.

Lala’s last feature allows people to listen to streaming music--that they don’t already own--for 10 cents per song. Lala calls these “Web Songs.” One of the ways Web Songs are different from MP3s is that they can’t be downloaded to a portable device.

“A Web Song by definition has a limited set of rights associated with it,” Ralston said. “One right you don’t have is the right to take it with you. It’s not a portable song. Another right you don’t have is to copy it. Everything has limited rights, even an MP3. You’re not allowed to take an MP3, copy it, and sell it.”

Lala said Web Songs offer people a chance to obtain streaming access to a song for the price of a grocery store gum drop. If customers later want to upgrade and buy an MP3 version of the tune, the dime is counted against the price of the download.

Michael Robertson found Lala’s DRM patent filing and says it proves the company is taking orders from record labels.

While Ralston said the filing only deals with Web Songs, the patent documentitself, under a section titled “Overview of Present Invention,” lists the many applications of its invention.

The patent filing indicates that Lala’s DRM invention is designed to lock down music that its users already own. Lala’s system doesn’t allow people to listen to their own music via anything but a Web browser and the songs cannot be downloaded. Ralston argues that people can do all these things with the original music files they own.

But if Lala’s users own the music the company stores, why does Lala restrict it this way? Are these restrictions rooted in some technology limitation or do the major labels require them?

“We’re trying to provide a way so that users can have more access to their music than they had in the past,” Ralston said. “Look at the iPhone. I can’t easily throw brand-new graphic cards into it. It’s all closed up. But it’s a much better consumer proposition. We’re not acting as an agent of the record companies in any way except that we resell their goods. There’s nothing nefarious there at all. We repackaged some stuff that we think provides a better consumer proposition.”

Music sales have been falling for years, and piracy is at least one of the main causes. Nonetheless, the four top record labels over the past year have appeared to give up on DRM as a piracy-busting strategy. This trend culminated in January when Apple announced it would strip DRM from the entire iTunes library. So, why then is Lala attempting to come up with a new DRM strategy?

In the patent application, the company offers some clues.

Lala notes that DRM produced by Microsoft and Apple “suffered from lack of interoperability caused by competitive and licensing issues.” Most DRM, Lala points out, can also be cracked or broken. Lala says in the patent filing that its DRM approach avoids these issues.

“A network-based approach protects against rampant piracy,” Lala writes. “By delivering the product directly from the network, only authorized users and devices can access the media. Access by users and devices is controlled on the Web and can be constantly adapted to changing technologies and market pressures.”

Robertson claims that network DRM is simply the latest attempt by the recording industry to jerk control of music away from consumers. He said what may be most alarming about Lala’s system is its potential to snatch away someone’s songs.

“The system also allows for the ‘revoking’ of ownership of digital media,” Lala writes in the patent filing. “For example, if a user is known to have illegally shared a file, the copyright owner may choose to revoke their ownership of the digital media in the system, limiting the rights of such user to the media.”

When asked about this, Lala’s CEO was unapologetic.

“Is it controversial that a store has the right to terminate someone that steals from them?” Ralston asked.

A copy of Lala’s patent, titled Networks Based Digital Rights Management System.

Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. He is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on TWITTER


Posted by Elvis on 05/08/09 •
Section Privacy And Rights
View (0) comment(s) or add a new one
Printable viewLink to this article

Another Open-Recursive DNS Server Issue

A lot of my friends think DNS services like those from OPEN DNS are the answer to things like EMBARQ’S DNS REDIRECTION.

Free OPEN-RECURSIVE DNS servers CAN BE just as DANGEROUS, and give as just as many wrong answers to NS queries like Embarq’s insecure, outsourced crap.

They’re both the same thing.



Mystery Solved? Using OpenDNS Results In Glacial YouTube Downloads For Qwest Customers

By Chris Walters
May 7, 2009

Earlier this week, we posted an email from a frustrated Qwest customer who said he couldn’t download YouTube and other online videos at a speed equivalent to the Qwest service he was paying for. Qwest wrote to us, and spoke to the customer, and swore they were not interfering with any download rates. Instead, it looks like the problem is with OpenDNS, a free service that usually speeds up downloading, but that seems to have a bug when it comes to certain video streams.

First, here are two entries from the OpenDNS forums by a different customer, posted back in March, that describe the problem:

When I use OpenDNS for my DNS servers, YouTube loads videos very slowly (it is actually impossible to watch anything). The second I switch back to my ISP DNS, YouTube videos load fast.

I KNOW OpenDNS is ONLY a DNS server and should not affect my download speeds BUT IT DOES, at least on YouTube. It does not matter if I use a Mac (10.5.6) or a PC (XP SP3) I get the same results.

Here’s what happens with OpenDNS:

[removed screen movie from server but basically the “loading” spinner in youtube would sit there spinning, then the video would play for 1-2 seconds, then go back to the loading spinner for 20 seconds, then play a couple seconds, etc]

Here’s what happens with my ISP DNS:

[removed screen movie from server but with my ISP DNS the movie loads fine and plays without a problem]

EDIT: Adding to my whitelist does nothing.

I did some more digging and figured out that the .swf file is appears to be calling a .flv file that is hosted at:

When using my ISP DNS, it wants to pull the video from - and the video downloads in about 90 seconds. In fact, the first 1/4th of the video comes in at a whopping 800 KB(ytes)/sec, then it seems it is trottled at the source end down to about 100 KB/sec for the rest (I’m assuming this is how they do it for youtube to keep their bandwidth in check).

When using OpenDNS, it wants to pull the video from and the video download crawls along and the estimated completion time is 20+ minutes.

(I am downloading just the FLV file separate from the youtube page using my browser’s download manager)

If I manually put this IP in the URL for the .flv (no matter what I have my DNS set to), I get the same results. That is, I can put the “good/fast” IP in the URL and get a fast download even when using OpenDNS servers.

Apparently something is happening where OpenDNS is returning this “bad/slow” IP when looking up

Our own OP performed a similar experiment and says his YouTube streaming is back to normal:

I ran a traceroute to, the apparent server within Google that was serving up the video. I was a bit surprised to see the the traceroute cut off at an OpenDSN router (line 10 in the included traceroute) from my IP to the cited Google server. I have been using OpenDNS’s servers for a a few years with for security reasons. I’ve been more than pleased with their service (free to individuals).

I reconfigured my network’s DNS to point to QWests own nameservers. I again attempted viewing the same video. This time the download completed without stalling or interruption in the display. FlashGot’s instrumentation showed a rate of 60Kbs. A traceroute to the same google video server yielded an entirely different route to the destination. See the included traceroute.

I ran these experiments several times and the results were consistent.

I would imagine that the reason OpenDNS routed traffic VIA THEIR OWN IP-space is to identify potential malware and to protect its users from same, a laudable goal, and part of their service. I’ll stay with QWest’s nameservers until QpenDNS investigates my trouble ticket and fixes it or refutes my suspicion.

Did I get it right this time? Time will tell.

Traceroutes follow ...

Using opendns’s name servers (

traceroute to (, 30 hops max, 40 byte packets
1 gateway ( 1.166 ms 1.647 ms 2.089 ms
2 * * *
3 ( 59.107 ms 68.397 ms 68.847 ms
4 ( 70.277 ms 70.600 ms 71.929 ms
5 ( 73.591 ms 73.757 ms 73.912 ms
6 ( 74.155 ms 73.224 ms 75.141 ms
7 POS1-1.BR1.SEA1.ALTER.NET ( 74.957 ms 54.444 ms 55.264 ms
8 ( 56.941 ms 56.282 ms 57.602 ms
9 195.ATM4-0.GW10.SEA1.ALTER.NET ( 58.294 ms 56.959 ms 57.516 ms
10 ( 58.111 ms 59.424 ms 59.580 ms
11 * * *
12 * * *
13 * * *
30 * * *

Using QWest’s nameservers (

1 gateway ( 0.924 ms 1.327 ms 1.745 ms
2 * * *
3 ( 56.385 ms 57.373 ms 58.440 ms
4 ( 60.214 ms 61.207 ms 62.190 ms
5 ( 63.198 ms 64.190 ms 65.183 ms
6 ( 66.152 ms 66.203 ms 66.916 ms
7 ( 267.621 ms 213.340 ms 213.519 ms
8 ( 54.976 ms 54.198 ms 54.257 ms
9 ( 55.146 ms 54.540 ms 54.197 ms
10 ( 107.489 ms 138.085 ms 128.856 ms
11 ( 109.982 ms 108.183 ms 108.998 ms
12 ( 131.685 ms 164.573 ms 137.819 ms
13 ( 218.838 ms 209.426 ms 228.598 ms
14 ( 248.187 ms 210.056 ms 223.112 ms
15 ( 211.362 ms 219.634 ms 211.790 ms

It turns out another Qwest customer, Andrew, wrote to us yesterday to suggest the same solution to the problem:

I had the exact same problem with Qwest and YouTube; I am, I guess you could call “a heavy user”. However, I realized that this began to happen after I used OpenDNS on my router. After I removed OpenDNS, YouTube worked great and every video downloaded very fast.


Posted by Elvis on 05/08/09 •
Section Privacy And Rights • Section Broadband Privacy
View (0) comment(s) or add a new one
Printable viewLink to this article
Page 1 of 1 pages


Total page hits 9705558
Page rendered in 1.0136 seconds
40 queries executed
Debug mode is off
Total Entries: 3222
Total Comments: 337
Most Recent Entry: 05/04/2020 08:41 am
Most Recent Comment on: 01/02/2016 09:13 pm
Total Logged in members: 0
Total guests: 7
Total anonymous users: 0
The most visitors ever was 172 on 12/25/2019 07:40 am

Email Us


Login | Register
Resumes | Members

In memory of the layed off workers of AT&T

Today's Diversion

The man who says I told you so is making an excuse for not expressing his position clearly in the first place. - Rod McKuen


Advanced Search



May 2009
         1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Must Read

Most recent entries

RSS Feeds

Today's News

ARS Technica

External Links

Elvis Picks

BLS Pages


All Posts



Creative Commons License

Support Bloggers' Rights