December 1, 2023
The audiophile MQA structure in fact would not accept DRM, but that would not imply it be no longer on the poisonous rainbow of locked tech
After watching a CCC presentation that claimed that the MQA audiophile format has "stealth DRM," I decided to investigate, and I'm pretty sure MQA is not DRM. But MQA is proprietary in several important ways that audiophiles should consider before they invest in the tech. Its overlapping patents, combined with extreme secrecy about the terms…

After watching a CCC presentation that claimed that the MQA audiophile structure has “stealth DRM,” I made up my strategies to overview, and I’m truthful certain MQA isn’t very any longer DRM.

But MQA is proprietary in plenty of crucial systems that audiophiles might perhaps merely silent accept in strategies ahead of they make investments in the tech. Its overlapping patents, blended with excessive secrecy in regards to the phrases on which the structure is licensed, imply that you will want to belief in the prolonged-length of time comely choices of the manufacturer in present to make sure that that you are going to continuously be ready to settle on a tool that might perhaps play serve the music you’re buying for — and since the spec and the contracts for enforcing it are a secret, it be laborious to gain comely recordsdata to accept in strategies whether your belief is effectively-positioned.

The MQA anecdote is a comely lesson in the poisonous rainbow of locked technology: the model that overlapping patents, logos, license agreements, copyrights, switch secrets, and DRM can impression it legally precarious to exercise the freedoms that comely software might perhaps merely silent come with: the freedom to scurry programs, to envision them, to present a boost to them, and to fragment your improvements.

So the upshot is that MQA is patented, entails copyrighted code, phrases of carrier, and switch secrets, but (doubtlessly) no longer DRM. Which manner that your potential to experience the MQA music you make a selection is entirely at the mercy of the company, which can perchance switch the structure at some later date and enjoin producers from persevering with to enhance the music you’ve purchased.

Your resolution to belief the company can’t be urged by transparency in its licensing phrases, both: perchance the company has promised its licensors that it would by no manner power them to orphan your music — and perchance it hasn’t. It might perhaps perchance with out problems present this a formula or one more, nonetheless it is miles going to no longer, and while the company claims here’s a usual discover in its switch, it is miles indubitably no longer usual discover in any of the numerous audio (or various media) you’re doubtless to maintain.

But MQA does no longer (for the time being) personal DRM, and that manner something. That that you will almost definitely be ready to audit an MQA participant and freely yarn on the defects you sight there. That that you will almost definitely be ready to reverse-engineer the file structure and submit it, and you are going to also take a look at the patents and accept systems to decode the recordsdata and play them serve that does no longer overlap with MQA’s patents. And, importantly, any effort you gain into with MQA is some distance more doubtless to be a civil matter than a felony: it is possible you’ll perchance almost definitely gain sued by MQA for attempting to open its structure, but you’re doubtlessly no longer going to gain threatened with a jail sentence.

MQA touts is “proprietary” nature and its portfolio of patents as causes to settle on the technology, so it be a comely assumption that these don’t effort practically all of its potentialities. That you simply might additionally merely no longer impression the identical chance, but that difference is much less pressing than it might well most likely perchance be if DRM became once in the image: it be one component to settle on a product somebody else thinks is a execrable funding, nonetheless it be one more altogether to entrust your digital security to a product that might perhaps most efficient be audited with permission from the manufacturer.

Closed, Proprietary, Felonious: The Toxic Rainbow of Locked Technology
[Cory Doctorow/EFF Deeplinks]