Media player hack does not bother Microsoft

A tool developed by Norwegian programmer Jon Johansen to remove the encoding around Windows Media Station files cannot decrypt content that is protected by Windows Media Digital Rights Management, a Microsoft executive says.

Johansen, who is best known for having developed an algorithm for circumventing the CSS copy protection used in DVDs, posted an announcement on his website last week saying he had reverse engineered the encoding used in the Microsoft .NSC format and written a decoder.

NSC files contain information that allows Windows Media Player to connect to, and play, streaming media. The player uses Windows Media Station (.nsc) files to get the information needed to receive multicast content, such a radio station, over the net.

Johansen's decoder has since been incorporated into the free multi-platform VLC media player, enabling it to play Windows Media files.

Marcus Matthias, product manager for Windows Digital Media at Microsoft, said while .NSC files provided information about a media stream - IP address and stream format, for example - they did not attempt to protect the actual files.

"They do not contain any keys for decrypting protected content," Matthias said in response to a query.

He said such media streams may be protected by Windows Media Digital Rights Management but in many cases were not protected.

"If a content owner uses Windows Media Digital Rights Management to encrypt the content delivered by the .NSC files, this tool (written by Johansen) would not be able to access the content," Matthias said.

Johansen has not responded to repeated requests for comment.