SlySoft, a company best known for AnyDVD, its hugely popular DRM circumvention software, has been under pressure to cease its activity for a long time. The source of this pressure was, of course, the anti-piracy industry and legislation, represented in this case by the AACS LA, the decryption licensing outlet supported and founded by several media giants. Some of the names backing the AACS LA (and thus advocating the removal of the manufacturer) are Disney, Warner Bros, Microsoft and Intel, to name just a few. Last week, SlySoft appears to have finally shut down, succumbing under this pressure, leaving only a minimal text message of farewell on their website.
AnyDVD was a software capable of circumventing the copy protection which makes it difficult to copy original DVDs and Blu-Rays. This protection is known as DRM (Digital Rights Management), and while arguably necessary from the industry’s point of view, it’s needless to say hugely unpopular with media users and consumers. Therefore, all users interested in DRM removal used to go to this software as their go-to solution, which is why the software, associated with its red fox logo, has become very popular in the past few years. The more DRM protections were being put in place, the more users needed solutions such as the software provided by the developer (even the name of the company slightly suggests the circumvention of rules, doesn’t it?)
The Future of DVD – Blu-Ray Ripping (and DRM Circumvention)
First, let’s discuss the possible future of SlySoft and its popular product, and then the possible future of all DRM removing and circumventing software.
Concerning the developer, its shut down seems to be less clear than it should, and therefore less certain. The official announcement claims that the company has been shut down in Antigua, where it was physically based. But, discussions on the official forums indicate that none of the team members were based there and that they are instead scattered across different jurisdictions and don’t even know each other. Furthermore, there has been no triumphant announcement from the authorities concerning the shutdown, which is unusual considering the size of the DRM removal software’s user pool and its therefore perceived importance. AnyDVD had surely been a thorn in the side of the anti-piracy industry for quite a while.
We have some reason to doubt how permanent this shutdown will prove to be. Even though the company has appeared to shut down (and the details of this cease in activity are still undisclosed and mysterious), its servers and forums are still running high. Some of them have even been renamed to ‘red fox’, which is a nod to the famous logo of the software. Furthermore, some ex-employees of the developers have indicated on the forums that they are prepared for a relaunch of the key product (the DRM removal software) since it isn’t clear who it belongs to now that the company appears to have shut down of its own accord. There will be indeed plenty of legal hassles and obstacles in the way of a Red Fox Revival (as the idea is currently called), but it’s still not something to dismiss as impossible.
As for DRM circumventing, the practice isn’t likely to be going anywhere just because one program (AnyDVD) has been removed from use (and maybe it’s just a temporary removal anyway). In a way, institutions like AACS LA are waging a hopeless battle in an invisible war. As long as the user’s demand for DRM circumventing will remain in place (and users always favor freedom and convenience above anything else, hence the strong desire for free information sharing and circulation), software to satisfy that demand will continue to be created. Whether it’s the red fox or other still legal tools such as Virtual Clone Drive that allows only a partial circumvention, it remains to be seen, but solutions will always be found.