If you plug your brand-new “Decision Points” audiobook into your Windows computer, you’ll get some pretty unexpected track titles. Why? Because in 2007, various artists made a protest album called “George W. Bush,” and the online database that Windows Media uses to fill in the track titles thinks your audiobook is their album.
There have been complaints of late — we’re guessing from someone who got a copy for Christmas — that chapter titles like “Innocent Children Die” and “Bush It” were popping up when they loaded the album on Windows Media Player.
Some creative hacker? Probably not. The problem stems from the database that many common computer jukebox programs connect to in order to download CD track titles, artwork and other information. But while iTunes and other music programs use Sony’s Gracenote database, which is usually populated by content providers (like Random House), Windows Media Player uses a less-common open source database to provide its users with track and album information.
Here’s the explanation Random House publicist Tina Constable gave us:
“In that specific platform, anyone can contribute their own description of music or audio CD tracks,” Tina Constable of Random House. “If someone has bought the audio version of ‘Decision Points’ and play it on the Windows Media Player, that spoofing may or may not occur. But if you play it on iTunes, or you play it on Real or you play it on your own computer that’s not linked to Windows Media Player than that issue doesn’t occur. The product itself is not faulty and the product itself is fine.”
“The spoofing has entered into the internet-based Windows Media Player database, in which anyone can contribute their own description of any music/audio cd’s track,” she said in a follow up e-mail. “The bottom line is that the hacker has taken advantage of the open source environment that is a part of all internet based media libraries. We cannot control the internet nor Microsoft policy.”
Here’s what shows up when you load the CD onto Windows Media Player:
Late Update: Reader MG alerts us that Windows Media Player uses AMG as its data provider, “which is most certainly not open source.”