What do you expect when you buy a music CD? Rip, Mix, Burn, right? That’s normal unless you buy a music CD from Sony BMG.
Then you might get anti-piracy, anti-copy software which mucks your PC, clogs your Mac, and is illegal, too. Now, some users are boycotting Sony products in protest.
What’s going on with Sony? Once they were the darling of electonic gadgets; music players, cell phones, and a big player in the music recording industry.
Now Sony is getting blasted all over the planet by irrate customers, concerned potential customers (Mac and Windows), and lawyers. Why?
Sony BMG (the music CD folks) added an anti-piracy, copy-protection scheme to a few recently produced music CDs.
The anti-piracy technology is installed on Windows PCs as a ‘cloaking feature’ and can be triggered and used by three Trojan Horse programs that were identified by antivirus companies.
Once the Sony BMG software is installed, the malicious programs can enter an infected PC undetected.
The copy protection program appears to be included on nearly two dozen popular music titles by Sony BMG. Is it spyware? It doesn’t matter. Sony is in hot water.
One class-action lawsuit has already been filed in California and another in New York. The Washington Post reports that Sony BMG has broken three California laws.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, a number of European Union countries are looking into the problem and may bring suit.
Does Sony BMG’s gaffe affect Mac users with a virus, or trojan horse? No. Apparently only kernel extensions are installed onto Mac OS X when the Sony BMG music CDs are installed. To date, no malicious activity has been identified for Mac users.
It’s much worse for Windows users. Isn’t it always? Sony BMG has apologized for the software, which hides software on PCs.
The Washington Post’s Brian Krebs wrote, ““In response to public criticism over the invasiveness of the software, Sony last week made available on its Web site a “patch” that would prevent its software files from hiding on the user’s system. But according to further research by a variety of security experts, that patch can lead to a crashed system and data loss…”
“The suit alleges that Sony’s software violates at least three California statutes, including the “Consumer Legal Remedies Act,” which governs unfair and/or deceptive trade acts; and the “Consumer Protection against Computer Spyware Act,” which prohibits—among other things—software that takes control over the user’s computer or misrepresents the user’s ability or right to uninstall the program.”
“The suit also alleges that Sony’s actions violate the California Unfair Competition law, which allows public prosecutors and private citizens to file lawsuits to protect businesses and consumers from unfair business practices.”
Sony’s fix is worse than the problem. Worse than that is probably all the bad press, ill will, and hoards of ambulance chasing lawyers out to get the guy with deep pockets. Or, formerly deep pockets.
Sony’s anti-piracy, anti-copying software is supposed to protect the music from illegal copying.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation says Sony’s hidden software “blocks a number of legal uses—like listening to songs on your iPod. The software also reportedly slows down your computer and makes it more susceptible to crashes and third-party attacks. And since the program is designed to hide itself, users may have trouble diagnosing the problem.”
Whoa! Aren’t you happy you’re a Mac user? Are you rushing out to sell your already depressed Sony stock?
Apple CEO Steve Jobs once said he wanted Apple to become like Sony. It looks as though Apple is better than Sony, and Sony has become more like Microsoft.
What is Sony BMG thinking? Is this kind of invasive, dangerous anti-piracy technology a wave of the future? Is it a fluke by some underpaid, overworked fledgling executive at Sony?
No. It’s an attitude from Sony’s head honcho, Howard Stringer.
Stringer is quoted in 2001 as saying, “Right now it would be possible for us, and I’ve often thought it would cheer me up to do it, you could dispatch a virus to anybody whose files contain us or Columbia records, and make them listen to four hours of Yanni … but in the end we’re going to have to get serious about encryption and digital-rights management and watermarking.”
In other words, it’s apparent that invading computer user’s privacy, installing malicious software without user knowledge, and causing an uproar among customers and legal advocates, was planned as such, and is probably a test by Sony BMG.
A testing of the waters to see what would happen with more stringent anti-copying measures in place.
Sony blew it big time. Now they’ll pay in the court of public opinion (as well as a few other courts). Some websites are calling for a boycott of Sony products. Mac users? The effect is minimal. This time.
I hope the boycott doesn’t include Sony’s video cameras. I really love the new HD versions. Still, Sony made a big mess of this one. I agree. It’s a test of the waters. It looks like the waters are hot. Too hot for Sony BMG. Today. Tomorrow might be different.
Carol Mary Miller
Here’s the best quote I found on the web. It’s from a few days ago. Thomas Hesse, president of Sony’s Global Digital Business in an interview on NPR’s Morning Edition, responded to complaints of Sony’s anti-piracy software which behaved exactly like a Rootkit:
“Most people, I think, don’t even know what a rootkit is, so why should they care about it?”
See how far removed some executives are from what people really care about?
What about you? Is Sony in the right? Or wrong? Would you boycott Sony products in the future?