November 12, 2005
../ Sony BMG Suspends CD Antipiracy Spyware
Sony BMG Music Entertainment,
will temporarily cease production of their controversial copy-protected CDs in an abrupt about face. The "rootkit" CDs were designed to limit
the number of copies that could be burned, prevent the consumer from creating MP3s and inhibit the songs to be imported into Apple's
iTunes music software.
In addition to massive customer complaints, security experts lambasted the
technology because it uses "rootkit" techniques to render itself invisible on consumer's hard drives, something that's usually associated with
Spyware. Even worse, experts acknowledged that hackers could piggyback
malicious code onto the technology allowing the computers of Sony BMG's customers to be remote controlled via Trojan horses. Not pretty.
"We stand by content protection technology as an important tool to protect our
intellectual property rights and those of our artists. Nonetheless, as a precautionary measure, Sony BMG is temporarily suspending the manufacture
of CDs containing XCP technology," Sony BMG stated just a day before the first wave of Trojan horses hit the Internet allowing infected
computers to be controlled remotely.
Sony BMG's attempt at copy protection reveals how poorly the record industry
is dealing with implementing technology to limit how their content is distributed and controlled. This is certainly not the first load
of problems the industry has experienced, and it certainly won't be the last.
"Personal user rights" is very sticky. The industry's attempts
at controlling how a consumer utilizes their purchased content have all backfired. It's fascinating to see Sony BMG resorting to a rootkit cloak,
or Spyware, to protect their content. Is Sony BMG that desperate? Or was
this just an extremely ambitious, yet misguided, technical team who came up with this solution? Sony BMG won't comment, but their
Public Relations department certainly has a huge mess on their hands.
The mess has also seeped into the legal system. Already, attorney
Alan Himmelfarb has filed a class action suit against Sony BMG in Los
Angeles Federal court, asserting that the company violated state and federal
statues on unauthorized computer tampering. He goes on to state that Sony BMG's actions also
constitute fraud, trespass and false advertising. And this is just the
beginning. Other attorney's are going to file similar suits in the United States, an economy fueled not by oil, but by litigation.
Other country's lawyers are likely to join the pile-on which will end up
costing Sony BMG millions - far more than they would of lost from illegal file trading in the first place. Ugly.
In response to their public stoning, Sony BMG has released a
patch on their website to fix the security problems and
address other issues. Several antivirus software manufacturers have also added the XCP software to their spyware definitions and will
assist users on how they can safely remove the code.
The Future: Will consumers now think all of Sony BMG's
new CDs have this problem? And could the timing be worse with the holiday season fast approaching?
Sony BMG can only wait and see how badly this will hurt their overall CD sales during this very important quarter. Sony BMG's primary focus in
the short term will be damage control and how they can deflect the arrows hitting them from all directions.
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