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November 21, 2005

In reversal, music company target of file-sharing suit

Steve Rosenbush

Music giant Sony BMG is the target of a lawsuit that says its copy-protection software implanted spyware on PCs that consumers use for playing songs. It's a stunning allegation, considering that the music industry has spent the last few years suing students who use file-sharing technology to distrubite music for free. If the allegations are true, they amount to a huge abuse of power. The state of Texas has filed the suit. According to an AP story:

Attorney General Greg Abbott accused Sony BMG of surreptitiously installing "spyware" in the form of files that mask other files Sony installed as part of XCP.
This "cloaking" component can leave computers vulnerable to viruses and other security problems, said Abbot, echoing the findings of computer security researchers.
"Sony has engaged in a technological version of cloak-and-dagger deceit against consumers by hiding secret files on their computers," Abbott said in a statement.

The suit says the distribution of spyware was no accident. It says Sony went out of its way to use technology to take advantage of the public. If the allegations are true, they could alter the terms of the file-sharing debate. We're in the midst of a historic contest of wills that puts the consumer against the entertainment industry.

02:22 PM


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The worst part of this whole case thats just coming to light, is that sonys tool "to protect there intellectual property rights and those of there artists" actually contains Open-source software licensed under General Public License or GPL. The way Sony used this software was not in conformity with the GPL, thus sony is now also breaking the very copyright laws they so proudly protect, for there profit. What I find amusing is I fully expected a huge multi-national profit driven company to do something like try and sneak stuff on my computer, what I dont expect is for them to STEAL from programers/artists

Posted by: Canadian Penguin at November 21, 2005 03:53 PM

Canadian law is very funny.

Posted by: Lewis B. Sckolnick at November 21, 2005 04:37 PM

To Canadian Penguin: What are legal issues in question?

Posted by: Steve Rosenbush at November 21, 2005 05:11 PM


check out Ed Felten's blog:
for good summary on legal issues.

Posted by: Ville Oksanen at November 21, 2005 06:06 PM

It is appalling that Sony has gone to these extremes "to protect the rights of the artists" I wonder how many artists are willing to put their careers on the line to be "protected". I will certainly not buy any music from the Sony brand, no matter what the artist. I believe that the artist do have the right to an opinion in this issue. With the public opinion as fragil and as fickle as it is, artists cannot afford to loose a fan base because a corporate concern. I wonder what kind of shenanigans and outright theft Sony is planning to catch-up with X-box 360. Let's hit them where it hurts, and stop any purchases to the Sony Corporation. We do have the power to teach them a very valuable lesson.

Posted by: Hugo at November 21, 2005 06:44 PM

Now that a state is actually sueing Sony, perhaps the citizens of Texas, at least, will get something more than a discount coupon to buy additional Sony products (adding insult to injury), but the usual outcome of most consumer class-action suits. Of course, the plantiff's attorneys always walk-away with millions in actual cash.

Posted by: Tom at November 21, 2005 07:33 PM

Sony steals public domain software to spy on its customers listening habits. After getting caught, Sony still is yet to release an secure uninstall tool to remove the malware from user's machines.

Go Texas Attorney General Go. Someone has to protect the little guys rights any this overbearing company.

Posted by: abc at November 21, 2005 08:28 PM

I have grown-up with the 78 rpm, then the 45 rpm at $0.99 for 2 songs, then the 33 rpm, when recording companies began to put more songs, on a disc, still raising prices at the same time.

It began hurting people when Majors put 1 or 2 songs really liked by consumers, along with 12 to 15 others, and asked for a higher price.

When the more appealing CD format hit the market, prices still went up, around $20 for 1 or 2 songs really liked by consumers.

The consumer had no choice at that time. Majors had found a way to sell him/her the container instead of the content, at a gold price!

It looks like if the Coca-Cola Company had tried to continue to sell its 6.5 ounces Coke bottle as the only size available on the market, at a big tag price.

Coca-Cola has learned since long that product is a lot more important than its container and that you have to adapt yourself or perish. Its adaptation ability has made this company great, with the most well-known and most distributed product in the world.

The Music industry still tries to sell a CONTROLLED container instead of the content, when it should concentrate on the content . . . music.

With the upcoming of the Internet and the mp2 and mp3 encoding formats, asking for intelligence and collaboration of people, a new freedom culture was born.

Consumers started to encode their old 45 and 33 rpms and store them on their computers, for content and space saving reasons, and handiness.

At last... ! The consumer could listen to the songs he already highly paid for...

With high speed Internet connections spreading, P2P music sharing systems appeared. These systems have permitted many consumers to recuperate songs they already paid for, a long time ago, and no more available due to old and used "containers".

Some consumers have abused this system by getting songs they never bought before. Recording companies then started suing and closing most of the music sharing systems, without offering an alternate solution.

Many underground systems were born overnight and the music industry's problems were aggravated by increased consumers' resistance and decreases in CDs sales.

The best idea the music industry has found is the suing of young Netizens on University campuses and at home, still refusing to adapt itself to new realities. The worst case being a 12 years old girl's one, in the USA.

Personally, I know no industry able to survive by suing or trying to control its customers, without their consent, still refusing to adapt itself.

In fact, consumers have been driven to think it is absolutely normal to download music from the Internet for free since the music industry tried to sell them a container for a big tag price without a viable alternate solution.

Recently, we have seen a drop in CDs prices, from the majors, as a desperate move to re-capture the lost market shares in a declining "container" market.

Today the consumer wants to choose the music he wants, at a reasonable price, and to burn or use it on the support of his choice, his own CDs, or on his own player, fixed or on the go.

Imagine traditional CDs printing, handling, shipping, warehousing, marketing and retailing costs. It is huge money spent for a container the consumer no longer wants under its present form.

Posted by: Michel J. Grenier at November 22, 2005 11:20 AM

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