The needle and the damage done

When the folks at Sony-BMG decided to put a new software program on their CDs to protect them against copyright infringement, they must have been absolutely clueless.

‘Lately I’ve found myself losing my mind.’ – Neil Young.

When the folks at Sony-BMG decided to put a new software program on their CDs to protect them against copyright infringement, they must have been absolutely clueless as to what the repercussions of their hairball actions might have been.

Because the XCP protection program they decided to use has generated outrage in the PC community. And that’s because it actually acts like a virus itself – burying itself inside computers and then leaving them open to attack by other viruses!

Microsoft liked the XCP software so much that Jason Garms, of the firms’ Anti-Malware Technology Team, said that he was going to ensure that the Windows AntiSpyware Beta, which is currently used by millions of users to get rid of PC nasties, would be equipped to remove the Sony protection program from any ‘infected PCs’ in the near future, citing the fact that it compromised the security, the reliability and the performance of Windows.

So how have the auspicious lads at Sony-BMG responded? Well, the company’s now decided to stop manufacturing CDs with the horrid software on it. But some folks still aren’t happy. They say that this is only a small step in the right direction, since reports indicate that over 2.1 million infected disks have been sold already and 2.6 million remain unsold in the stream of commerce.

“Sony-BMG should treat its customers with respect and fairness; instead it acted little better than the thugs who unleash stealth computer viruses on the public,” said the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry.

A little unfair perhaps. Because after all, the company did swiftly provide a patch to the general public that guards against the type of virus now said to exist that can attack computers with the XCP program on. The patch fixes the possible ‘problem’, and still allows CDs to be played on personal computers. And Sony did also say that it deeply regretted any possible inconvenience that it might have caused.

But that’s not enough for McSherry. “Halting production is not enough. Sony needs to take steps to fix that damage it has already caused and ensure that nothing like this happens again in the future.”

The folks at the EFF believe that Sony-BMG should pay all consumer costs associated with the damage caused by the technology. Additionally, they believe that it should also compensate people for the time, effort, and expense required to verify that their computer was, or was not, infected with the XCP software.

For the ultimate in protection: Susie Suh’s album is just one of many that uses the XCP software. 

Seems a bit extreme to me. After all, poor old Sony was only trying to use some new technology to protect its intellectual property rights and those of its artists. And it should have every right to do so. There’s far too much of this illegal downloading and pirating going on that could potentially ruin its rather lucrative music business.

But next time, if there is a next time, perhaps it should just involve some folks with some intelligence in the decision making process, rather than the Likely Lads involved this time around.

The Sony patch can be downloaded at http://cp.sonybmg.com/xcp/.

Dave Wilson

One final note: Q. I have heard that the protection software is really malware/spyware. Could this be true? A. Of course not. The protection software simply acts to prevent unlimited copying and ripping from discs featuring this protection solution. It is otherwise inactive. The software does not collect any personal information nor is it designed to be intrusive to your computer system. – From the Sony-BMG web site.