It makes me wonder how many articles i have written concerning the major music labels and others desiring to protect their content. As a musician, once enjoying many paying gigs, i can fully understand the need to be paid for my work. But at what point does one try in all fairness to protect their work and where is the line drawn to breaking the law? Frankly, is there really any foolproof way to protect one's work from criminals in the first place?
Previous articles that have appeared within Enjoy the Music.com® include Secure Music is an Oxymoron way back in February 2000, Digital Disasters... in October 2000. Then we had Fight The Power! Or Do You Enjoy Losing Your Rights? written in January 2002 (a must read), and lastly Protect At All Costs? recently written in March 2004. Please click and read the above articles as i have coded the links to open in a new window so you can easily come back and finish reading the recent news concerning Sony forcing what Microsoft insinuates as 'Maleware' on your machine without your consent or knowledge!
Sony, the same company that seems to enjoy forcing proprietary formats (SACD) to muddy the waters, by not abiding by industry standards DVD-Audio, had done it again.
Sony, the same company that decided to have their own memory format (Memory Stick).
Sony, a company so protective as to not allow others to license their Beta/Betamax video recording format. (Subsequently losing out to the VHS format)
Sony, inventors of the Elcasette and Minidisc, has now unleashed such a devastating blow that many people are talking about a class action lawsuit. So what has Sony done now?
The Sony Saga Continues...
Imagine the unimaginable. Would you allow a software program to install on your computer without your consent? What if this program was hidden so that it did not show up on your uninstall list? Making matters worse, what if the program reported your activities to someone else without your ability to stop it? Finally, what would you say if all the above were true and said program opened a back door for virus writers to access you machine and steal your personal information including, but not limited to, financial data? If all this were true you would be heading to your lawyer or some other legal way to stop the offender from doing such activities. Now what if that company was Sony?
Yes my loyal readers, after over half a decade writing about the hopes of protecting music i am here to tell you the sad truth behind Sony's recent activities. You want proof? Here it is!
And if you want to contact Sony's Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Phil Wiser, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
First off, no matter what scheme the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), or any music/movie label for that matter tries, professionals will defeat it. But to break the law, or at the very least install malicious code on a consumer's machine without their knowledge, is unthinkable! No matter what guise Sony tries to hide behind, they have gone over the line.
Sony has said they have stopped production of their new protected music discs, but how about recalling the discs already sold to consumers? Replacing the discs with like-copies minus the protection scheme should be the least the company offers. Frankly, this reporter hopes Sony faces very stiff economic, and perhaps legislative (boarding on criminal) penalties. What Sony has done is unthinkable and, in my humble opinion, unforgivable! It is bad enough Sony has confused consumers with their proprietary SACD format, thereby possibly confusing those considering investing in a higher resolution digital audio.
Any what about the upcoming higher storage than today's mainstream DVD format? Dare we ask what Sony, technically called Sony BMG as they have acquired another recording label, may have planned to protect their future content and how that may infect consumers' private property? It is time to act!
Microsoft has spoken, as their next Windows Update will remove Sony's code under the company's Malicious Software Removal Tool. Sony does offer a way to expose their software, though i would wait until Microsoft has a clean removal tool so that Sony does not have a chance to gather more personal information by requesting their exposure tool. It deeply saddens me to see such an apparent abuse of power from one of the major recording labels. Worse still they have not provided replacement software and publicized their error in such a way as to alert consumers from all around the world of the very serious problem their products can cause.
More links for you to read:
Update! Added November 17, 2006
It appears Sony BMG, perhaps in efforts of lowering the penalties from the many lawsuits now reaching various world courts due to Sony BMG's alleged illegal activities, the company has released the following:
November 16, 2005
We share the concerns of consumers regarding these discs, and we are instituting a program that will allow consumers to exchange any CD with XCP software for the same CD without copy protection. We also have asked our retail partners to remove all unsold CDs with XCP software from their store shelves and inventory. We will make further details of this program available shortly.
We deeply regret any inconvenience this may cause our customers and we are committed to making this situation right. It is important to note that the issues regarding these discs exist only when they are played on computers, not on conventional, non-computer-based CD and/or DVD players.
Our new initiatives follow the measures we have already taken, including last week's voluntary suspension of the manufacture of CDs with the XCP software. In addition, to address security concerns, we provided to major software and anti-virus companies a software update, which also may be downloaded at http://cp.sonybmg.com/xcp/english/updates.html. We will shortly provide a simplified and secure procedure to uninstall the XCP software if it resides on your computer.
Ultimately, the experience of consumers is our primary concern, and our goal is to help bring our artists' music to as broad an audience as possible. Going forward, we will continue to identify new ways to meet demands for flexibility in how you and other consumers listen to music.
Please click here for an FAQ on this topic.
Enjoy the Music.com® readers should download the Sony BMG update at their own risk as reports are saying the Sony BMG solution opens an even wider security risk! Be forewarned! It may be prudent to wait for Microsoft to release their solution during the upcoming Windows Update Malicious Software Removal Tool.
What amazes me is the known issues Sony has released within their FAQ. They state:
What computer access rights do I need to use this disc on Windows?
You must log on to your computer with Administrator rights or Power User rights to fully use the disc. Normally, you should have Administrator rights, unless you are working in a corporate environment in which case, you'll need to contact your IT department to have them install the software for you.
On Windows XP Home Edition system you will need Administrator rights (typically the default setting) as well, not User rights.
Ejecting the disc while player is running causes the player to crash
Ejecting the disc while the player is running may cause the player to crash. Please quit the player before ejecting the disc.
Player takes up a large percentage of CPU cycles
On slower machines, especially ones running Windows 98 and Windows ME, the player may consume a high amount of CPU cycles even if it is not playing back audio. If you experience audio playback problems try quitting out of other open applications.
There is much more within their FAQ that is perplexing to this writer, but it amazes me that to play what should be a simple music CD demands so much of your computer's resources and special privileges from the user. It gets worse! The point being the difficulty consumers may have in buying a product to enjoy the music. It also appears Sony BMG is indeed recalling the discs, but at this time there appears to be no list that consumers should go by since of the 49 titles with the offensive software, 24 were new major releases. There are no details on the Sony BMG Web site informing consumers exactly what to do with the offending discs and how music lovers will be compensated.
There is one thing we can count on:
A long legal battle against Sony BMG.
Sony BMG may try blaming the company they hired to write their software security code, even though Sony had full knowledge of their software protection scheme.
Several Web sites are directly programmed to attack computers that have the malicious Sony BMG software, including those who have installed Sony BMG's solution.
Research has shown that the Sony BMG software has compromised Unites States military and government computers, thereby possibly causing devastating outcomes.
Sony BMG has just released a listing of their digital music discs that containing XCP Content Protection Technology. They will also be releasing new versions of these titles without the XCP software. They advise consumers to check the below list for both album name and the item number on the spine of the digital disc. If the item number is not listed below, Sony BMG claims the disc does not contain XCP content protection.
Note: Two titles, Ricky Martin’s Life and Peter Gallagher’s 7 Days in Memphis were released with a content protection grid on the back of the CD packaging but XCP content protection software was not actually included on the albums.
And if you want to uninstall the malware Sony BMG forced upon you, right now on the Sony BMG site it says:
November 15th, 2005 - We currently are working on a new tool to uninstall First4Internet XCP software. In the meantime, we have temporarily suspended distribution of the existing uninstall tool for this software. We encourage you to return to this site over the next few days. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
More information will be revealed within my December 1 editorial. My advice, do not play any Sony BMG protected discs. In fact you may desire not purchasing any products from Sony, but that is your choice. If your computer is infected with the Sony BMG Malware/Spyware, wait for the solution from Microsoft and use it when available. Of course in the end what really matters to me is that we all....