Friday, November 11, 2005

Sony's Silly Act of Desperation

Sony has been seeing it's revenues fall lately and this now appears to have prompted the once revered electronics maker toward some rather unseemly and quite possibly illegal behaviour. Sony electronics have met hard times recently mostly from competition with Apple's iPod but also in the intensely competitive television market.

Sony's music business, headed by Sony BMG Music Entertainment, was seen as a revenue saving division but worries about music piracy across the industry have led companies to try to come up with schemes to prevent it. Sony decided upon what can only be described as an inadvisable strategy: Sony music CDs now contain secret software that installs itself on a user's PC.

A blogstorm started up regarding the illicit installation of rootkit software on music CDs to prevent or limit copying when a CD is mounted on a PC. The mainstream has since picked up the story and Sony is finding itself on the defensive, as it should be for this blatantly anti-consumer behaviour.

Why, anti-consumer? Because Sony doesn't actually bother much to tell anyone who buys their music what the program is or what it will do. In fact, their "agreement" barely acknowledges the existance of the software at all or that such "protection" will install itself, without recourse by the user to uninstall it. The rootkit buries itself in the host computer, does not come with an uninstall feature and, should a user decide to remove the unwanted code from their computer, may very well damage the entire system if the rootkit files are deleted.

Apart from the annoying and surrepticious nature of this assinine practice is that the univited code could present security flaws to viruses. Sony denied this but within days, a trojan exploit popped up specifically designed for the Sony rootkit code. Sony's software strategy is now the subject of, not one, but six class action lawsuits to halt this egregious practice.

The Sony rootkit only affects Windows boxes. And it is interesting to note with yet another nod to Apple that the company "has been unwilling to cooperate in making Sony's program work with its equipment." I'd like to believe this has been for the right reasons and is not just a result of Jobs' usual megalomania.

Tim Jarret has started up the Boycott Sony Blog, where continuous updates of the ongoing story can be found. If you have a Windows machine and have recently plugged a Sony music CD into it, you may -- will -- want to follow this.


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