Blogger's discovery a sour note for Sony

ON BLOGS

November 20, 2005|By TROY MCCULLOUGH

Facing a three-week-old blog assault, the news for Sony just keeps getting worse.

Calls for a boycott have grown louder by the day. Two lawsuits have been filed, with more possibly on the way. And the company has finally bowed to pressure and announced a costly CD recall.

All this -- in case you haven't been paying attention -- stems from a blogger's discovery that some Sony CDs secretly install deeply embedded software on computers when people copy those CDs to their hard drives. The software is intended to limit the number of copies a person can make of a CD, but it also creates a security breach that could be exploited by hackers to disastrous effect on a person's computer.

Sony's sluggish response to the growing outrage has only exacerbated the controversy, and the bloggers have pounced.

"We are at war, and Sony fired first," wrote Tim Jarrett on his site, discuss.jarretthousenorth.com

Jarrett started a new site, BoycottSony.us. "It's simple," he wrote. "If you treat me with disrespect, I stop doing business with you; if you treat me as a criminal, I call you on it; if you ship a product that disables my computer, it's war."

Ann Arbor, Mich., resident Edward Vielmetti on his site, vielmetti.typepad.com/vacuum, reports that he has persuaded his library to stop adding Sony CDs to its collection and encourages others to try the same approach. "Talk to your own local library and tell them about the problem and the headaches they are liable to if their patrons check out a music CD that damages their computer! And mention it to your favorite used CD store owner as well."

Cory Doctorow on boingboing.net notes that Sony's copyright-protection tactic ironically appears to violate the copyrights of the public-domain software that it is based on by not acknowledging the original software authors.

"This further reveals the hypocrisy of Sony's actions. Sony claims that it needs to install dangerous, malicious, underhanded software on its customers' computers to protect its copyrights, but in order to write this malware, it has no compunction about infringing on the copyrights of public-spirited software authors who make their works available under free software licenses," Doctorow says.

Jason Leder of 1115.org writes: "Instead of taking a needed hard look at their own bad decisions and misplaced priorities, the major labels would rather place restrictions on its own customers. ... As for me, it's fair to say that I will never buy a Sony CD ever again; it's just not worth the risk."

A widely circulated post from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (eff.org/deeplinks/archives/004144.php) offers a partial list of affected CDs. And Mark Russinovich, the security expert and blogger who started this firestorm by discovering Sony's underhanded practices, has plenty of tips on his site (sysinternals.com/blog) for finding out if your computer is infected and what to do about it.

Beleaguered Sony announced that it is "temporarily suspending" the production of CDs containing the dubious technology and recalling those it has sold, which could cost the company up to $10 million, analysts say. Furthermore, the company is facing class-action lawsuits in California and New York claiming unfair and deceptive practices against consumers.

That's music to many bloggers' ears.

troy.mccullough@baltsun.com

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