[JPL] To Be Owned By Sony
jturton at comcast.net
jturton at comcast.net
Fri Nov 18 11:23:52 EST 2005
More from David Pogue in the Times yesterday
1. From the Desk of David Pogue: A Record Turnaround
The public has spoken! Power to the people! The masses smote
the faceless monolithic corporate entity, which now cowers in
I'm speaking, of course, about the spectacular turnaround in
the attitude of Sony BMG records. Last week, I wrote in this
space about the nasty copy-protection software that the
company installed on several dozen of its music CD's. Stick
one of those puppies in your Windows computer (Macs are
immune), and you get yourself an invisible "rootkit" program
that runs in the background without your knowledge, and even
serves as a theoretical hiding place for viruses.
As I mentioned last week, the record company was shockingly
unrepentant at first. No apology was forthcoming-only, with
prodding, "We understand what the concern was." And no action
was forthcoming, either, except to post a patch that makes
the invisible copy-protection program visible again, so that
antivirus software could see it.
But since my last report, the story unraveled with
breathtaking speed. Within days, two ACTUAL viruses emerged,
each designed to take advantage of Sony BMG's little
backdoor. The outcry online rose to deafening levels,
spreading from ordinary citizens to university professors,
software companies and the Electronic Frontier Foundation
Finally, Sony BMG cried uncle. The company had already
announced that it would no longer use the rootkit method of
copy-protecting its CD's. Next, it announced that it would
stop shipping all of the existing albums that included the
software, and even remove the 3 million discs already on
Then it went even farther, and actually recalled the 2
million rootkit discs that had already been sold-a costly
move. If you bought one of these albums, Sony BMG will
exchange it for the same CD minus the nasty software;
shipping will be free both ways. Details, along with an
uninstaller, will be posted at www.sonybmg.com.
Finally, there was, yes, a belated but strong apology. "We
deeply regret any inconvenience this may cause our customers
and we are committed to making this situation right," says a
letter on its Web site.
Overall, Sony's general incompetence when it comes to digital
music boggles the mind. First there was its "iPod killer"
music players, which were initially released without the
ability to play a little file format called MP3. Then there
was its disastrous Connect music store, whose design was so
wasteful of screen space it was almost unusable. And now the
astonishing move to copy-protect all of its music CD's-
ironically, in some cases, over the strident objections of
the actual bands-with software that behaves like spyware.
In any case, readers have flooded my mailbox all week with
questions and comments. Here's a sampling, some with my
* "Is there a list of the affected CD's somewhere?"
There's a partial list at
initially refused to identify the complete list, but now says
that it will post the list on its Web site soon. Meanwhile,
you can tell if your CD has the rootkit protection by looking
at the back. If you see a black and white table called
"Compatible With," it's copy-protected; if the Web address at
the bottom of table ends with XCP, it's protected using the
* Angry consumers took their unhappiness directly to other
consumers, using public arenas like the Amazon customer
reviews for the affected albums: "I was so looking forward to
the release of this album. But as a matter of principle, I
will NOT purchase it. I sincerely hope that the disc buying
public boycotts this and every disc that contains a copyright
virus on it."
Don't be surprised if Sony BMG sees a dip in sales as a
result of its newly publicized copy-protection tactics. Also
don't be surprised if its executives learn exactly the wrong
lesson: "CD sales have slipped some more! Must be those
darned music pirates. Full speed ahead with the aggressive
* "David, the copyright watchdog application runs all the
time, and eats up a percent or so of your processing
capability. Other security watchdogs also run in the
background all the time, and they steal CPU power, too.
"If you get stuck with several of these little beasts, your
expensive computer will start to run slowly. Molasses-like
slowly. A court of law would find that the vendors do not
have the right to slow your computer down for their sole
* "Sony, please note: There is no right way to do a wrong
thing. Wrong is wrong. When you are wrong, say you are SORRY
and promise not to do it again."
This time, at least, the people won. It's amazing what the
Internet makes possible when enough people get angry enough.
But why stop here? Now let's solve the spam problem, catch
the virus writers and force the big electronics companies to
settle on a single format for high-definition DVD players...
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