The Sony Invasion

In line with pfhyper’s recent posts on public libraries distributing Netlibrary’s eAudiobooks with DRM hooks that prevent Mac usage, here is a report from USA Today about Sony CDs that make your (MS Windows) computer vulnerable to exploits (like, you know, viruses):

Sony… said it will offer exchanges for consumers who purchased the discs, which contain hidden files that leave them vulnerable to computer viruses when played on a PC.

There are about twenty titles that install software known as a ‘rootkit’ on your PC (trust me, rootkits are really bad). The purpose of the hidden files is to protect IP or intellectual property. This is another form of DRM (digital rights management).

The installation of the offending software is hidden from human eyes and even difficult for alpha geeks to find. Check Mark Russinovich’s post here (really geeky), where he tries to figure out what’s going on with his system. Here’s a quote:

The entire experience was frustrating and irritating. Not only had Sony put software on my system that uses techniques commonly used by malware to mask its presence, the software is poorly written and provides no means for uninstall. Worse, most users that stumble across the cloaked files with a RKR scan will cripple their computer if they attempt the obvious step of deleting the cloaked files.

(Malware is like ‘malevolent’ ware, really bad stuff. I have no idea what an RKR scan is but the key point is if you know, and do it, and try to fix your PC, you will end up crippling it.)

If you live in the USA folks, your Congress is supporting this sort of thing because the entertainment industry has convinced them that the Internet really is about stealing intellectual property. There’s no hard proof of this theft but it makes for headlines and the E! industry has plenty of money to spend on persuasion.

This is a scary thing. If I write and distribute a sneaky virus like Sony, I face criminal prosecution. So far, Sony has very little to say. They are pulling the CDs from store shelves and will offer an exchange to consumers. The problem is that this does nothing for compromised machines, estimated to be half-a-million computers. (See the Wired article.)

Corporations like Sony are hijacking a good portion of our artistic culture. They want to extend copyrights, locking down long-term profits for themselves. Yeah, yeah, I know, the artist needs to make a living. No problem. I agree. This has gone way beyond that. What we are looking at now is an industry — mainly the music industry — that must change significantly and doesn’t want to. The Internet offers a very cheap way to distribute music and that’s what the music industry is all about: distribution. Make those CDs and sell ’em. It’s a very closed and feudal system.

Excuse me while I scream. This situation is so idiotic and most consumers aren’t even aware of it. That may be the silver lining in the Sony cloud. Consumers (with MS Windows computers) are very aware of viruses and the damage they can cause. With that paragon of MSM (mainstream media), USA Today, reporting on this controversy, that average consumer should be able to understand that Sony is making their computers vulnerable to viruses.

That’s all folks.


from the USA Today article, Bela Fleck is upset about Sony copy protection:

Frustrated when he bought a copy-protected Dave Matthews release and couldn’t copy it to his Apple iPod, Fleck insisted that Sony not release his new album with such restrictions….

Methinks more artists need to speak out about DRM and copy protection. They also need to understand what happens to their music once it is in the hands of the label. What if Mr. Fleck had not purchased the Matthews CD? Would he be clueless as to how Sony is locking up his music? It looks to me, an average joe (well, actually an average pete), that the Artist is willing to hand over his creations to a very LARGE corporation to do with said creation as they wish.

(Bela Fleck and I are not related.)

Really, that’s it for tonight.

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