31 October 2005

Dear Sony: Why Are You Acting Like a Criminal?

If you buy Sony CDs with their copy protection / Digital Rights Management, and you play that CD on your Windows PC, there is a good chance that your computer will be hacked - make that cracked - by the black hat folks at Sony. A very technical, for-geeks-only write-up is here, with an almost lay explanation of what happens about two-thirds of the way down the page.
The DRM reference made me recall having purchased a CD recently that can only be played using the media player that ships on the CD itself and that limits you to at most 3 copies. I scrounged through my CD’s and found it, Sony BMG’s Get Right with the Man (the name is ironic under the circumstances) CD by the Van Zant brothers. I hadn’t noticed when I purchased the CD from Amazon.com that it’s protected with DRM software, but if I had looked more closely at the text on the Amazon.com web page I would have known. ... 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.

While I believe in the media industry’s right to use copy protection mechanisms to prevent illegal copying, I don’t think that we’ve found the right balance of fair use and copy protection, yet. This is a clear case of Sony taking DRM too far.
Too far indeed! If the report is true - and the technical details are far too involved to be a fabrication - surreptitiously installing code on a user's machine, with no way of uninstalling it, that consumes resources by merely being there, that is poorly written (and therefore potentially a target of a subsequent compromising attack), and that will cripple the entire machine if an unsuspecting user tries to delete the malicious files is AGAINST THE LAW in both the U.S. and Canada, and probably elsewhere as well.

Last holiday season, my daughter (who happens to be involved in Digital Copyright Canada's petition campaign) received a DRM'ed Sony CD and refused to play it. Now I'm doubly glad she did! To paraphrase the cliché, friends won't let friends buy Sony CDs. Or, put another way, isn't hijacking a machine like this an act of... piracy?

For shame, Sony. For shame.

P.S. The Slashdot commentary - unusually salient on this topic - is here.

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1 comment:

Harold Jarche said...

Being in the market for a new computer, I was considering buying a Sony. Without a doubt, I will now boycott Sony products - and I don't even listen to music on my PC. It's the principle.