Sony's Rootkit- the stench lingers

by Jason Gross

15 November 2005


Even though Sony said that it would suspend the use of its copy protection software, there’s word from the Electronic Frontier Foundation that those nasty little CD’s also carry along with them some incredible liabilites for anyone who buys them: Now the Legalese Rootkit: Sony-BMG’s EULA.

It’s so bloody outrageous that I’m repeating the list of stipulations here:

- If your house gets burgled, you have to delete all your music from your laptop when you get home. That’s because the EULA says that your rights to any copies terminate as soon as you no longer possess the original CD.

- You can’t keep your music on any computers at work. The EULA only gives you the right to put copies on a “personal home computer system owned by you.”

- If you move out of the country, you have to delete all your music. The EULA specifically forbids “export” outside the country where you reside.

- You must install any and all updates, or else lose the music on your computer. The EULA immediately terminates if you fail to install any update. No more holding out on those hobble-ware downgrades masquerading as updates.

- Sony-BMG can install and use backdoors in the copy protection software or media player to “enforce their rights” against you, at any time, without notice. And Sony-BMG disclaims any liability if this “self help” crashes your computer, exposes you to security risks, or any other harm.

- The EULA says Sony-BMG will never be liable to you for more than $5.00. That’s right, no matter what happens, you can’t even get back what you paid for the CD.

- If you file for bankruptcy, you have to delete all the music on your computer. Seriously.

- You have no right to transfer the music on your computer, even along with the original CD.

- Forget about using the music as a soundtrack for your latest family photo slideshow, or mash-ups, or sampling. The EULA forbids changing, altering, or make derivative works from the music on your computer.

Sounds pretty 1984, doesn’t it?  I’m a little disappointed that they’re not also mandating daily cavity searches for anyone who buys their music now but not to worry… I’m sure that’s coming down the pike.

In addition, if you want to know if one of your CD’s from Sony/Columbia/Epic carry this lovely little virus-attracting system, EFF has thoughtful provided a list of CD’s that are effected.

A Wired headline provides the only sane response to this: Boycott Sony.

“It’s time to draw a line in the silicon. Until Sony acknowledges the mistakes it has made, recalls the CDs and publishes guidelines for copy-protection programs it intends to use in the future, we should boycott its CDs containing the software. It pains me to say this, because artists with no control over Sony’s software are caught in the crossfire. “

Agreed!  Sure I’ll buy the new and dandy version of Born To Run with all the bonus goodies but it’ll be a used copy for sure- why should I float my bucks directly to a company that shows utter comtempt for me?

But back to the fun stuff… the best suggestion for what new preventative measure that the record labels should now take against consumers will win you a no-holds-barred match with RIAA head Cary Sherman.  Of course, certain restrictions apply…

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