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      The only surprise is that it wasn’t Number 1

      January 3rd, 2007

      PC World: The 25 Worst Tech Products of All Time. The article covers 50 tech products that were so egregiously bad that they made the Hall of Shame for all time. Our favorite—Sony BMG music CDs—hit at number 5 on the list, behind AOL, the 1999 version of RealPlayer, Syncronys SoftRAM, and Windows ME. PC World’s write-up of our favorite rootkit vendor says:

      When you stick a music CD into your computer, you shouldn’t have to worry that it will turn your PC into a hacker’s plaything. But that’s exactly what Sony BMG Music Entertainment’s music discs did in 2005. The discs’ harebrained copy protection software installed a rootkit that made it invisible even to antispyware or antivirus software. Any moderately clever cyber attacker could then use the same rootkit to hide, say, a keylogger to capture your bank account information, or a remote-access Trojan to turn your PC into a zombie.

      Security researcher Dan Kaminsky estimated that more than half a million machines were infected by the rootkit. After first downplaying the problem and then issuing a “fix” that made things worse, Sony BMG offered to refund users’ money and replace the faulty discs. Since then, the record company has been sued up the wazoo; a federal court judge recently approved a settlement in the national class action suit. Making your machine totally vulnerable to attacks–isn’t that Microsoft’s job?

      Another shoe: Sony BMG and the 39-State Settlement

      December 22nd, 2006

      Well, when it rains it pours: Sony BMG just agreed to a settlement that covers 39 of the other states that sued over its hijinks with XCP and MediaMax—this hot on the heels of Sony’s settlement of the California and Texas suits earlier this week. Some notes on the breakout of the payments is mentioned on CNet (from the AP), indicating that the lead states will see the lion’s share of the $4.25 million, but still only $316,538 goes to each of the 13 lead states in the settlement.

      As for the rest of the states, I’m not sure why they bothered for $5,000 apiece. That’s not going to go very far toward fixing computers rendered inoperable by Sony’s spyware, or even very far in free CDs.

      The “long tail” of Sony BMG lawsuits: settlements

      December 20th, 2006

      Yahoo! News (AP): Sony BMG settles suit over CDs. The earlier news reports didn’t make clear that the suits in question were those brought by California and Texas; hat tip to BoingBoing for posting the pointer. The settlements cover both XCP and MediaMax claims.

      (Previous coverage on this blog for the California suit and Texas suits.)

      You know, even if I only post to this blog every time a suit is settled, it could still drag on for years…

      Son of Boycott Sony?

      October 24th, 2006

      I’ve received an email urging me to comment on the recent claims by import company Lik-Sang that Sony has put them out of business. On the face of it, Sony’s actions—they got a UK court to bar Lik-Sang and other importers from selling the Japanese version of the PSP—seem anticonsumer and anticompetitive. So why aren’t I jumping up and down with indignation?

      A few reasons why I might be a little indignant: first, region-specific products are evil, a scheme whereby multinationals exploit national borders as a convenient excuse to gouge customers in different countries and territories to the extent that the market will bear (and piracy is an even more transparent excuse). It’s wrong in the music industry, wrong in the DVD industry, and wrong in the electronics industry.

      Also, the language that Sony is using to justify its actions, to wit, taking the moral high ground on personally identifiable information about its customers, seems kind of … ironic.

      But there’s another side to the issue. One, for better or worse, Sony is apparently within their legal rights in enforcing the exclusivity of their distribution network. So sadly we don’t have a lot of moral high ground to stand on—just a generalized grumbling about Sony’s anti-customer mindset. And if we fight this, we need to fight region coding on DVDs, import-only record releases, and virtually every other aspect of the worldwide media industry. That way lies Cory Doctorow, who does a really good job of keeping up with these sorts of issues.

      But the other thing, frankly, is that Sony is doing a great job of digging its own grave. Look at its recent profit projections… battery problems for its own laptops and othersPS3 shortages… Sony just doesn’t seem as threatening as it used to.

      Farewell, for now

      January 23rd, 2006

      It has been a good two months for customers and a bad few months for Sony BMG. No small part of the latter was due to the actions of readers of this blog and other online news sources that drew attention to Sony BMG’s actions.

      Now, MediaMax and XCP are off the market, and the action is in the courts (although I still believe that Sony BMG is getting off lightly here). So I’m pushing Pause on this blog. I will continue to post information about DRM related issues on my regular site, and I encourage you to subscribe to the new DRM channel there — or to my full feed. And you can keep up with any ongoing action in the Sony BMG case at SonySuit.com, or at BoingBoing and Freedom to Tinker.

      Finally, a technical note. I am in the process of turning comments and pings off on the site, because the site is becoming a spam magnet and I don’t want to spend all my time moderating spam comments. If you want to get in touch with me, please use the contact form at my main site.

      Boycott Sony at SxSW, with your help

      January 13th, 2006

      Hi folks–an unusual request here. I put my name in the hat over at TechCrunch for a free pass to the South by Southwest Interactive Conference (SXSWi) in March and was selected as one of the finalists, largely on the strength of this blog. Michael Arrington, the author of TechCrunch, is going to give away the pass based on the results of a poll on his site.

      I’d like to go to the conference to ask difficult questions about DRM and the rights of customers at every panel. So I’m asking for your help. Between now and midnight tonight (sorry for the short notice–just saw the poll today!), please go and put in a vote for me.

      Pledge: only buy DRM Free CDs

      January 10th, 2006

      When BoingBoing talks, apparently people listen. The Boycott DRM pledge at PledgeBank, which asks signers to boycott all CDs containing digital rights management, blew through its signatory goals after BoingBoing linked it yesterday. According to their signup rate graph, they got 1700 or so signatures yesterday.

      I think that this is the next logical step from boycotting Sony BMG for their actions. Please consider checking it out.

      Legal roundup: Canadian lawsuit drops; SonySuit.com blogger sues Sony

      January 6th, 2006

      As one set of class action suits winds down in the US, another set opens up in Canada. Boing Boing pointed last night to class action suits filed against Sony in Ontario and British Columbia, following a class action that I missed that was filed in November in Quebec.

      Scanning the briefs, it looks as though both class actions focus on XCP. Both the Ontario brief and the BC brief mention MediaMax but focus on XCP; First4Internet is a co-defendant but SunnComm is not. (In fact, it’s a little unclear to me from the brief whether customers who bought MediaMax-protected disks in Ontario or BC are included in the class.)

      And in a real instance of putting one’s money where one’s mouth is, SonySuit.com legal blogger Mark Lyon, a law student, is opting out of the class action settlement and filing his own small claims suit against Sony BMG. (Thanks again to BoingBoing.) Considering the limited remedies provided by the settlement, which include no redress for damages caused to the computer by the installation of XCP or MediaMax, it might be worthwhile to follow Mark into small claims court.

      Legal roundup: Canadian lawsuit drops; SonySuit.com blogger sues Sony

      January 6th, 2006

      As one set of class action suits winds down in the US, another set opens up in Canada. Boing Boing pointed last night to class action suits filed against Sony in Ontario and British Columbia, following a class action that I missed that was filed in November in Quebec.

      Scanning the briefs, it looks as though both class actions focus on XCP. Both the Ontario brief and the BC brief mention MediaMax but focus on XCP; First4Internet is a co-defendant but SunnComm is not. (In fact, it’s a little unclear to me from the brief whether customers who bought MediaMax-protected disks in Ontario or BC are included in the class.)

      And in a real instance of putting one’s money where one’s mouth is, SonySuit.com legal blogger Mark Lyon, a law student, is opting out of the class action settlement and filing his own small claims suit against Sony BMG. (Thanks again to BoingBoing.) Considering the limited remedies provided by the settlement, which include no redress for damages caused to the computer by the installation of XCP or MediaMax, it might be worthwhile to follow Mark into small claims court.

      And Florida

      January 4th, 2006

      Another investigation launched on the heels of Sony BMG’s settlement with the EFF and the New York class action suit: Charlie Crist, Florida’s attorney general, announces the opening of an investigation into the surreptitious installation of Sony BMG’s DRM software. The investigation number is L05-3-1157; no lawsuit … yet. Via Boing Boing.


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