Sony CD Spyware Spurs Lawsuits

By Richard Menta 11/08/05

We can't say if Sony will ever have to face a criminal court judge for using hacker tools as a form of digital rights management (DRM), but it looks like they are going to spend a lot of time in civil court.

The Italian equivalent of the American Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) called ALCEI-EFI has already filed suit against the media giant charging that its DRM amounts to a virus (they have also asked the police to investigate criminal charges). Declan McCullagh in his recent commentary for CNET has learned that San Francisco firm of Green Welling is readying a class action lawsuit against Sony.

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Declan even points out that removing the spyware from your machine should you acquire it from a Sony CD is a felony under Section 1201 of the poorly constructed Digital Millennium Copyright Act, even with Sony's permission.

It doesn't matter who wins or loses these contests as far as Sony is concerned. The damage is done as soon as these suits hit the mainstream press (which so far has failed to cover the biggest malware story of all time, a curious fact). CDs are not safe is the message such suits will deliver to consumers.

This could kill the CD as the preferred method of listening to music, something that will affect the entire record industry, not just Sony.

It is already affecting Van Zant's new album. Initially there was no effect. As Internet Week pointed out after the story first hit "Thursday, the album's sales ranking was 1,299, while Friday's was slightly better, at 1,113."

This morning this is what Amazon's sales rank is showing for Van Zant:

Today: #2,018 in Music
Yesterday: #1,423 in Music

Word is getting around and the artist Van Zant is the first victim. It will hurt other artists like Jazz musician Dexter Gordon and vocalist Vivian Green now that their CDs have been identified as having the malware.

We'll see soon how this all plays out, but it already is shaping up to be one public relations nightmare. Executives at Sony have made a very bad tactical error and in the end it won't be the courts that will make them pay for it. It will be the public.

Other MP3 stories:
Can iTunes Resurrect Old Time TV?
iPod Killers for Christmas 2005 Part I
iPod Killers for Christmas 2005 Part II
iPod Killers for Christmas 2005 Part III

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