by Mike Masnick

Sony BMG To Offer Unprotected MP3s In Exchange For Rootkit CDs

from the backtracking dept

Took them long enough, but it looks like Sony BMG has finally recognized what sort of PR nightmare they've unleashed by dragging their feet and denying there was a problem on the whole rootkit situation. While they finally agreed to pull the CDs and recall ones that had been sold, many saw it as a too little, too late response. Some reports even highlighted that Sony's management team still didn't think this was a big deal. It looks like someone there finally figured out that the company really had to go a bit beyond what they were doing. They've now announced that the exchange program will require you to send in your existing CDs, to which they'll send back a regular, unencumbered copy of the CD -- but, while you're waiting, you'll be able to download unprotected MP3s of the songs on the CDs you're sending in. Of course, I imagine a few people might want to wait and make sure those MP3s really are plain old MP3s. I have one of the CDs in question, and I think I'll be waiting until we hear from Ed Felten and Alex Halderman as to how safe those downloads are... Still, it's quite ironic to note that Sony BMG went through all this trouble to (in their minds, at least) prevent the songs on these CDs from ever reaching the MP3 format (an impossible dream), and now, here they are, handing out plain old MP3s of those very songs.

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  • identicon
    Bob, 18 Nov 2005 @ 2:58pm


    "Sony's management team still didn't think this was a big deal"

    Perhaps it's time for a new management team.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Just one guy, 18 Nov 2005 @ 3:34pm

    Could it have been any worse?

    From the USA Today article you cite:

    Sony is asking retailers to pull the titles off their shelves and wait for clean replacement copies, which might not arrive in stores until next Friday, leaving some artists off the shelves temporarily for the all-important Thanksgiving shopping weekend. By the way, the titles are 52!

    Now I wonder: could there have been a worse moment in which to try out a new technology on such a large number of releases? Well, good for them!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Just one guy, 18 Nov 2005 @ 4:03pm

    Curioser and curioser!

    I was very taken by this story, and out of curiosity went to the SONY/DMG site to see their side of the story. I guess there is something interesting to note. Please bear with me:
    Will this disc play on my computer?... When listening to music directly off the disc, you must use the player provided on the disc. Attempting to play the audio on the disc (while the disc is spinning in the computer drive) with another player (i.e. Windows Media Player, Real Player, iTunes) will result in distorted sound.
    ... and...
    Can my existing MP3 collection be imported into the MUSIC PLAYER software? Files such as MP3 or WAV cannot be imported into the MUSIC PLAYER software. The MUSIC PLAYER software is only compatible with these discs.
    ... and...
    How can I get tracks I rip from my CD into iTunes and/or onto my iPod? Apple's proprietary technology doesn't support secure music formats other than their own and therefore the music on this disc can't be directly imported into iTunes or iPods. [...] In order to directly and smoothly rip content into iTunes it requires the assistance of Apple. To date, Apple has not been willing to cooperate with our protection vendors to make ripping to iTunes and to the iPod a simple experience.
    ... and going on...
    That said, while there is no direct support on the disc for iTunes or iPod, SONY BMG has worked out an indirect way for consumers to move content into these environments, despite the challenges noted above. If you'd like more information on how to move content to iTunes please CLICK HERE. (BTW, please note that the page mentioned returns a form to fill in the data before letting you in the actual content of the page!
    ... and my favorite is...
    What computer access rights do I need to use this disc on Windows? You must log on to your computer with Administrator rights or Power User rights to fully use the disc. Normally, you should have Administrator rights, unless you are working in a corporate environment in which case, you'll need to contact your IT department to have them install the software for you.
    ... but also this...
    Known issue: Player takes up a large percentage of CPU cyclesOn slower machines, especially ones running Windows 98 and Windows ME, the player may consume a high amount of CPU cycles even if it is not playing back audio. If you experience audio playback problems try quitting out of other open applications.
    Finally, one interesting fact:
    I have an Apple Macintosh computer. Will the disc work on my MAC? Yes. This disc will behave like a traditional CD in a Mac.
    Now, I wonder: if the Mac reads it as a traditional CD, how long does it take to understand that there will be at least one CD owner (if there are more that 25 computer users among the buyers of the CD, that is) that has a Mac, and that can create mp3 out of the CD with no trouble at all, and share it with his/her friends??? Why oh why did they even start this whole thing?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Mike (another Mike), 18 Nov 2005 @ 7:08pm

      Re: Curioser and curioser!

      Nice find guy, you made my day. I couldn't think Sony was dumber for all this that they dragged themselves through and it turns out that the CD was just as easy to rip as any other. What were they thinking, all it would take was one MAC owener to purchase the BMG CD and it would be on P2P's in under one day. What a waste of time making the copy protection, denying, recalling, and redistributing.


      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Etchy, 20 Nov 2005 @ 11:22am

      Re: Curioser and curioser!

      They need a "Thinking Things Through" department.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    giafly, 21 Nov 2005 @ 5:19am

    Masking tape defeats Sony DRM rootkit

    Gartner has discovered that the technology can be easily defeated simply by applying a fingernail-sized piece of opaque tape to the outer edge of the disc. This renders session two which contains the self-loading DRM software unreadable. - The Register

    How to Enable or Disable Automatically Running CD-ROMs - Microsoft

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mike, 5 Dec 2005 @ 12:55pm


    I purchased "Maroon 5 - Live Friday the 13th", which happens to be a DRM protected disc. Simply holding down the shift key, and using an older DVD-ROM drive, I was able to rip the songs to whatever format I wanted.

    Odd thing was, using the newer CD-Burner drive, the audio would come out garbled with the same hold-shift-key technique.


    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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