Legal Issues

by Carlo Longino

Texas Sues Sony BMG Over Rootkits

from the don't-mess-with-texas dept

Sony BMG execs may not think their rootkits are spyware, but the Texas attorney general doesn't agree, announcing that the state has filed a civil lawsuit against Sony BMG for violating an anti-spyware law enacted earlier this year. The attorney general's office said that Sony BMG CDs that feature the rootkits were still on sale in stores in the state as late as Sunday, even though the company had said they'd all been recalled. Sony could be liable for up to $100,000 per violation of the anti-spyware law, and the state says there were at least thousands of violations. While it's unlikely they'll have to pay the maximum amount for each alleged violation, this could turn into a big financial (in addition to PR) mess for Sony. There will probably be more suits like this filed in other states, class-action suits from consumers, and even potential copyright damages. So, all of that to stop Celine Dion songs from being pirated. Was it worth it, Sony?

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Justin, Nov 21st, 2005 @ 12:09pm

    No Subject Given


    SONY/BMG got served...a summons that is.

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

  2. identicon
    Stoolio, Nov 21st, 2005 @ 12:10pm

    All I can say is


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

  3. identicon
    steve, Nov 21st, 2005 @ 12:13pm

    No Subject Given

    haha, someone introduce the industry execs to this thing called karma, what goes around comes around b*tches

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

  4. identicon
    Kraki, Nov 21st, 2005 @ 12:13pm

    No Subject Given

    hahaha, i'd wondered about that, i saw a few of the CDs still on the shelves at Best Buy on Sunday... I wonder if they're still there

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

  5. identicon
    randdickson, Nov 21st, 2005 @ 12:21pm

    License ?

    So does anyone know what the license said when installing the software ? I'm assuming they have the basic words about allowing them to install software and not being responsible for damage incurred because of said software.

    While this is a PR nightmare I doubt they are libel for anything beyond being really really really stupid ,,, course the same thing could be said about people buying celine dion CDs and probably clicking 'OK' to every screen present to them during the install without reading it.

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

  6. identicon
    Riley, Nov 21st, 2005 @ 12:25pm

    Financial Outlook: Grim

    So any estimaes on how much this could end up costing Sony?

    2 Million CDs times $100,000 = $200 BILLION. I suppose that is a worst case senario...

    But add in all the class action lawsuits (which will likely be settled out of court), possible lawsuits for copyright infringment of the code, the cost of the recall and manufacturing changes, the cost of tech support for thousands and thousands of infected PCs. Ouch, what is their financial situation going to look like for this quarter and beyond? Is it time to short SNE?

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

  7. identicon
    Si, Nov 21st, 2005 @ 12:25pm

    Sony Rootkit

    I still don't think that Sony (and the media firms) get it. In their last press release they still said that they were only "temporarily" discontinuing the spyware, as if there as a better way to implement it.
    Many computers (my Dell) come with a DVD-ROM but you cannot watch a commercial DVD because of back room deals. I get a message stating that because of "copyright regulations" they cannot display the content.
    Of course that didn't last for long, there are many ways to get around that; its my content and I bought the CD legally on Amazon.

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

  8. identicon
    jszpila, Nov 21st, 2005 @ 12:26pm

    Re: License ?

    i don't think any EULAs protect manufacturers from state or federal law. imagine what kind of hell would result if they did.

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

  9. identicon
    Justin, Nov 21st, 2005 @ 12:48pm


    While these things scare off most of the sue happy crowd, I recall speaking with a lawyer who I had to have sign a waiver at a ski shop and he said despite signing his name to it they pretty much hold little to no legal weight whatsoever.

    Esspecially when a retailer or service provider makes it something required to make the product run or use. It's basically forcing the consumer to do so under duress, not the same as a loaded gun no doubt, but to someone who has just made a purchase and we all know no retailer around takes back opened CDs, DVDs, or any other copyrighted material.

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

  10. identicon
    MissingFrame, Nov 21st, 2005 @ 1:03pm

    Re: EULA

    As far as I know, nobody "signs" a EULA anyway. In addition, there's nothing to stop an underage child to buying and agreeing.

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

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 21st, 2005 @ 1:24pm

    No Subject Given

    I have read that the rootkit is installed immediately upon autorun activating, before the user even gets a chance to accept the EULA.

    Which makes sense, because otherwise, you could:

    a) insert the cd
    b) minimize the EULA without agreeing
    c) rip the cd.

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

  12. identicon
    Rick, Nov 21st, 2005 @ 1:46pm

    Stock Price

    I am appalled that the stock price hasn't been affected that much. The last three months show a low of just under $32 a share, and a High of nearly $37 a share. If you own Sony stock, you might want to do a short sell, if not buy in a day or so. I hate to say it, but Sony won't stay down long, even if they deserve it.

    Does anyone know of a site that lists the CD's that had the root-kits on them?

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

  13. identicon
    G, Nov 21st, 2005 @ 1:53pm

    Re: EULA - proven in court?

    Ive always heard that EULAs have not been upheld in court as legally binding.

    Anyone know?

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

  14. identicon
    Eugene, Nov 21st, 2005 @ 1:59pm

    Don't Mess With Texas

    I'm proud of living in the first state to sue Sony for this.

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

  15. identicon
    bobfromcali, Nov 21st, 2005 @ 3:33pm

    Re: Don't Mess With Texas

    no your not cali and new york started suing first.

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

  16. identicon
    Texas Electronic Cowpoke, Nov 21st, 2005 @ 3:49pm

    No Subject Given

    This kind of thing is thre whole reason I love living in Texas. We can shoot tresspassers on sight, hold tight to the death penalty, and don't take crap from anyone. YEEHA!

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

  17. identicon
    Richard Larson, Nov 21st, 2005 @ 3:58pm

    Texas = lawsuit capital of US

    Seems these days TX is taking everyone on in court, first Vonage, now Sony. If I were a young upstart company I'd think twice about selling your product in TX, you're gonna get sued!

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

  18. identicon
    Bob, Nov 21st, 2005 @ 4:30pm


    Now it's become serious. Once a state decides to sue, it's only a matter of time before others get emboldened to jump on the bandwagon. In the coming days expect to see more states and others try to cash in on the mayhem. With state budgets at historic lows, this windfall of a suit could prove an easy get and also quite profitable.

    I actually feel sorry for Sony in all of this. They make good products, it's unfortunate that the limited vision of a few bumbling executives has now mired this corporation in serious legal trouble, and all attempts to downplay the graveness of it all has only served to fan the public flames.

    Will anyone at all come to the defense of Sony? Probably not, it's competitors are probably now licking their chops in anticipation of the slaughter.

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

  19. identicon
    Tim Howland, Nov 21st, 2005 @ 5:05pm

    EFF Just filed a class-action lawsuit

    EFF just joined in the fun:

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), along with two leading national class action law firms, today filed a lawsuit against Sony BMG, demanding that the company repair the damage done by the First4Internet XCP and SunnComm MediaMax software it included on over 24 million music CDs.
    EFF is pleased that Sony BMG has taken steps in acknowledging the security risks caused by the XCP CDs, including a recall of the infected discs. However, these measures still fall short of what the company needs to do to fix the problems caused to customers by XCP, and Sony BMG has failed entirely to respond to concerns about MediaMax, which affects over 20 million CDs -- ten times the number of CDs as the XCP software.

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

  20. identicon
    netwrok, Nov 21st, 2005 @ 5:32pm

    No Subject Given

    the last statement was classic, lol

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

  21. identicon
    yank2005, Nov 21st, 2005 @ 6:01pm

    Re: Sony Rootkit

    "DVD-ROM but you cannot watch a commercial DVD because of back room deals"
    Don't be so paranoid.... get a DVD player program and you shoudl find it plays fine. (eg powerdvd) you may find that your DVD ROM came with software preinstalled that lets you watch DVDs

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

  22. identicon
    Sony BMG, Nov 21st, 2005 @ 6:08pm


    Yea it was worth it you bag of pirating scum.. who buy our disks and now can not uhh....

    Never mind.

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

  23. identicon
    Bill, Nov 22nd, 2005 @ 7:22am

    Re: EULA - proven in court?

    Yes, in WI, which is 7th district court.

    CD PRO vs Kershaw (sp?)

    CD pro produced a compliation of phone book data, and this guy ripped it off to make his own software. Since phone book data is public, it couldn't be copyrighted, and the only protection was the EULA.

    Judge said that an EULA is like auto insurance, that you buy it before you see the policy, and if you don't like it when your policy come sin the mail you can cancel.

    There was no metion what to do if Best Buy or the Software company won't give you a refund and you disagree with the EULA.

    Since it was a State law, The ruling currently only applies in WI.

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

  24. identicon
    zcat, Nov 23rd, 2005 @ 12:03am

    Switchfoot - Nothing Is Sound

    The most amusing part; well before I had even heard about the whole XCP fiasco my wife mentioned that she wanted the latest Switchfoot CD.
    I checked online and found people complaining that the copy protection allowed ZERO copying, no transfers even in protected format, etc. Even Switchfoot themselves were pissed off about it!
    I also pointed out to Sue that the CD was designed not to let her play the music on her cheap MP3 player (no DRM formats, only mp3 and wav), might not work in the DVD player, and there was a fair chance it wouldn't play in Linux either.
    She agreed even though she thinks 'copyright infringement' is wrong (it's kind-of like stealing) it would be pretty stupid to pay for a CD that turns out to be completely unplayable to us and can't be returned either.
    So I downloaded it instead.
    It's a great album by the way. Sue's put some money aside to pay for it already but we can't find a mailing address that doesn't go through Sony :-(

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

  25. identicon
    Born in New York, raised in Cali, now a proud Texa, Nov 23rd, 2005 @ 3:01pm

    Re: Don't Mess With Texas

    "no your not cali and new york started suing first."

    Ummm...don't quite get how california comes into play regarding his initial message...or anything...and thank god being second or third or a thousandth doesn't stop people from doing something or none of us would be here. And, hmmm, lets see, california is bleeding money as corporations and the middle class flee from that disaster plagued, illegal alien overrun, stupid-celebrity infested state that once again elected a mentally retarded actor for a governor...and New York, well New york has been limping through the recession since 911. Texas? Texas is one of the few states in the country whose economy is strong and whose job market is thriving, it sent one of it's right wing kook governors to the white house but the jokes on America, Texas governors have VERY little power over the state legislature and in general. It also is the only state in the union that flies its flag at the same height as the American flag and reserves the right to secede from the union (just in case it becomes too much like "Cali"). Sounds like a much more independant, interesting and economically sound place than the failed socialist republic of "Cali" or the still limping state of New York.

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

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