Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Sony Settles Rootkit Class Action Suit; Downloads Galore

from the get-yer-free-downloads dept

While Sony was incredibly slow to react to the whole rootkit fiasco when it first broke, the company is now rapidly trying to clean up the mess it caused. The latest is that the company has agreed to settle a class action suit filed over the matter. Beyond the basic recall they had already announced, consumers who return an XCP-infected CD will get to download either three free albums from a list of 200 albums, or a cash payout of $7.50 for their troubles. While Sony still refuses to recall CDs that include the SunnComm MediaMax copy protection (which installs without permission), they will let people download the MP3s of the albums they purchased with that software on it. Sony BMG also says it will no longer use either of the two copy protection systems (though, you wonder if they'll move on to something else). Alex Eckelberry has more details at the Sunbelt Blog. It's not clear how this settlement (if approved) will impact some of the other lawsuits against the company. The fear, though, is that once everyone calms down about this, they (and the other labels) will simply go back to their old tricks. Still, it is fairly ironic that this program whose main purpose was to avoid Sony BMG music being ripped into MP3 form (a goal that was pointless from the beginning) has now been turned around to the point of Sony BMG handing out free, unencumbered MP3s.

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  • identicon
    Ben McNelly, 29 Dec 2005 @ 11:13am

    oh, nice...

    Yes, I too wonder if they learned anything here. Um, probably not... I think they should have been required to run ads on all the big networks, announcing the recall/cash or downloads...

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

    • identicon
      Colt Chaffin, 29 Dec 2005 @ 11:39am

      Sony is too cheap

      Why is it that when Sony has to pay out it's only a proposed $7.50(not even the cost of the CD), but when the customer is forced to pay out it is over $1,000? Doesn't quite seem right to me.

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

      • identicon
        nonuser, 29 Dec 2005 @ 4:20pm

        Re: Sony is too cheap

        The attached PDF said that you can exchange your XCP-protected CD for an unprotected copy of the same title, in addition to the payout.

        As an owner of one XCP title, I doubt I'll go through the trouble of taking it back to the store and I'm sure I won't sign up for the class action payout. Signing up puts you in a database which can be used for all kinds of purposes and for this measly award it's just not worth it. I'm sure the plaintiff attorneys will be rewarded handsomely for their distinguished service, though. Even Sony will agree that they did a great job.

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

  • identicon
    ZOMG CENSORED, 29 Dec 2005 @ 12:19pm

    I'm surprised...

    ...The CD's listed are even worth that much. I think they should be paying you initially for Celine Dion CD's (Amongst the metric crapload of other horrible albums). Sans Rootkit!

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

  • identicon
    How Sh**ty, 29 Dec 2005 @ 12:40pm


    This is a load of BS, what about the infected computers that cannot have the software removed without crashing them & losing the entire OS & all files? I think Sony needs alot more Liability in this matter, like giving affected consumers $1500 cas setllements to replace the machines they blew up while the customer was trying to remove the malware!

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

    • identicon
      Rigel, 1 Jan 2006 @ 6:40am

      Re: BS

      Sony is providing an un-installer for the rootkit and the mediamax software. As well, Microsoft has released a remover in their latest malicious software removal tool.

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

  • identicon
    Brian Bartlett, 30 Dec 2005 @ 1:04am

    Not good enough

    About the only people that get anything out of this are the lawywers while we still remain screwed. They get a huge legal fee, the customers are left with rooted machines, and, oh my, a replacement CD or $7.50 which is (far) less than they paid for the CD in the first place.

    I listen to classical music and I've been using Sony products for years. Indeed, a replacement workstation monitor (~$1600), PS3, and at least two new computers were in the budget for the coming year for myself and my business. Sorry Sony, you have lost a customer for life and my personal recommendation as a consultant. You won't clean up your mess, nor promise to avoid creating same again, so the only way I czn hurt you is on your bottom line.

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

  • identicon
    Just one guy, 30 Dec 2005 @ 1:26am

    Of course...

    The fear, though, is that once everyone calms down about this, they (and the other labels) will simply go back to their old tricks.

    But of course. They haven't abandoned the idea of copy protection at all. They just think this specific app is buggy, and that a new and improved one will take care of all the little problems this one had, and that all these guys have made such a big fussy about.

    And when the new application will turn out to be evil and sneaky as well (but in a much subtler way, harder to find about and longer to get rid of) they will try for a new and improved one without the "bugs".

    They will never make the next logical step, and decide that copy protection is wrong per se and pointless in the long term. They will support new encoding schemes that include copy protection in the data of the discs, even to the cost of excluding older HiFi sets from playing them, and support the inclusion of hardware DRM bits in new computers so as to prevent the use of unauthorizzed ripping applications.

    And they will be convinced that even if the next application turns out not to be adequate, the following one will be. Or maybe the one after that.

    Personally, I've come to the conclusion that it's not from the record company that we can expect a new approach and a new wisdom, but from the artists alone. They (and especially the big names, the ones that can exert adequate pressure on the record companies) need to start releasing only limited copyright to record companies, and take in their own hand the whole matter of electronic availability of their music.

    It is possible and it is economically viable, for artists, to control directly the electronic diffusion of music. It is possible to cut out the middle man (the record company). Some big artist has just to start doing so, and create new standard contracts that can be referred to by others.

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

  • identicon
    giafly, 30 Dec 2005 @ 3:11am


    Proposed Settlement (PDF)
    Discussion on Groklaw

    Anonymous points out on that the settlement gives the choice between: $7.50 + 1 album download -or- 3 album downloads.
    So, according to Sony, 2 albums' worth of music has an actual value of $7.50. That's $3.75 per album.

    Bear this in mind when the RIAA quote higher figures. Also if they sold albums for under $4 maybe Sony wouldn't need DRM.

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

  • identicon
    I'm not you!, 30 Dec 2005 @ 9:59am

    What a joke of a settlement!

    So... You paid what? $15-$20 for an infected CD, it infects your system, causes you all kinds of problems, and their settlement is to give you back less than half your purchase prices, or let you download 3 albums worth of 128k mp3's (At a much lower quality than a CD-based track)??
    What judge approved this settlement?
    Once again our courts prove that big business's can basically write their own tickets these days. How sad.
    One more reason I don't buy big label music any more though! Until the RIAA and its cohorts start to treat me like a customer and not a criminal, they get nothing from me!

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

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