Posted by: gregboyko | November 16, 2005

Do not buy Sony BMG Music CDs!

This is not exactly new news, since it has already been covered on numerous web sites and even in the mainstream media, but for those of you who may not yet have heard, or who may not fully understand all of what you have heard, I’ll summarize.
First, here is the very first post by Mark Russinovich, the well respected computer professional who first broke the story:


Mark’s Sysinternals Blog: Sony, Rootkits and Digital Rights Management Gone Too Far

Much has been written since Mark’s initial post, but the basic summary is this:

A certain Sony BMG CD (Sony BMG’s Get Right with the Man by the Van Zant brothers) contains Digital Rights Management (DRM) software. In other words, they want to limit what you can do with the music on the CD (e.g. they don’t allow you to make MP3’s of the tracks to play on your iPod or other portable music player.

Copy protected CDs aren’t exactly new, so why the uproar over this paricular CD? The answer lies in how they’ve implemented the DRM software. When this CD is played on a Windows-based computer, it automatically installs low-level system software onto your machine. The software is designed to hide itself (but can also by used by malicious software) from the machine owner. Sony is in effect hijacking your machine and installing software without your permission, and not explaining what the software does.

The software potentially destabilizes the machine it’s on. While this is bad enough by itself, the greater problem is that other malware hide itself using the software installed by Sony, making it very difficult to detect the virus/worm/spyware/whatever.

Sony has since stopped manufacturing the CD in question, and today announced that it would even be pulling the CD from store shelves. There’s nothing like bad press to force a company into doing the right thing. Unfortunately for Sony, the damage is already done. They have lost (and will lose) many customers over this debacle.

I personally own several Sony products, but it will be a verly long time before I ever purchase another. I urge everyone to at a minumum stop buying Sony CDs, but a full boycott of Sony altogether wouldn’t be out of the question, and is exactly what I have chosen to do.



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