a fair and balanced birdthing (raaven) wrote,
a fair and balanced birdthing

Sneaky Sony

From the EFF Newsletter:

* Uproot Sony-BMG's Invasion of Your Privacy and Your

For years now, copy-restriction software has been a looming
threat to those who purchase music and want to make fair
uses, such as space-shifting it from one device or computer
to another. Fortunately, early versions of the software were
so cumbersome and easy to work around that consumers whole-
heartedly rejected or bypassed them. Recently, however, at
least one record label has stepped up the war for control of
digital content by drawing from the playbook of spyware
companies and virus-writers.

Using a program called a rootkit, inserting a Sony BMG music
CD will now infect your computer with a nefarious program,
burying it deeply and obscurely within your operating system.
The program will monitor your computer activity in the name
of preventing the so-called "epidemic of piracy" that results
from people making extra copies of their music CDs or
favorite songs. Worse yet, there is no "uninstall" feature on
this program. It's like the roach motel -- once Sony BMG's
surveillance program checks in, you can't make it check out
without completely wiping your entire system clean. Such
practices have been widely condemned in the computer world,
even by Microsoft's own research division.

Outrage from computer users and music fans has sparked Sony
BMG into offering a program on its website that will show you
if you have been infected with the rootkit. However, while
you can see the program running, you still can't uninstall
it, and some security experts believe installing the "update"
may even infect your computer with more unwanted files.

While it is debatable whether copy-restriction software can
even prevent serious illegal copying to begin with, there
should be no question that invading our computers and
infecting our systems should be off-limits. Unfortunately,
the law is unclear on the exact rights users have to keep
programs like Sony's rootkit off your computer when you
purchase their CDs or click on a random "I Agree" button that
might appear during an installation process. Until the law
clarifies that We the Consumer actually hold the rights and
keys to our computers, spyware companies, virus-makers, and
now even entertainment conglomerates will be the ones
dictating what we can and cannot do in the privacy of our own
homes with the equipment and content we have lawfully
purchased. Left unchecked, they will continue using our own
computers against us to enforce their will and whims over our
personal freedoms and behavior.

Entertainment companies often complain that computer users
refuse to respect their intellectual property rights. Yet
tools like Sony's rootkit refuse to respect our own personal
property and privacy rights. Such hypocrisy should not stand.

Note: According to Princeton University CS Prof. Ed Felten,
if you're using a recent version of Windows, you can protect
yourself against this type of software, and some other
security risks, by disabling autorun.

More on the Sony rootkit:

More on the Sony response:

More on Ed Felten's suggestions:
Tags: corporate evil, liars/cheats/thieves, music, tech
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