4. Sony BMG music CDs leave a little deposit on people's computers
It seemed that even Sony BMG, the largest of the world's four major music publishers, was bewildered at the idea that a media player shipped with some of their music CDs would use a stealth technique, inspired by "rootkits," to hide their drivers in Windows-based PCs. The story of Sony BMG's defense of the First4Internet XCP copy protection scheme read like the last, desperate days of defending the Alamo: First, an independent programmer finds a stealth driver in his computer, using a program designed to seek out rootkits. It's not a rootkit, both Sony BMG and First4Internet responded. It may as well be one, said many, because it degrades the performance of computers. Sure, came the defense, but it doesn't steal personal information and send it to some Web site. But the media player does contact the Web site, we learned; and what's more, the EULA said it wouldn't. So what's the difference? The difference, we were told, is that it's not malicious code, and can't be used for malicious purposes. Strike one more layer of defense, as Trojan horse programs almost immediately leverage XCP's stealth to do some real damage.
But not real damage, as in the kind that can be compensated for in court? Yes, real damage, and thanks for that court idea, by the way. Okay, so mistakes were made, we'll start an exchange program. But for every customer with whom you're exchanging discs, you're taking names, and what happens to those names? Nothing, really. Okay, maybe not nothing. Today, the very name "Sony BMG" has become synonymous with copy protection run amok. Not only the music publisher but its parent company face some very serious hurdles in restoring consumer confidence, especially as Sony works to advocate the use of Internet-oriented copy protection measures for next-generation DVDs.