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Sony hit by lawsuits over root kit

Spyware flushes out lawyers

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Sony BMG is facing a class action suit from Californian consumers who claim the music giant's rootkit DRM technology damaged their computers and breaks three separate Californian laws.

The suit asks the court to stop Sony selling any more CDs containing the rootkit and seeks compensation for damage already done. Some Sony audio CDs include software which will secretly load itself if the CD is played on a computer. The suit was filed 1 November in the Los Angeles Superior Court by attorney Alan Himmelfarb, according to Reuters.

A second case has been started in New York on behalf of anyone who's bought one of the CDs.

Sony is also facing possible action from the Electronic Frontier Foundation in Italy - the lobby group has filed papers with the Italian authorities alleging Sony is guilty of "illicit acts".

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has also examined Sony's End User License Agreement which consumers now agree to when buying Sony CDs. Aside from letting Sony install any software they like on your computer it also covers what you can do with stored copies of the CD.

Any copies of the CD kept on a laptop or other device must be deleted if the original CD is stolen or lost. They cannot be stored on your work computer only a "personal home computer system owned by you". If you move countries you must delete all songs covered by the license. If you file for bankrupcy you must delete all relevant files.

Any consumer who fails to keep up-to-date with the hidden software is in breach of the agreement.

In exchange for all this the license also limits Sony BMG's liability for any damages this might cause to just $5 per CD - or slightly less than you paid for it in the first place.

Read the whole critique here.

A spokesman for Sony BMG in the UK guided us in the direction of New York HQ because CDs sold in the UK do not contain the rootkit. Sony BMG New York were unable to provide comment by press time. ®

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