Feeds

Texas puts Sony BMG in its sights

'Illegal spyware'

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

The Attorney General for the state of Texas filed a lawsuit against Sony BMG Music Entertainment on Monday, calling the media giant's copy-protection technology "illegal spyware".

The complaint alleges that Sony BMG violated the Texas Consumer Protection Against Computer Spyware (CPACS) Act, which includes provisions that punish those who hide software from a computer's owner. The focus of the legal action is a copy-protection program created by software firm First 4 Internet and used by Sony BMG to guard 52 CD titles.

The Extended Copy Protection (XCP) software hides itself and controls basic functions of the Windows operating system - tactics employed by the rootkits commonly used by online attackers. The software was included on some 4.7 million discs produced by Sony BMG, of which about 2.1 million were sold.

"Sony has engaged in a technological version of cloak and dagger deceit against consumers by hiding secret files on their computers," Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a statement. "Consumers who purchased a Sony CD thought they were buying music. Instead, they received spyware that can damage a computer, subject it to viruses and expose the consumer to possible identity crime."

With the lawsuit, Texas becomes the first state in the nation to sue Sony BMG for the company's role in installing the surreptitious copy-protection program on PCs. Following the discovery of the software three weeks ago, security experts, consumers and digital-rights advocates have taken the media giant to task, saying that Sony BMG's software makes computers insecure, does not adequately inform the user as to its function and cannot be uninstalled easily.

Sony BMG did not answer requests for comment on Monday.

At least a half dozen legal actions have already been filed or will be filed in the coming weeks, said sources at the firms involved in the cases. The same day as the Texas lawsuit, two law firms joined the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights advocacy group, to file a case in California court on Monday.

A lawyer in Los Angeles filed a class action lawsuit against Sony in citing three violations of consumer and business codes. Later that week, Italian digital rights group Associazione per la Libertá nella Comunicazione Elettronica Interattiva (ALCEI) filed a criminal complaint in the country to investigate whether Italian consumers were affected by the Sony BMG cloaking technology. Chicago-based law firm Cirignani Heller Harman & Lynch plans to file a lawsuit against Sony to recover damages caused to consumers by the media giant's copy protection scheme, an attorney with the firm said.

While the functionality and intent of Sony BMG's copy protection are at the heart of the lawsuits, they cases will also test whether consumers can give a company broad permission to install possibly detrimental programs on their systems. Moreover, the media giant constructed a number of hurdles to removing the program, including a privacy-invasive registration and the need to wait for a special identification number.

New York attorney Scott Kamber, who filed a class-action lawsuit against Sony BMG in a U.S. District Court in New York City last week, said that Sony BMG damaged consumers' computer systems with its code.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
NOT OK GOOGLE: Android images can conceal code
It's been fixed, but hordes won't have applied the upgrade
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
China is ALREADY spying on Apple iCloud users, claims watchdog
Attack harvests users' info at iPhone 6 launch
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.