12th > November > 2005 Archive

Sony suspends rootkit DRM

Sony BMG has said it will suspend production of audio 'CDs' that use XCP, the rootkit-style DRM developed by British company First4Internet Ltd. However the music giant refused to apologize for the software, which exposes PCs to malware and which can disable the PC's CD drive when users try to remove the software. Sony also declined to follow EMI's example in September and recall CDs already in the retail channels. Around 20 CDs use XCP, which has been on the market since April. (The EFF has a list, here). But since a security website drew attention to implications of XCP last week, Sony has been deluged with complaints, prompting lawsuits in California and Italy. "We are aware that a computer virus is circulating that may affect computers with XCP content protection software," Sony said in a statement. "Nonetheless, as a precautionary measure, Sony BMG is temporarily suspending the manufacture of CDs containing XCP technology. We also intend to re-examine all aspects of our content protection initiative to be sure that it continues to meet our goals of security and ease of consumer use." Sony may rue the wave of consumer outrage, and the subsequent lawsuits. But it may also note that the scandal took more than six months to surface. And the music publisher isn't exactly rushing to make amends. Sony's unfortunately worded phrase "ease of consumer use" reminds us that while the stealth DRM software installs itself without permission (the click-through statement fails to inform of the user of its true nature), uninstalling it requires the CD buyer to request permission from Sony via a web form. So it's hard to take Sony BMG's assurances seriously. You can read Sony's statement here. Symantec has posted an advisory and removal tool here. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 12 Nov 2005
homeless man with sign

All your reviews belong to Amazon.com

Amazon.com has been granted three detailed patents covering purchase circles, consumer reviews, and search results in the form of products from multiple product categories. It's a sweeping landgrab which puts e-commerce rivals on the alert. The techniques granted to Amazon.com by the patent office are already ubiquitous on commercial and social networking web sites. Patent 6,963,848 filed March 2, 2000 and granted November 8, covers "Methods and system of obtaining consumer reviews". Patent 6,963,867, filed on March 31, 2003, covers "Search query processing to provide category-ranked presentation of search results". Patent 6,963,850, filed on August 19, 1999 covers "Computer services for assisting users in locating and evaluating items in an electronic catalog based on actions performed by members of specific user communities". Communities may be "based on user hobbies, localities, professions, and organizations," for example. "The system automatically identifies and generates lists of the most popular items (and/or items that are becoming popular) within particular communities, and makes such information available to users for viewing. The patent credits Jeff Bezos, amongst others, as the inventor. But as TheoDP, Amazon-watcher and collector of patent absurdities reminds us, Bezos used to deny that he ever would patent such things. Responding to a question by The Guardian's Stuart Jeffries in October 2002 about Amazon's notorious One Click Patent, Bezos replied"that Amazon has made numerous innovations in web commerce that have been widely copied which it didn't patent, such as virtual shopping baskets, sales rankings and customer reviews." Now it has all the base(s) covered. So if Web 2.0 is a rain forest, as one pundit rather painfully argues, as opposed to the "desert" of Web 1.0, we now all huddle under the umbrella of its endless green canopy of patents. Or something like that. ® Related stories
Andrew Orlowski, 12 Nov 2005

Webmasters defy litigious Smurfs

Webmasters are standing defiant against an attack of litigious little blue cartoon characters, taking the fight deep into enemy territory. Which we believe is Belgium. Earlier this week we reported how webmasters had been receiving cease and desist notices from Studio Peyo, which owns the rights to the Smurfs trademark. Studio Peyo objected to a nine year old page on a site hosted by a Californian ISP, a page which translates English into Smurf Language. But the bullying missive was sent in error, the webmaster Robin Bandy pointed out. Bandy knows his domain name rights and wrongs inside out, having stood for a seat on ICANN's board via the At Large Elections in 2000, and started the alternative root domain system OpenNIC. Another site hosted on the University of Michigan's servers has fallen silent in response to a similar threat. But confident that his subdomain is safe, Robin has restored the language translator. You can find the URL, and read the latest on the saga here. We've already found Websmurfer invaluable. We've been struggling to make sense of Tim O'Reilly's description of this Web 2.0 thing, and helpful readers have been offering their own interpretations. So we ran Transcendental Tim's revised "pithy definition" through the Smurf-fish: And this is what it came back with: I said I'm not fond of definitions, but I woke up this morning with the start of one in my smurfy head: 'Web 2.0 is smurfily the network as platform, spanning all connected devices; Web 2.0 applications are smurfily those that make the most of the intrinsic advantages of that platform: delivering software as a continually-updated service that gets better the more smurfs use it, consuming and remixing data from multiple sources, including individual users, while providing their own data and services in a form that allows remixing by others, creating network effects through an "architecture of participation," and going beyond the smurf metaphor of Web 1.0 to deliver rich smurfy user experiences.' Ah, now all is clear. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 12 Nov 2005