Warning - Sony BMG CDs Install Antipiracy Software On Computers

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A few days ago I wrote a "Dear John" letter to The Bad Plus, letting them know I wouldn't be purchasing any more of their CDs as long as they chose to use a copy protection scheme that presents obstacles to those wanting to listen to them on computers, iPods and the like.

Well it turns out the band isn't happy about it either. And the problem is far more serious than my tongue-in-cheek column suggests.

Sony BMG has configured CDs with the warning label "Content/Copy-Protected CD" to install antipiracy software on computers, hiding the program from users and preventing them from uninstalling it, according to an article by Brian Krebs of The Washington Post. Advanced hackers who do figure out where the program is and remove it also apparently will erase system files needed to power a computer's CD-ROM drive.

The article, focusing on research conducted by Mark Russinovich at Sysinternals, also indicates the installation process - and hackers able to hide their own mischievous files based on the software - could cause unwanted complications or problems with other system operations. Uninstalling the software is a complex process that requires submitting a Web form to Sony BMG.

"At that point, a real, live person will call you back and ask for all kinds of information about your system, and your reason for wanting to remove the software," Krebs wrote. "You're then directed to a Web page that downloads an ActiveX program (yes, you must be using Microsoft's Internet Explorer to do this), which determines what version is installed and reports that back to First4Internet. Then you get an e-mail containing a link to another site that downloads something that finally uninstalls the Sony program."

The article triggered dozens of replies from Post readers, nearly every one saying they will not purchase another Sony BMG CD until the copy protection is removed. The Bad Plus, in the meantime, posted a message to fans stating, in part, "we're as frustrated by this development as you are. We've contacted SONY/BMG regarding this issue; upon hearing from SONY/BMG we hope to be able to provide PC users with a protocol which will enable you to hear our music wherever you want to hear it."

So my apologies to the band, who has managed to win back my affections. Apparently it's the proverbial parents I now find myself at odds with - and they have a lot of "kids" who I will be shying away from for the time being.

Related Article
Viruses force Sony BMG to suspend CD copy protection scheme

Discuss Sony/BMG Copy Protection on the AAJ Bulletin Board.

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