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What If They Gave It Away?


Last Friday we were talking about groups and independent labels giving away their music for free. This Friday we can talk about Sony BMG doing the same thing. At least, that’s what US District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald has instructed of the industry giant, as recompense for installing the now infamous XCP content protection software in dozens of its titles late last year. The XCP software, in case you didn’t know (and we haven’t discussed it here before), used a so-called rootkit to conceal the program used to stop its CDs being copied – and rootkits, as the BBC states, “are being increasingly used by virus makers to hide their malicious code deep within the Windows operating system.” In other words, rather than simply letting customers play CDs on their computers, Sony/BMG used the opportunity to invade those computers, without the user’s permission or knowledge.

After weeks of stonewalling, backtracking, and then apologizing, Sony/BMG is now in the process of giving. Back. “The deal involves Sony BMG giving cash refunds and downloads to consumers who bought CDs that used the XCP technology,says the BBC. “Consumers can forgo the cash and get more downloads.”

Major labels giving away downloads for trying to prevent downloading. Is this a time to use the word schadenfraude?

Sony/BMG also experimented with another proprietary content protection software called MediaMax. And that too included what Sony, on its corporate web site, carefully calls a “Security vulnerability.” The tentative settlement reached yesterday with consumers gives unwitting MediaMax CD owners the opportunity to receive a cash refund. No free downloads, though. For that, they’ll need to go to a label like stereotyperecords which invites you to download first, and pay later.

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