Sony BMG Music Entertainment recently released 20 albums on CD that installed copy protection software called XCP on users' machines without seeking permission first. In addition, the CDs installed something called a "rootkit," which would hide the software's presence on the machines. The software was meant to prevent users from copying the CDs, but critics called it not much better than spyware, the bane of computer users everywhere. To make matters much, much worse, hackers were able to exploit the technology in order to hide malicious software.
As it turns out, soon after the outcry about the controversy rippled through the media, Sony stopped using the software (although the company remained "unapologetic" regarding its intent to protect its music from copying). Discontinuing the use of the technology is the right decision for many reasons, not least of which is the public outcry. But one must still ask why on Earth Sony would do such a thing in the first place. (Meanwhile, Microsoft
I wrote about recording industry executives and their attitude toward Apple's
Sony's move just goes way beyond the pale with that idea -- providing an intrusive technology that, in effect, hijacked its customers' computers. (As an aside, it also prevented users from putting its music on the most popular music player of the moment, the iPod.) It's really unbelievable when you think about it.
In my opinion, a huge, disruptive shift in the way people acquire and use their music is fairly imminent, and heavy-handed moves from the recording industry don't make things any easier for companies or consumers. They certainly don't make people feel sympathetic toward the music industry, and I would imagine this recent development makes many consumers extremely distrustful of Sony. People who have invested in Sony might do well to carefully consider some of the company's recent blunders, many of which seem to display a rather blatant disregard for its customers.
More on Sony lately:
- This isn't the first stupid stunt Sony has pulled recently.
- Made-up film critics, anyone?
- Nobody likes payola, Sony.