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Settlement ends Sony rootkit case

People who bought CDs with the controversial XCP copy control software will get refunds

By Robert McMillan
May 23, 2006 12:00 PM ET

IDG News Service - Music fans who bought CDs with Sony BMG Music Entertainment's controversial XCP copy control software are going to get refunds.

A federal judge yesterday gave final approval to a class-action lawsuit that was brought against the entertainment company after Sony included a pair of invasive and potentially dangerous copy-protection programs on an estimated 15 million music CDs.

The agreement ends one chapter in a public relations disaster for the entertainment company, which must still contend with a lawsuit brought against it by the state of Texas for violation of state antispyware laws.

Sony was sued in three separate class-action lawsuits, which were consolidated into yesterday's settlement. The suits were launched in November 2005, soon after computer science researchers disclosed that Sony's XCP software used dangerous "rootkit" techniques to cloak itself after installation. Sony licensed the XCP software from First 4 Internet Ltd., based in Banbury, England.

Rootkit software is normally used by hackers to hide their malware from system tools and antivirus products, and Sony was widely criticized for using this potentially dangerous software.

With its approval of the deal, the court finalized a tentative agreement reached between Sony and the plaintiffs in December.

Under terms of the settlement, people who purchased XCP-protected CDs can apply for either a cash payment of $7.50 plus a free album download, or three album downloads, whichever they prefer.

"This settlement gets music fans what they thought they were buying in the first place: music that will play on all their electronic devices without installing sneaky software," Cindy Cohn, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), said in a statement. The EFF represented plaintiffs in the case.

Sony issued a statement saying it was pleased with the settlement.

Researchers also found problems with another type of software Sony put on some CDs, called MediaMax. That software, written by SunnComm International Inc., installs software without the user's permission, is difficult to uninstall and surreptitiously transmits information about users' activities to SunnComm's servers.

Customers who bought MediaMax CDs can now get free downloads.

More information from Sony about the class-action lawsuit, including lists of CDs that included the software in question, be is available online .

The EFF has information on the case as well. 

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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