Not Enough

14 November 2005

Microsoft AntiSpyware to Remove Sony CD Protection Software

This journal has little good to say about the products from Microsoft, but when they get something right, they get it right. Having discovered that some Sony BMG Music Entertainment CDs can pose a security risk to Windows PCs, Microsoft is going to update its AntiSpyware package to get rid of the “rootkit” piece of the XCP software Sony has just stopped producing. Virus writers could use the piece to launch Trojan Horse viruses. This is great news, but shouldn’t Sony be held liable?

According to a posting from the Microsoft Anti-Malware team, “Rootkits have a clearly negative impact on not only the security, but also the reliability and performance of their systems.” It seems clear, then, that if someone produces a legitimate product that one can legitimately purchase for legitimate personal use, putting rootkits on it is deliberate harm.

As a business that uses copyrighted material, the Kensington Review doesn’t have much problem with Sony protecting its intellectual property rights. But there are right ways and wrong ways to do this. Rootkits are the wrong way. However, Sony seemed to get this, too, “We are aware that a computer virus is circulating that may affect computers with XCP content protection software,” Sony said in a statement Friday. “We stand by content protection technology as an important tool to protect our intellectual property rights and those of our artists. Nonetheless, as a precautionary measure, Sony BMG is temporarily suspending the manufacture of CDs containing XCP technology.”

OK, they recognize it was wrong, and they stopped doing it. Microsoft, whose buggy operating system allows for this kind of nonsense in the first place (Linux and Mac OS don’t seem to have any such problems), has found a way to get rid of it. So, life goes on. Except that Sony needs to be prosecuted.

Protecting one’s intellectual property rights by messing up someone else’s property is wrong. Sony’s actions should mitigate any penalty (indeed, a $1 fine would be acceptable), but the fact remains that a horrible precedent would be set if the authorities do nothing. The next company that decides to protect its rights by diminishing someone else’s may not be as decent about things as Sony. When a teenager in his basement messes with Sony’s computers, it’s hacking. When Sony does it, is it really any different regardless of the reason? Rule Number One in computing is don’t mess with other people’s stuff – and in life in general.

© Copyright 2005 by The Kensington Review, J. Myhre, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent.
Produced using Fedora Linux.


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