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Friday, November 11, 2005
Sony BMG Suspends CD software

After days of consumer pressure and negative comments by part of the online press, Sony BMG said on Friday it would temporarily stop making CDs that use a controversial technology to protect its music against illegal copying.

"As a precautionary measure, Sony BMG is temporarily suspending the manufacture of CDs containing XCP technology," it said in a statement.

The decision follows the discovery on Thursday of the first virus that uses Sony BMG's CD copy-protection software to hide on PCs and wreak havoc.

A hacker had mass-mailed an e-mail with an attachment, which when clicked on installs malware. The malware hides by using Sony BMG software that is also hidden -- the software would have already been installed on a computer when consumers played Sony's copy-protected music CDs.

The malware, a trojan program which appears desirable but actually contains something harmful, tears down a computer's firewall and gives hackers access to a PC.

Sony BMG provided a patch to protect computers against the virus, which is available on its Web site.

"We also intend to re-examine all aspects of our content protection initiative to be sure that it continues to meet our goals of security and ease of consumer use," Sony BMG added.

The firm provided software to remove the "cloaking element," which enables the virus to hide inside the computer, but the patch does not disable the copy protection itself.

The music publishing venture of Japanese electronics conglomerate Sony and Germany's Bertelsmann AG is distributing the copy-protection software on a range of recent music compact disks (CDs) from artists such as Celine Dion and Sarah McLachlan, according to user groups on the Web.

Sony BMG did not say which CDs or how many CDs were equipped with its software. "The XCP software is included on a limited number of Sony BMG content-protected titles," it said.

The Sony copy-protection software does not install itself on Macintosh computers or ordinary CD and DVD players.

When the CD is played on a Windows personal computer, the software first installs itself and then limits the usage rights of a consumer. It only allows playback with Sony software.

The software last week sparked a class action lawsuit in California against Sony, which claimed that Sony had not informed consumers that it installs software directly into the "root" of their computer systems with rootkit software, which cloaks all associated files and is dangerous to remove.

British anti-virus company Sophos on Thursday offered a tool to disable the copy protection software. ZoneAlarm, a product of Check Point, also protects against the software.

Sony BMG said it stands by content protection technology "as an important tool to protect our intellectual property rights and those of our artists."

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