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Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Texas Sues Sony BMG Sony Over Spyware

The state of Texas filed suit against Sony BMG on Monday for hiding spyware in its music CDs that.

One lawsuit was filed by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, alleging that Sony BMG violated that state's anti-spyware law with its XCP anti-piracy program that installed hidden files when the CDs were inserted into a PC drive.

Since bloggers discovered the hidden files, Sony BMG has been hit with a firestorm of criticism and in the last week has recalled millions of CDs and promised consumers either full reimbursement or replacement.

Sony already had been hit with class-action suits in California and New York, but Texas became the first state to sue under a new consumer protection law that went into effect Sept. 1.

The Texas suit seeks an injunction against Sony BMG that would halt the company from selling CDs with the copy protection software, and fines of 100,000 dollars for each violation of the law on spyware -- usually defined as a program that can monitor or take control of a personal computer.

"Sony has engaged in a technological version of cloak and dagger deceit against consumers by hiding secret files on their computers," said Abbott.

"Consumers who purchased a Sony CD thought they were buying music. Instead, they received spyware that can damage a computer, subject it to viruses and expose the consumer to possible identity crime."

A separate class-action lawsuit was filed in California Superior Court by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based activist group.

The EFF suit seeks to compel Sony BMG to "repair the damage" to computers caused by two separate anti-piracy programs, including one used by Sony BMG before the latest flap.

EFF said the music publisher should repair damage caused by the First4Internet XCP and by SunnComm MediaMax software, claiming that these programs were included on "over 24 million music CDs."

The group said Sony's recall of about five million CDs with the latest anti-piracy program last week was insufficient.

According to EFF, the MediaMax software "has different, but similarly troubling problems," saying the program installs files on users' computers even if they click "no" on the license agreement, and does not include a way to fully uninstall the program.

EFF said SunnComm monitors the listening habits of the users even though the the company claims that "no information is ever collected about you or your computer." Additionally, EFF said SunnComm's uninstaller "creates significant security risks for users, as the XCP uninstaller did."

Experts say that when one of the CDs is inserted into a PC, the copy-protection software can modify computer settings and expose computers to a variety of malicious software programs.

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