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Sony BMG Copy Protection System Comes to Europe

DW staff (jam)
November 11, 2005

Music giant Sony BMG plans on introducing its controversial copy protection software in Europe, even though consumers and computer security experts say the anti-piracy software in the US is spyware.

Sony BMG calls it copy protection, critics say it's spywareImage: APTN

Sony BMG says the anti-piracy software will be introduced in Europe next year because the company wants to "regulate copying for personal use and at the same time, allow the buyer to possibility to copy," according to a statement.

However, consumer advocates are worried because of a firestorm which has erupted in the United States over Sony BMG's copy protection software there. Called XCP, the software anti-piracy systems uses something called a "root kit" to conceal the program used to stop some of its CDs from being copied.

The software restricts unauthorized copying, but also contains a hidden file that security experts say can track consumer behavior. The program, created by the British firm First 4 Internet, uses the cloaking system to hide a proprietary media player that a consumer must download to play the CDs with the protection software.

A class-action lawsuit has been filed in California, and another one is expected in New York, accusing the music company of infecting consumers' computers with virus-like techniques which cannot be removed without damaging the computer.

Sony BMG: Misunderstanding

Sony BMG, however, disputes the accusations, saying the software developed by First 4 Internet employs normal copy protection technology and does not make computers, as has been reported from some quarters, more susceptible to security breaches.

CeBIT 2005 Sony 50 Gigabyte Blu-Ray-DVD mit Galeriebild
Burn, baby, burn? Sony BMG would rather you notImage: AP

Sony BMG's Europe director, Maarten Steinkamp, said that there is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding around the matter. However, he said the company was testing various digital rights management systems and was looking for the "best and most sensible" method of "protecting the property of the company and of the artists."

"Clearly, we will only use technology in Europe that is secure for the consumer as well as error-free," said Steinkamp.

Sony BMG put a patch on its Web site -- after the complaints in the US got louder -- which made the formerly invisible file on the XCP system visible, but that has done little to calm the consumer outrage. There are about 20 CDs in the Sony BMG catalogue now being sold in the US with the XCP anti-piracy system.
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