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Sun, Nov. 13th, 2005, 01:40 pm
krustad: The Sony dogpile grows...

So we knew that Sony's DRM includes a dangerous rootkit and that Sony makes users jump through hoops to uninstall it. But Sony has announced that they are halting the production of CDs with First 4 Internet's rootkit-laden DRM. Problem solved, right? Wrong!

According to Freedom to Tinker, Sony also uses another kind of copy-protection software--SunnComm's MediaMax. And while MediaMax may not include a rootkit, it has some nasty effects of its own.

1.) It installs without your permission. Before you even click "Agree" on the EULA, you've already got 12 MB worth of copy-protection software sitting on your hard drive. And even if you decline the agreement, MediaMax stays installed.

2.) Older versions of MediaMax have no uninstaller. Later ones do have an uninstaller, but it leaves important parts of MediaMax, including the protection driver, still on your system and active. That means that other programs (like iTunes) would still be unable to access your music.

3.) Like Sony's rootkit, MediaMax also "phones home" (establishes a connection with Sony) each time you play the CD. Even more damning, the address MediaMax contacts is /perfectplacement/retrieveassets.asp . "PerfectPlacement", hm? As in the feature of MediaMax which (as advertised on SunnComm's website) allows Sony to "[g]enerate revenue or added value through the placement of 3rd party dynamic, interactive ads that can be changed at any time by the content owner"? Basically, it appears that Sony is collecting data on you (or at the least is capable of doing so) so they can target you with ads. Just as with Sony's rootkit, this "phone home" behavior is explicitly denied by the EULA, Sony's website, and Sony executives. Liar liar, pants on fire.

Sony may be halting the use of rootkits in their DRM software, but this isn't stopping them from using copy-protection that abuses consumers. Especially when taken with other current events:

1.) The justification for the use of these DRM tools is that Sony wants to protect its copyrighted content, right? Well that's funny, because their rootkit code apparently infringes copyright on the open-source, LGPL-licensed LAME mp3 encoder. What?

2.) Extremist DRM doesn't just apply to Sony's music products. Sony just took out a patent which would essentially tie their video games to a single PlayStation machine. If your PS3 breaks, all your games are worthless. This would also kill the video game aftermarket and such benign uses as playing your games at a friend's house.

As BoingBoing puts it:

This "new business model" business is really bogus. They take the media that today lets you do everything copyright permits -- timeshifting and quotation, format-shifting and backup -- and they take away all those things. Then they painfully dribble each of those rights back as a "feature" that you pay extra for.

Drip, drip, drip -- each drop of functionality painfully and expensively squeezed into your living room, every time you want to do something you used to do for free.

That's not a business-model. That's a urinary tract infection.

Is it still too early to say that Sony distrusts, abuses--even hates?--its customers?