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and Texas attorney general Greg Abbott sued Sony
BMG for violating the state s antispyware laws. Plain-
ti s in at least ve states led suit, claiming damages
against Sony BMG for impairing their computers.
Sony dealt with these suits quickly. Before Decem-
ber was out, the company had reached a tentative
settlement with attorneys, who had consolidated
the suits into a single complaint in the U.S. Dis-
trict Court for souther n New York. The settlement
provides anyone who owns a disc with XCP with a
replacement disc, a $7.50 cash payment, and (ironi-
cally) free digital downloads of the music on the CD
and up to three others. At press time, the court had
not yet approved the full settlement, but the replace-
ment program had begun.
But anger over the rootkit in the media and the
blogosphere persisted even after news of the pro-
posed settlement. What truly bothered consumers,
it seemed, was not the damage done to their com-
puters: the Troj/Stinx-E Trojan horse had not spread
far, and there wasn t time for a serious epidemic of
other malware exploiting the XCP rootkit to emerge.
Rather, CD buyers were upset that the software delib-
erately concealed its presence and contacted Sony
BMG without their permission. They felt that XCP
had trespassed against fundamental protections---the
rights to privacy and private ownership and the free-
doms of expression and access to information.
"I m a music fan, and I ve been watching with dis-
may the whole march of DRM, to the point that you prac-
tically have to sign a contract to open a CD box," says Tim
Jarrett, a Framingham, MA, Web developer and technology
blogger. "So when I saw that Sony was not only including
this DRM but doing it in such a way that it was opening up
people s computers to being exploited, I think something
inside me just kind of snapped." Jarrett decided to start the
Sony Boycott Blog, which functioned for three months as
one of the main clearinghouses for information about the
rootkit saga. Judging from the comments they left, Jarrett s
readers---who numbered up to 5,000 per day---were just as
irked. "You have a zone of personal freedom---a personal
space within which you can decide, for example, to read
a book back to front, or read it 20 times, or make mar-
gin notes, or read it in the bathtub, or do a skit acting out
the book to a friend," says law professor Julie Cohen, who
studies intellectual-property and data privacy law at the
Georgetown University Law Center. "And having an auto-
matic policeman or even just a at-out architectural prohi-
bition that appropriates that personal space is something
that people experience as very intrusive."
"I think we re in this period where the content providers
are trying to push the boundaries," says Mark Russinovich.
"They want to see just how far they can go to protect their
content, and where that ne line is between protecting their
content from casual piracy and annoying the consumer."
The questions raised by the Sony BMG rootkit saga are
whether protecting content necessarily means violating
consumers right to control their private property, compro-
mising the computer s role as an instr ument of culture and
creativity, and sacri cing the principle of "fair use" (a pro-
vision in U.S. copyright law that allows the reproduction
of copyrighted works for purposes of criticism, reporting,
research, and archiving).
The initial signs are not good. Sony BMG s blunder---
however inadvertent it may have been---was an indication
to many obser vers that copyright holders are in fact esca-
lating the technology war, choosing to meddle more and
more deeply with the workings of customers computers in
a hasty and careless e ort to limit freeloading.
"If Sony didn t stop and take the time to ask First 4 Inter-
net what XCP actually did, it s their fault," says Schneier of
Counterpane Internet Security. "I nd First 4 Internet less
culpable, because Sony wanted to buy some sort of magic
bullet, and they just said, Here, use ours. "
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