Public service announcement

Windows users should be aware that several companies are now making music CDs that actively sabotage your computer: both by preventing it from being able to make mp3s and by installing trojan horse software that monitors and manipulates what you can do. Sony Music is among those companies. Luckily, you can get around most of it by disabling the autorun feature in Windows XP.

During the next few years, in all kinds of areas, we need to deal with the issue of intellectual property. We need to decide when countries can violate the patents of drug firms, either due to short term emergencies like an avian flu or long term ones like AIDS, We need to decide what fair use means, with regards to copyrighted materials, in an age where copying and distribution has become so much easier. We need to decide what to do about patents, which have the serious potential to be exploited and hamper both innovation and the public welfare, while confering underserved monopolies on those who hold them.

Whatever the answers to these questions are, and some of them are really very tricky, I don’t think they can legitimately involve the kind of backhanded dealing described in the first paragraph here. I don’t buy music from the iTunes music store, for the simple reason that I have no reason to believe I will still be able to use that music five years from now, or on a different computer or device. The nature of ownership, when it comes to things like software and music, is becoming ephemeral and uncertain – except for those people who have illegal copies that evade these feeble protections anyhow. I remember how, with my legitimately bought copy of Half Life 2, I needed to muck around for hours with registration, web updates, and a little Steam applet that seriously restricts how and when you can use the software which you bought. My friends who downloaded it from one or another peer-to-peer service just played.

7 thoughts on “Public service announcement”

  1. Mikko Hypponen, F-Secure’s director of antivirus research, said hackers could easily take advantage of Sony’s software to hide their own files, even from antivirus software. An attacker would only have to make sure that their file starts with “$sys$”, the convention the antipiracy program uses to hide its own files.

    “As long as the attacker’s file begins with that prefix, it will go undetected by most antivirus programs out there,” Hypponen said. He added that installing the Sony program on a machine running Windows Vista — the beta version of Windows’ next iteration — “breaks the operating system spectacularly.”

    By Deirdre K. Mulligan† & Aaron K. Perzanowski

    If DRM is to emerge as a tool that benefits consumers through the introduction
    of new business models and innovative pricing structures, the
    terms of these transactions must be clearly and meaningfully presented to
    consumers. Unless consumers understand the rights granted and costs imposed
    by these transactions—among them sacrificed privacy and security—
    DRM will remain a tool that exclusively benefits copyright holders,
    while presenting consumers with, at best, inconvenience and, at worst,
    violations of their security, privacy, and expectations.

  3. “After purchasing an Anastacia CD, the plaintiff played it in his computer but his anti-virus software set off an alert saying the disc was infected with a rootkit. He went on to test the CD on three other computers. As a result, the plaintiff ended up losing valuable data.

    Claiming for his losses, the plaintiff demanded 200 euros for 20 hours wasted dealing with the virus alerts and another 100 euros for 10 hours spent restoring lost data. Since the plaintiff was self-employed, he also claimed for loss of profits and in addition claimed 800 euros which he paid to a computer expert to repair his network after the infection. Added to this was 185 euros in legal costs making a total claim of around 1,500 euros.

    The judge’s assessment was that the CD sold to the plaintiff was faulty, since he should be able to expect that the CD could play on his system without interfering with it.

    The court ordered the retailer of the CD to pay damages of 1,200 euros.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *