November 16, 2005
Sony BMG Recalls Copy-Protected CDs
BARCELONA -- Music company Sony BMG, yielding to consumer concern, said on Wednesday it was recalling music CDs containing copy-protection software that acts like virus software and hides deep inside a computer.
Sony BMG has used the XCP copy-protection software on 49 titles from artists such as Celine Dion and Sarah McLachlan and produced an estimated 4.7 million music CDs. Around 2.1 million units have been sold on to consumers.
The software, developed by British software makers First4Internet, installs itself on a personal computer used to play the CD in order to guard against copying, but it leaves the back door open for malicious hackers.
"We share the concerns of consumers regarding discs with XCP content-protected software, and, for this reason, we are instituting a consumer exchange program and removing all unsold CDs with this software from retail outlets," Sony BMG said in an statement.
Sony BMG announced in a separate statement it would distribute a program to remove the software from a PC where it jeopardizes security.
"We deeply regret any inconvenience this may cause our customers. Details of this (recall) program will be announced shortly," Sony BMG said.
Sony said will soon issue more details about the swap program. Consumers can identify their copy-protected CDs by a Web address on the back of the CD containing the letters XCP.
Of the 49 titles, 24 were new major releases. The remaining albums were reissues and other material from the catalog.
Sony reiterated that the copy-protection software installs itself only on personal computers and not on ordinary CD and DVD players. Market research group NPD Group found in a recent survey that around 36 percent of consumers listen to their CDs on a personal computer.
Problems with the copy-protection software became acute last week, when the first computer viruses emerged that took advantage of security holes left by the program.
Responding to public outcry over the software, Sony BMG, the music venture of Japanese electronics conglomerate Sony Corp. and Germany's Bertelsmann AG had said on Friday it would temporarily suspend the manufacture of music CDs containing XCP technology.
It then provided a patch to make the hidden program more visible. At the time it did not recall the CDs or offer a program to remove it from computers. Sony BMG's patch and the removal software still left PCs vulnerable, according to software engineers.
The anti-virus team at Microsoft Corp. said on Tuesday it would independently add a detection and removal mechanism to rid a personal computer of the Sony's DRM copy-protection software. It should have a deeper understanding of its own operating system, and how to remove software safely.
The software installs itself only on PCs running Microsoft's Windows operating system.
Sony BMG has positioned itself as a defender of artists' rights. It had re-emphasized on Friday that copy-protection software is "an important tool to protect our intellectual property rights and those of our artists."
Sony BMG last week was targeted in a class action lawsuit complaining that it had not disclosed the true nature of its copy-protection software.
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