Thursday, February 01, 2007

New CD

A while ago—over a year—there was a song that was playing on the radio, that I liked. A friend came across a free copy of the artist’s CD, and promised to give it to me. A year later, they finally remembered, and I got the CD.

I was immediately thrown off, when I saw the cover; it’s a female artist, and it’s really creepy how she tried to make herself look like a little girl in all of the pictures. (According to her Wikipedia article, and some simple math, she was 25 at the time she made the album.) I’m not talking about sexy; I’m talking about a grown woman going for a pre-teen look. That’s bad enough, but it gets even worse when you couple her photos with the lyrics to some of the songs; when you have a cover photo in which the artist tries to look like a little girl, and then listen to a whole album in which she sings about how much she wants to have sex, it’s a little… unnerving.

But I went ahead and popped it into my laptop’s CD-ROM drive, only to find that the CD was copyright protected. It wouldn’t play on my computer unless I installed the software it came with—Windows Media Player didn’t even recognize it as a music CD. I wouldn’t have thought that that would be legal in Canada—our copyright laws are different than America’s—but oh well, what do I know? I went ahead, and let it install the software.

At the bottom of the window, it had a little newsticker; “click here to visit BMG’s website”, that kind of thing. But after a couple of minutes, I noticed these messages:

(It’s the same content in both pictures, but a different title.)

At first glance, I just saw the phrase “Class Action Settlement” and thought the record company had been sued because of the copyright protection. “Good!” I thought. “I’m glad the record company wasn’t allowed to get away with it.”

But then I looked a little closer. If you read those messages (if they were even readable, in the images), you’ll have noticed that they had nothing to do with copyright protection; the software they installed was spyware! So they got sued, in a class action lawsuit.

I’m not lawyer, so I don’t have any expertise, but let me quote some parts of the “Statement of Claim”, which they had on their website, with some pop-ups of the definitions, that came earlier in the document:

This action claims damages for the torts of conspiracy to injure and trespass. the Class has suffered damage, but asserts the right to waive the tort and claim damages measured by the defendants’ enrichment. The action arises fro the defendants’ fraudulent conduct and is not a defective product claim.

Since 2003, the defendants have knowingly included flawed and overreaching computer software programs on hundreds of thousands of CDs sold in Canada. These software programs, referred to as ‘MediaMax’ and ‘XCP’ were designed by Sunn and First, with the collaboration of the defendants and at their request. The defendants knew that the XCP and MediaMax software programs contained features which damaged the operational systems of the Class Members’ computers, occupied memory and bandwidth, and compromised the security and privacy of the information on the computers.

In addition to the stated purpose of copyright protection, the software was intentionally and knowingly designed to install and hide files on the computer’s hard drive. When installed, these files could ‘phone home’ to Sony BMG and report what CD the computer was playing. The software, in an aspect which was neither described nor disclosed to Class Members remained hidden on the user’s computer and made the operating system vulnerable to worms viruses, malware, spyware and to system failure. The software did not contain an ‘uninstall’ command.

According to the website that the newsticker pointed me to, I might be eligible to make a claim:
What you get: you may receive a replacement CD, a free download of the music on the CD, and software fixes for known security vulnerabilities. In addition, you may choose to receive either
(i) a cash payment of $8.40 and one (1) free album download, or
(ii) three (3) free album downloads.
If I’m reading the settlement properly—which I may not be—I might be entitled even though I didn’t buy the CD; the damages are for harm to my computer, for installing the software, not for money I spent on the album.

However, I’m not going to bother.