November 22, 2005
Abbott sues Sony over rootkit

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has filed a lawsuit against Sony for violating the state's new anti-spyware law.


Attorney General Greg Abbott said he filed the lawsuit under a new Texas state law forbidding such hidden tracking tools, and predicted tens of thousands of Texans might have been hurt by Sony's anti-piracy software.

Sony has said the tracking technology was designed to prevent unlimited copying and unauthorized distribution of music and does not track personal information about computer users, he noted.

But Abbott said his suspicions about its real purpose were heightened by his investigation's findings that the hidden technology remains active at all times.

Citing Sony BMG's Web site, he said the software was placed on 52 music titles by artists ranging from Celine Dion to Flatt & Scruggs.

"Sony has engaged in a technological version of cloak-and-dagger deceit against consumers by hiding secret files on their computers," Abbott said.

"Consumers who purchased a Sony CD thought they were buying music. Instead, they received spyware that can damage a computer, subject it to viruses and expose the consumer to possible identity crime."

[...]

The CDs do not create problems if used in a compact disc player, said Abbott's spokesman Tom Kelley.

However, any consumer attempting to play the discs on a personal computer must first sign a user agreement, which Abbott said secretly installs the tracking software without the consumer's knowledge.

"The file it is implanting into your system is possibly going to damage the unit plus expose you to all kinds of hackers, viruses, ID theft you name it," Kelley said. "The consumer had no way of knowing whatsoever that this phantom file was being installed on their computer to gather information about them presumably."

Abbott's lawsuit seeks to determine what purposes Sony might have had in placing the software on computers, which affects Microsoft Windows folders, beyond merely tracking piracy violations.

The lawsuit as filed seeks $100,000 for each violation in damages to the state under the Consumer Protection Against Computer Spyware Act of 2005, a law filed by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo.

Abbott also plans to amend the lawsuit to seek damages for individual consumers under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, said Kelley.


Dwight, who references this story, has been your one-stop shop for information about this case. The Golden State Blog also has some useful info. Here's a list of affected CDs - if you've played any on your computer, see here for some help in fixing the problems it will have caused.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 22, 2005 to Legal matters | TrackBack
Comments

Damn. Get a bad CD and Abbott is on it like white on rice.

But buy a home that you have to foreclose upon due to builder defects and he is no where in sight!

Or get screwed by your insurance company.....the list can go on and on...

Posted by: John Cobarruvias on November 22, 2005 11:06 AM

It's not often that I sing praises to a Republican, but Abbott's got my full support on this one.

I agree with John, though; Abbott's (and the GOP's) "consumer protection" philosophy doesn't seem to go very far (though, to be fair to Abbott, he's been somewhat handcuffed by our Legislature in the home construction and insurance fields).

Posted by: Mathwiz on November 25, 2005 11:17 AM