Sony BMG Sues Amergence / MediaMax For Anti-Ripping Spyware Debacle
Sony BMG, in a move that we knew was coming, has initiated a lawsuit against Amergence Technologies, formerly SunnComm International, and MediaMax Technology (First4Internet) for damages caused by the anti-ripping spyware DRM fiasco in 2005. Sonyâ€™s idiotic use of the aforemented companiesâ€™ lame DRM schemes on several CDs caused a media-firestorm, and a major backlash against the major.
The lawsuit contends that the copy protection technology provided by MediaMax was defective, noting that the licensing contract between the companies included a warranty and an indemnification clause that the agent must make good upon. Amergence is accused of â€œnegligence, unfair and deceptive acts and practices, and false advertising.â€ Sony BMG is seeking $12 million, which will hopefully put MediaMax out of business for good.
Sony’s copy protection calamity centered around First 4 Internet’s invasive XCP “spyware” which not only utilized “rootkit” techniques to render itself invisible on consumer’s hard drives without user authorization, but also opened up consumer’s computers to Trojan horses allowing infected computers to be controlled remotely.
Amergence responded with a statement that claimed the issue was â€œSony’s under-tested release of a competitor’s technology and BMG’s final authority input in determining the functional specifications of the MediaMax copy protection.” DRM protection schemes from both Amergence and First4Internet were both used by Sony, and each installed â€˜spywareâ€™ on consumersâ€™ computers, regardless of whether they used a PC in an attempt to copy a CD or merely listen to it. SunnComm released a patch to remove the spyware, but that, in turn, was mired with problems and left computers open to viruses and Trojan attacks.
While the software issues were ultimately resolved, the imbroglio brought Sony under fire for implementing the DRM scheme, particularly since the CDs automatically installed the software on computers without first seeking the userâ€™s permission. Various class action suits followed, which Sony settled in May, 2006 with cash or free downloads. In addition to a recall of the CDs and the settlements, Sony claims to have spent $5.75 million to settle investigations conducted by a number of states.
The Future: You can’t blame Sony BMG for attempting to protect their property, but they were not too savvy in selecting First4Internet to provide their anti-ripping DRM, and then not testing it adequately. This suit is going to get good and ugly, which is great for us in the audience, but certainly won’t help Sony’s tech image.