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Invasive Sony software misses real problems

Nov. 17, 2005

EDITORIAL STAFF

Lately the music industry has gotten more aggressive in its pursuit of digital pirates.

Last week, Sony BMG Music Entertainment suspended production of CDs that feature a new variety of copyright protection that leaves computers more susceptible to hackers.

When listeners play the CDs on their computers, it installs a rootkit package, which is hard to remove and has been described as spyware.

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Ben Humeniuk | Lariat staff
The technology also limits how many copies users can make of a CD and prevents the music from being loaded onto the Apple iPod, but it lets people load music onto other types of music players.

Since Napster surfaced in 1999, major music groups have tried a number of techniques to prevent illegal downloading and distribution. But putting invasive software on its CDs is underhanded and inappropriate.

What's even more disturbing is that Sony executives would not rule out using the technology or something similar to it in the future.

Sony should have responded instead by promising to develop new copyright protection that's not invasive and lets people load the music onto iPods.

It's understandable that Sony wants to protect its intellectual property, but the company crosses the line when it interferes with its customers' property.

In using the copy protection software, Sony is simply overreacting and missing the real problems.

The reason downloading has risen so much is a combination of significantly higher CD prices during the past few years and piracy lawsuits by the Recording Industry Association of America.

One easy way Sony and other major labels could curb downloading is to cut the recommended retail cost for albums to $15 or less, rather than the nearly $20 each album costs now.

If they do that, more cash-pressed people in the under-30 crowd responsible for most of the downloading will buy albums legally.

No matter what Sony decides to do, the one thing that won't help its cause is software that hurts the company's target market.