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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Consumers of America, Unite!

CNET's November 3rd issue includes an article, "DRM This, Sony" by Molly Wood.   The article is well worth a read.    Here's a taste to pique your interest:

On Monday, October 31, alert users discovered that Sony BMG is using copy-protected CDs to surreptitiously install its digital rights management technology onto PCs. You don't have to be ripping the CD, either--just playing it from your CD-ROM drive triggers the installation. The software installs itself as a root kit, which is a set of tools commonly used to make certain files and processes undetectable, and they're the favored tool of crackers who are, as Wikipedia puts it, attempting to "maintain access to a system for malicious purposes." In fact, root kits are often classified alongside Trojan horses. And Mark Russinovich, who created a root-kit detection utility and was one of the first to blog about the Sony intrusion, discovered another little gem when he tried to remove the DRM drivers. It broke his computer--disabling his CD drive.

Wood goes on in an attempt to incite her readers, Sony’s potential customers, to action:

What's the solution? In the near term, for us, it's not to buy any Sony CDs, and maybe not any Sony anything. In the longer term, it's to start agitating for a rewrite of copyright law in the manner so eloquently suggested recently by Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal. He suggests copyright law with actual teeth that can chomp on massive-scale piracy, but with broad exemptions for personal use, because excessive DRM is hampering innovation and alienating consumers.

Clearly, Sony’s actions are outrageous and shortsighted. That said, if consumers can stage a mass resistance against Sony and other companies that are very much behind the times, resistant to the march of progress, and adamant about holding on to their old-school business model regardless of stock declines (see alsoBlockbuster Posts Deep Losses” in today’s WSJ) – well, I’d love to see it. I truly would. Thus far, however, my sense is that consumers have been remarkably complacent (except for engaging in surreptitious resistance, which is generally not the best tool for “dismantling the master’s house.”)  I keep the faith, however, and hope that massive consumer boycotts against “bad actor” companies (such as Sony) might soon become an effective tool of resistance and ultimately affect corporations’ bottom line.

Posted by Marcy Peek on November 8, 2005 at 07:59 PM in Information and Technology | Permalink


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"Clearly, Sony's actions are outrageous and shortsighted." Really? By what standard do you assert that? Failing the consumer revolt (which would at least be evidence that others shared your assessment), do you really think that on the "shortsighted" front you are better than Sony at determining what is in Sony's long-term interest? And on the moral "outrage[]" point, can you give some content to your outrage? Is this a problem because of consequences or because there is some intrinsic evil in Sony's actions? Does either of these assessments turn in any way on what the response is -- by consumers, by competitors, by Sony? As I point out here, it would seem to matter that Sony is a company (even is it is one of those pernicious "bad actor" ones) that faces serious product market competition and maybe even more serious capital market competition.

And besides, why wait for the massive boycott? You can protect yourself just fine by not buying Sony CDs (the independent labels have all the good music, anyway) or just not playing them on your computer. What's all the fuss about?

Posted by: geoffrey manne | Nov 9, 2005 1:24:48 PM

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