Sunday, November 13, 2005

Sony As Big Brother

As both an artist as well as a music lover, I was horrified at the braindead series of events at Sony recently. Sony is not only a major producer of blank media thatt profits handsomely from, including blank DVDs, CDs, blank video and audiotapes. And Sony has a long history of production of electronics designed to copy TV shows with VCRS and DVD recorders, or with audio tape recorders or CD recorders designed for users to selectively copy select songs on tape for personal use in their home, automobile or Walkman. But Sony is also a major producer of music CDs.

The geniuses at Sony decided that some sort of complex software "antipiracy" system was needed to prevent those that purchase Sony music CDs from being able to transfer the purchased CD songs to an Apple iPod music player, limit the number of copies that an user can make at home with a Windows based computer or CD recorder. This "XCP" system forced the music buyer to install computer software to even be able to play the purchased disc on Windows based computer. This software was a form of Spyware where Sony would keep track of users in a big brother manner, and hackers soon found a way to exploit this system and gain access to the computers of others by planting viruses in the program. Sony dropped the system this week. Even a senior Homeland Security official was concerned about the threat to computers created by Sony in their overzealous scheme to "copy protect" their music CDs.

With a Supreme Court decision that found companies such as Grokster liable for damages for transfer of intellectual property without permission, and existing laws that protect intellectual property for profit, why did Sony feel the need to limit the purchasers of their music CDs rights to use their purchase as people have done in the past. Not every song is good on most albums, and many like to make a personal use tape or CD copies for their car, Walkman or other use to carry with them of the best songs. And Sony has long profitted from the blank media to do such. TEAC is even marketing a new machine to transfer old vinyl albums to CDs in an easy step. Double cassette recorders have existed for years, with Sony the producer of many. But suddenly Sony has decided this should all change?

For so many years Sony offered some of most innovative products. In the late 50's they introduced the first transistor television, while the last American TV that used tubes left the marketplace in 1978. But I've been increasingly unhappy at the quality of some of their products in the last few years, many cheaply made Chinese import VCRs or radio cassette recorders or other items, some hardly worthy of bearing the trusted the Sony name. Many excellent products still exist with the Sony name. But some other products certainly are a letdown. Sony's overzealous attempt to "copy protect" their music violates what consumers like about music. They like it to be portable. And iPod and Walkman type units are an important consumer item for music lovers to take music where they want. And every CD will eventually end up used, in a Goodwill store, or even thrown out. Why Sony had a plan to zealously protect these recordings for generations from complete consumer freedom of use after purchase raises some good questions. All Sony did was to create more unhappy consumers this week, as well as concern computer experts and those at Homeland Security. Who would have thought that music CD purchase entitled a company like Sony into snooping into your computer or leaving the backdoor open to hackers or crooks.

14 Comments:

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