Sony BMG says it is temporarily suspending its use of copy protected CDs featuring XCP digital rights management technology from U.K. security specialist, First 4 Internet.

NEW YORK -- Sony BMG says it is temporarily suspending its use of copy protected CDs featuring XCP digital rights management technology from U.K. security specialist, First 4 Internet.

The move, announced Nov. 11, marks a concession in a growing controversy around the major label's copy protection strategy. It impacts and estimated 20 titles, over 2 million of which are believed to be in distribution.

Critics contend that the XCP software behaves like spyware, that it is vulnerable to now circulating viruses and that it is difficult to uninstall. Technology security firm Computer Associates on Nov. 7 formally classified First 4 Internet's XCP DRM software as spyware, followed by the announcement, two days later, that competitor Symantec was declaring the First 4 Internet DRM to be a security risk.

One class action lawsuit has already been filed against Sony BMG and, Billboard has learned, two others may be pending.

In a statement Sony BMG acknowledged a computer virus is circulating that may affect computers with XCP content protection software; the company also said it intends to re-examine all aspects of its content protection initiative to be sure that it continues to meet its goals of security and ease of consumer use.

"We deeply regret any possible inconvenience this may cause," the company said in a statement.

While acknowledging problems with the software, Sony stressed that XCP protected discs have no impact on playback in traditional CD and DVD players.

Sony is also stepping up its efforts to distribute a patch that it claims help remedy the vulnerabilities created by the XCP technology, offering links to its support site at http://cp.sonybmg.com/xcp on all Sony BMG label and corporate sites.

But computer security experts including Mark Russinovich, who first brought the issue to the fore with series of blog posts, have questioned the effectiveness of the patch. He continues to call for the company to widely release an uninstall program for users and complains that the company is dragging its heels on helping consumers remove the technology.

Sony BMG says it continues to stand by its strategy to use content protection technology to protect copying of its titles. According to NPD research the average consumer acquires almost 30% of his/her music through ripping and burning of CDs.

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