Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Penalized for doing the right thing...

When I placed my newly purchased CD copy of the album Z by My Morning Jacket into my computer at work, I was greeted by an End User License Agreement (EULA) which mentioned the installation of DRM-protection software if I accepted. My immediate response: Uhhhh...no!

After more research with the help of my friend the Internet, I found that "the SOFTWARE" (as they fondly referred to it) was SunnComm MediaMax Version 5. Sony BMG was responsible for this and another DRM software package, First4Internet's XCP, which installed a rootkit on Windows computers. For those who are not up to date on their tech news, XCP created a huge controversy because it opened a security hole when rooted on computers. In addition, Sony's initial uninstall program also had a security flaw.

The MediaMax support website insists that the two software products, MediaMax and XCP, are unrelated. However, I observed that both had similar symptoms and both were initially fixed incorrectly. Hmmm...

Needless to say, I was not happy about this. And neither are many other music fans...a Google search on the topic yields countless blog posts which protest against Sony. Even the artists are quite displeased...My Morning Jacket, for example, has a link to help pages about working around the DRM protection on their website. It's also been reported that they have sent out over 100 copies of burned non-DRM copies of the album to friends and fans who have had trouble with it.

Fortunately, when I ripped the tracks onto my laptop using Yahoo! Music Engine, I was neither prompted with the EULA dialogue box, nor affected by the DRM malware. The ripped tracks play fine, and when I downloaded and ran the MediaMax uninstaller it informed me that the software was not found on my system.

Alas, this brings us to my views on the issue. Though I was not harmed by this malware, I am still enraged. These days, I acquire the vast majority of my CDs through legal means. This is not because I am more ethical than thou...it is actually mostly because I am lazy. I would rather use a subscription service, such as Yahoo! Music Unlimited (shameless plug), to check out what's hot in music and then order albums that I like off Amazon.com, than spend hours scouring the Internet for high-quality versions of songs. The few exceptions to my legal acquisition are when a friend offers to burn me a copy of something he thinks is the fire...this usually leads to me buying more albums by the artist anyway. I think it's a shame that someone who acquires music legally is put at risk by buying the CD. Oh, and Sony is wac.

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