Sony BMG Music has detonated a bomb in their corporate cardboard headquarters. If you haven't read the news about their serious consumer faux pas, it involved the use of XCP software -- a copy-protected encoded software added to 52 of their CD releases to thwart piracy. Sony BMG was secretly installing a malware-style '"rootkit" on Windows computers via audio CDs that had this XCP software. These issues had no effect on the use of these discs in conventional, non-computer-based CD and/or DVD players. Moreover, this content protection technology was provided by a third-party company, First 4 Internet, and was designed to prevent unlimited copying and unauthorized redistribution of the music on the disc.
Now this didn't affect Apple users because in order to install the kernel extension you've got to enter your name and password, a procedure Apple utilizes to prevent the installation of malware on your computer. But I doubt any one expected that a store-purchased music CD could potentially muck up your operating system like it did for many of the PC users.
Initially Sony BMG and First 4 Internet, the company that developed the software, were quite dismissive about it. Mr. Gilliat-Smith from First 4 Internet had this to say: "It's a tempest in a teapot. It's benign content protection. It's not malware, it's not spyware, it's innocent. Consumers, for eight months, have been using these discs with positive feedback. When the issue arose, we addressed it very quickly."
But typically when a major corporation causes issues within the public sector that might lead to class action suits or public embarrassment, they are quick to apologize.
Does anyone remember Perrier's toxic water mess? Perrier had to withdraw 72 million bottles of water due to traces of benzene in only one batch of water. They did so quickly.
But it wasn't until last week until Sony BMG, saddled with a ton of bad press and internet blogging, got their act together and started their recall program outlined below.
The contrition from Mr. Gilliat-Smith was: "We understand what the concern was, but there was no intent. We reacted as quickly as we could, took responsive issues. And now, hopefully, we move on."
And so the recall begins. Below is the link to the list of CDs being recalled:
XCP content protection software is included on 52 SONY BMG titles. Further information about the exchange program, including an FAQ for consumers about XCP technology and a list of titles may be found at the website dedicated to providing consumers with information on this subject at http://cp.sonybmg.com/xcp. (I've also included the complete list of XCP titles below.)
How do you return this "corrupted" product?
Here is additional recall info from the Sony BMG website:
Consumers who wish to exchange their XCP content protected CDs or also receive MP3 files of the titles in addition to their replacement CDs should visit http://cp.sonybmg.com/xcp for a list of titles and versions, specific instructions and shipping information. There will be no charge to consumers for shipping in either direction. In addition to providing replacement CDs by mail, SONY BMG is making available MP3 files to consumers who are exchanging their XCP content protected CDs. Consumers who choose to receive MP3 files will receive an e-mail with a link to the MP3 downloads upon SONY BMG's receipt and verification of their XCP CDs.
And there it is, folks. Action from Sony BMG, although I think that irreparable damage has been done to an already shaky music company's foundation. Remember that just a month ago label executive Andrew Lack signed Bruce Springsteen to a 114 million dollar deal. A deal that most experts think Sony BMG will be hard pressed to recoup let alone show profit.
I've already sent back two XCP encoded titles I owned via a prepaid UPS label that I downloaded from their website and then printed out. I walked over and dropped it off at my local Staples store; all Staples retail stores now accept UPS packages. And now I wait for the return of my new and improved product that I'm told will take a few weeks.
I'll leave with you this to ponder: At the end of the day does Sony BMG fully comprehend why consumers feel violated by XCP? Do you think they've gained the trust of all those young music thieves who see no reason to pay for this intellectual property in the first place? Do you think that public contrition and this massive recall will prevent the wheels from falling off this and other super labels?
Converge is the Word!
P.S. Here's the list of CDs being recalled:
ARTIST - ALBUM - ITEM NUMBER(S) - UPC(S)
- A Static Lullaby Faso Latido CK92772 827969277225
- Acceptance Phantoms CK89016 696998901629
- Amerie Touch CK90763 827969076323
- Art Blakey Drum Suit CK93637 827969363720
- The Bad Plus Suspicious Activity? CK94740 827969474020
- Bette Midler Sings the Peggy Lee Songbook CK95107 CK74815 827969510728 828767481524
- Billy Holiday The Great American Songbook CK94294 827969429426
- Bob Brookmeyer Bob Brookmeyer & Friends CK94292 827969429228
- Buddy Jewell Times Like These CK92873 827969287323
- Burt Bacharach At This Time CK97734 827969773420
- Celine Dion On Ne Change Pas E2K97736 827969773628
- Chayanne Cautivo LAK96819 LAK96818 LAK95886 037629681921 037629681822 037629588626
- Chris Botti To Love Again CK94823 827969482322
- The Coral The Invisible Invasion CK94747 827969474723
- Cyndi Lauper The Body Acoustic EK94569 827969456927
- The Dead 60's The Dead 60's EK94453 827969445327
- Deniece Williams This Is Niecy CK93814 827969381427
- Dextor Gordon Manhattan Symphonie CK93581 827969358122
- Dion The Essential Dion CK92670 827969267028
- Earl Scruggs I Saw The Light With Some Help From My Friends CK92793 827969279328
- Elkland Golden CK92036 827969203620
- Emma Roberts Unfabulous And More: Emma Roberts CK93950 CK97684 827969395028 827969768426
- Flatt & Scruggs Foggy Mountain Jamboree CK92801 827969280126
- Frank Sinatra The Great American Songbook CK94291 827969429129
- G3 Live In Tokyo E2K97685 827969768525
- George Jones My Very Special Guests E2K92562 827969256220
- Gerry Mulligan Jeru CK65498 074646549827
- Horace Silver Silver's Blue CK93856 827969385623
- Jane Monheit The Season EK97721 827969772126
- Jon Randall Walking Among The Living EK92083 827969208328
- Life Of Agony Broken Valley EK93515 827969351529
- Louis Armstrong The Great American Songbook CK94295 827969429525
- Mary Mary Mary Mary CK94812 CK92948 000768353721 827969294826
- Montgomery Gentry Something To Be Proud Of: The Best of 1999-2005 CK75324 CK94982 828767532424 827969498224
- Natasha Bedingfield Unwritten EK93988 827969398821
- Neil Diamond 12 Songs CK94776 CK97811 827969477625 827969781128
- Nivea Complicated 82876671562 828766715620
- Our Lady Peace Healthy In Paranoid Times CK94777 827969477724
- Patty Loveless Dreamin' My Dreams EK94481 827969448120
- Pete Seeger The Essential Pete Seeger CK92835 827969283523
- Ray Charles Friendship CK94564 827969456422
- Rosanne Cash Interiors CK93655 827969365526
- Rosanne Cash King's Record Shop CK86994 696998699427
- Rosanne Cash Seven Year Ache CK86997 696998699724
- Shel Silverstein The Best Of Shel Silverstein CK94722 827969472224
- Shelly Fairchild Ride CK90355 827969035528
- Susie Suh Susie Suh EK92443 827969244326
- Switchfoot Nothing Is Sound CK96534 - CK96437 - CK94581 827969653425 - 827969643723 827969458129
- Teena Marie Robbery EK93817 827969381724
- Trey Anastacio Shine CK96428 827969642825
- Van Zant Get Right With The Man CK93500 827969350027
- Vivian Green Vivian CK90761 827969076125
Note: Two titles, Ricky Martin's Life and Peter Gallagher's 7 Days in Memphis were released with a content protection grid on the back of the CD packaging but XCP content protection software was not actually included on the albums. Mr. Wright is the former editor-in-chief of Creem and Prince's New Power Generation magazines as well as a writer of films, fiction, and music. He is also a singer/songwriter who has released 3 solo CDs and a member of the folk-rock quartet GIANTfingers. And before all of this he was an agent at the William Morris Agency!