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|22nd Nov 2005||Questionable Practice||Sony sued over controversial CDs|
|Sony BMG's woes in the US over its much-criticised anti-piracy CD software have deepened.
It is facing two separate lawsuits in Texas and California.
The Texan lawsuit accuses Sony of installing spyware and is seeking damages of up to $100,000 in damages for each violation.
In California, digital rights group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), is suing Sony for allegedly collecting personal data.
The so-called XCP (Extended Copy Protection) software is installed on around 50 of Sony's CDs and up to two million copies have been sold in the US.
It is intended to restrict copying of CDs but security experts have criticised it for using virus-like techniques.
The row began when Windows expert Mark Russinovich found that Sony BMG was using a so-called rootkit to conceal the program used to stop some of its CDs being copied.
Rootkits are being increasingly used by virus makers to hide their malicious code deep within the Windows operating system.
XCP, created by UK firm First 4 Internet, employed similar cloaking systems, said security experts.
Other lawsuits are pending against Sony in New York and Italy.
"Sony has engaged in a technological version of cloak and dagger deceit against consumers by hiding secret files on their computers," said Greg Abbot, Attorney General for Texas.
Consumers, who thought they were buying a music CD, "instead, received spyware that can damage a computer, subject it to viruses and expose the consumer to possible identity crime", he said.
"People buy these CDs to listen to music. What they don't bargain for is the computer invasion that is unleashed by Sony BMG," he added.
The Texan lawsuit is seeking up to $100,000 for every Texan affected by the controversial copy protection system, under its Consumer Protection Against Computer Spyware Act, enacted earlier this year.
Sony has said it is co-operating fully with the attorney general's office.
It announced last week that customers could exchange CDs containing XCP software for new ones and it also offered software for people to download to fix the security vulnerabilities on their computers.
The firm said it had recalled all CDs installed with XCP software, but Texan investigators said they had bought several of the CDs at shops in Austin on Sunday.
A separate lawsuit been filed in Los Angeles by the EFF, a non-profit consumer advocacy group which attempts to address the balance between new technologies and civil liberties.
The EFF said that the XCP software is extremely difficult to remove and can mean users have to reformat their computer's hard drive.
Cindy Cohn, legal director of the EFF has accused Sony BMG of not doing enough to inform consumers about the problems.
"Just putting a little something up on their website I don't think is sufficient," she said.
The EFF has issues not just with the XCP software but with SunnComm MediaMax software, which is said to install files on computers even if users have declined to accept its licensing agreement.
It said the software tracks customers' listening habits, although Sony has denied that the company collects such data.
This SunnComm software is on as many as 24 million CDs.
It is suing under a Californian law which bans collecting personally identifiable information through deceptive means.
Last week it was revealed that hackers are already exploiting flaws in the program Sony is using to remove the controversial software.
Currently they are just proof of concept hacks, although security firms warned that there was potential for more serious attacks.
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