Cybernaut 

Sony gives up DRM aspirations… for now

Sony BMG was on the rope-a-dope last week over their new digital rights management software, pummeled relentlessly by technology critics, companies like Microsoft, and their customers who went so far as to launch a class action lawsuit against the company.

Realizing how badly they screwed up, creating a hidden software for CDs that cannot be detected or removed – while also creating a whole new software model for virus writers to aspire – Sony turtled. Last week they announced plans to recall 49 CD titles that had the DRM software installed, representing an estimated 4.7 million CDs. Around 2.1 million CDs have already been sold, and Sony will have to work hard to make patches available.

Another patch that is. The first one revealed the hidden components of the program but according to software engineers it didn’t address the security issue that leaves PCs vulnerable.

The real damage of the software, which was created to prevent people from copying disks or converting songs into non-proprietary formats, is the fact that Sony also created the perfect vehicle for computer worms and viruses to hide and spread.

Critics contend that Sony did not have the proper understanding of the software in the first place, and Microsoft said it would create a more effective patch for Windows users than whatever Sony comes up with.

In the meantime, if you’ve purchased any CDs in the past six months from Sony BMG artists, tale a closer look at the disk. If the web address on the back of your CD contains the letters XCP, you will be able to swap that CD for a version without the DRM software.

So far the list of contaminated recall disks includes: Shine by Trey Anastasio, On ne Change Pas by Celine Dion, 12 Songs by Neil Diamond, Healthy in Paranoid Times by Our Lady Peace, To Love Again by Chris Botti, Get Right with the Man by Van Zant, Nothing is Sound by Switchfoot, The Invisible Invasion by Switchfoot, Phantoms by Acceptance, Susie Suh by Susie Suh, Touch by Amerie, Broken Valley by Life of Agony, Silver’s Blue by Horace Silver Quintet, Jeru by Gerry Mulligan, Manhattan Symphonie by Dexter Gordon, Suspicious by The Bad Plus, The Dead 60s by The Dead 60s, The Essential Dion by Dion, Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield and Life by Ricky Martin.

Despite the slapdown, Sony continues to defiantly assert its right to enforce copyright protections for its artists, and didn’t rule out the possibility of introducing another kind of DRM software.

That in turn annoyed Sony artists, who are concerned that shoppers will steer away from Sony products in the future out of the concern they could be opening their computers up to hackers or unauthorized surveillance. Oh yes, Sony’s DRM software is also spyware, communicating your listening habits back to the mother company.

It also has companies like HP threatening to pull their backing from Sony’s Blu-Ray high definition DVD technology if Sony plans to include DRM software that could make it impossible for customers to back up their movies on their hard drives.

Compounding the problem, some people may choose to purchase the Playstation 3 rather than the Xbox 360 based on the fact that the PS3 will come with a Blu-ray disk reader, but may reconsider if the format is not widely supported and could go the way of the Sony Betamax and MiniDisc.

Follow all the latest Sony drama online at Wired magazine, www.wired.com .

Who’s controlling the Internet?

Predictably enough, the digital divide between have’s and have not’s is pretty much the same as the divide between first world and worlds two and three. We’re moving forward so fast that our technology becomes obsolete within months while the rest of the world is stuck somewhere in the ’80s before the Internet took over.

It’s a growing concern for the United Nations, which last week held a World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia.

Some of the ways countries and corporations are hoping to bridge the digital divide is the creation of $100 laptops, including a hand-winding version, and satellite radios that can pull in programming from just about anywhere.

Another suggestion was to get the U.S. to relinquish control over the Internet.

The internal workings of the Internet and the addressing system are currently administered by the U.S. through the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN.

Some countries are uncomfortable that a country should have that power, and would like to see it turned over the United Nations. The U.S. agreed, reluctantly, and agreed to create an international forum to raise important Internet issues – which would have no binding authority, leaving final say on issues to the U.S. The new forum, called the Internet Governance Forum, will also have power to address global issues like spam and cybercrime that are not currently in ICANN’s domain.

For more on the conference, visit www.itu.int/wsis/tunis/index.html

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