Sony BMG Music Entertainment faced a new legal challenge after Texas became the first state to sue the US record group over its use of controversial copyright protection software.

Greg Abbot, the Texas attorney-general, launched a blistering attack against the company, which he accused of “surreptitiously” installing “spyware” on the
personal computers of consumers.

“Sony has engaged in a technological version of cloak and dagger deceit against consumers by hiding secret files on their computers,” said Mr Abbott. “Consumers who purchased a Sony CD thought they were buying music. Instead, they received spyware that can damage a computer, subject it to viruses and expose the consumer to possible identity crime.”

The lawsuit represents the latest in a series of embarrassing and potentially costly moves against Sony BMG, a joint venture created last year by Japan’s Sony group and Bertelsmann, the German media company.

Last week the music group agreed to replace millions of music CDs and “temporarily” halt use of the copy protection software after acknowledging that it could open consumers’ PCs up to hacker attack.

Consumer privacy groups led by the Electronic Frontier Foundation have highlighted the use of the software and PC security firms said they had discovered PC viruses that exploit the software. Experts claim the copy protection software is activated when the disc is played on a PC.

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