Sony BMG Music Entertainment, the world’s second-largest record company, bowed to pressure from consumer advocacy groups on Wednesday and recalled music CD recordings containing copyright-protection software that has been liked to PC hacker attacks.
New York-based Sony BMG, said customers will be able to exchange any disc containing the controversial copyright protection software called XCP which is activated when the disc is played on a PC and installs a small hidden file on the user’s machine.
The company also said it had instructed retailers to remove any unsold music discs containing the software from their shelves.
The move represents the latest in a series of embarrassing and potential costly retreats by Sony BMG, a joint venture created last year by Japan’s Sony group and Bertelsmann, the German media company whose recording stars include Celine Dion, Mariah Carey and Destiny’s Child.
Song BMG has been among the most aggressive content companies in its efforts to protect music from from piracy and introduced the software developed by First4Internet, a UK-based technology company, earlier this year in an attempt to curb so-called ‘casual piracy.”
However PC security firms reported last week that hackers had developed a virus designed to exploit the controversial software exposing users machines to security risks – a risk that Sony BMG subsequently acknowledged.
Sony BMG, which now faces a number of lawsuits in the US related to the use of the copyright protection software, initially said it would ‘temporarily suspend” use of XCP and apologised to PC users for “possible inconvenience” it may have caused.
Nevertheless, privacy and consumer advocacy groups including the US-based Electronic Frontier Foundation which first highlighted the risk posed by XCP, argued that Sony BMG needed to go further and urged the company to replace all the discs containing the software – a move that some analysts estimate could cost Sony BMG $10m or more.
The XCP software, which was designed to limit the number of CD copies that could be made by a user, is believed to be included on about 50 recordings distributed by Sony BMG. The company has emphasised that the software is not activated by playin the disc on a stanrd DVD or CD player.