Sony BMG is the world’s second largest music company, responsible for approximately one-quarter of all album sales in the United States. Among the CDs that it has been selling in 2005, however, are millions that include “copy-protection” software. If the owner of one of these CDs wants to play or copy these CDs on her Windows computer, she must first install software intended to restrict the number and kind of copies that her computer can make.

After quietly distributing these CDs for months, Sony BMG was caught flat-footed when computer security professionals in early November 2005 discovered that its copy-protection software creates serious security risks. At least one variant of the protection software installs itself even if users decline the pop-up “end-user license agreement” and eject the CD. Moreover, when the CDs are played, the software “phones home” to servers controlled by Sony BMG, reporting details regarding the user’s listening habits. Finally, once installed, the copy-protection software is difficult, if not impossible, to uninstall.

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