SonyBMG antics may well cause public to turn on them and turn many people onto Apple Macs

Beyond holding back the entry of iTunes Music Store in both Japan and Australia, where Apple decided to eventually open for business without SonyBMG, SonyBMG’s copy-protected faux CDs are causing difficulties for Windows users worldwide.

“The mainstream media took their time in bringing readers attention to SonyBMG’s activities, perhaps faced with withdrawal of advertising revenue, but the story has now grown so large that not even your local newspaper or TV station can ignore it,” Les Posen writes in his CyberPsych blog. “Two security-based websites individually investigated reports from readers about Windows PC difficulties. F-Secure and SysInternals each devoted extensive blogspace to sleuthing so-called ‘rootkit’ problems. These are often the source of malware and spyware on PCs… Investigation revealed that the source was a SonyBMG legally purchased CD of a van Zant music album, complete with content protection software which self-installed after the operator agreed to a EULA in order to play the CD. Now when was the last time you recall putting a CD in your car, or on your Mac and agreeing to an EULA before it could play?”

Posen writes, “In any case, the SonyBMG CD installed what some have come to call its own version of spyware. In any case, once the blogging and security world jumped on it, and it then made mainstream via technology columns and radio broadcasts and podcasts, SonyBMG added a service pack to its support site – yes a service pack for music! Only in the Windows world! The pack ‘uncloaked’ the SonyBMG DRM components but did not remove them. Previous attempts by others to remove it saw CD functionality disabled, re-enabled only with a fresh install of Windows OS… Also, on the SonyBMG website where the patch resides is an FAQ section, with one section devoted to owners of iPods who wish to legally transfer their CD content to listen on the go.”

Posen describes the online patch signup process, “So I entered the details of a Dianna Krall CD I had listened to last night at friends’ which I recalled was on Verve, a SonyBMG-owned label. And included my .mac email address. In a few minutes, a canned response was received. It started this way.”

Thank you for contacting Sony BMG Online. We appreciate your purchase of our CD and apologize for any inconvenience. Please follow the instructions below in order to move your content into iTunes and onto an iPod.

Here’s the advice offered to Mac users:
If you have a Macintosh computer you can copy the songs using your iTunes Player as you would normally do.

Posen writes, “That’s it. One line – stick the CD in, and rip as you ordinarilty would with Apple’s ease of use. Scroll down further in the email and we discover advice to Windows users, who by now will be saying to themselves, having already gone through a patching experience, ‘Oh, no, not more Windows nonsense.'”

Here’s the advice offered to Windows sufferers:
If you have a PC place the CD into your computer and allow the Sony BMG audio player on the CD to automatically start. If the player software does not automatically start, open your Windows Explorer. Locate and select the drive letter for your CD drive. On the disc you will find either a file named LaunchCD.exe or Autorun.exe. Double-click this file to manually start the player. TIP: If your CD does not contain either the LaunchCD.exe or Autorun.exe files, it may not be compatible with this iPod solution. Please reply to this letter for more information. Once the Sony BMG player application has been launched and the End User License Agreement has been accepted, you can click the Copy Songs button on the top menu. Follow the instructions to copy the secure Windows Media Files (WMA) to your PC. Make a note of where you are copying the songs to, you will need to get to these secure Windows Media Files in the next steps. Once the WMA files are on your PC you can open and listen to the songs with Windows Media Player 9.0 or higher (or another fully compatible player that can playback secure WMA files, such as MusicMatch, RealPlayer, and Winamp). You can then burn the songs to a standard Audio CD. Please note that in order to burn the files, you will need to upgrade to, or already have, Windows Media Player 9 or 10. Once the standard Audio CD has been created, place this copied CD back into your computer and open iTunes. iTunes can now rip the songs as you would any normal audio CD.

Posen writes, “After all this, SonyBMG ends up trying to blame Apple for its DRM:”

Please note an easier and more acceptable solution requires cooperation from Apple, who we have already reached out to in hopes of addressing this issue. To help speed this effort, we ask that you use the following link to contact Apple and ask them to provide a solution that would easily allow you to move content from protected CDs into iTunes or onto your iPod rather than having to go through the additional steps above: http://www.apple.com/feedback/ipod.html Thank you for the opportunity to be of assistance.

Posen asks, “So all of this Windows sophistry is Apple’s fault… correct?”

“I wonder if SonyBMG truly believes one can never underestimate the stupidity of the general public? If it’s true that Windows owns 90% of domestic desktops, then they have reason to believe its truth. But if evidence exists that Apple market share is slowly increasing, along with alternate browsers to Internet Explorer, then there is also evidence that a gullible public may well turn on SonyBMG… If SonyBMG keeps up these efforts, they will be turning a lot of people onto Macs,” Posen writes.

More in the full article here.

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Our advice to Sony: give up the music device and music service markets. You’ve already lost badly and you simply look foolish and full of sour grapes. Concentrate on working WITH Apple and you’ll end up with Sony monitors, cameras, etc. in Apple Stores, Sony Pro products tied to Apple’s pro audio & video applications and systems plus, who knows, maybe even a Mac OS X license for your PCs (okay, that’s pushing it, but you get the idea).

As an aside, have you ever noticed the instructions that accompany a new printer, scanner, or other peripheral that ships with Mac and Windows directions? The Mac directions are a few lines, maybe a paragraph or two, while the Windows directions go on for pages and pages. We wonder, do Windows users notice that difference and, if they do, what do they think about the discrepancy, if anything?

Related articles:
Report: Sony copy-protected CDs may hide Windows rootkit vulnerability – November 01, 2005
Analyst: Sony BMG’s boycott of Apple’s iTunes Music Store Australia won’t last long – October 24, 2005
Apple launches iTunes Music Store Australia – October 24, 2005
How to beat Apple iPod-incompatible Sony BMG and EMI copy-protected CDs – October 04, 2005
Japan music labels look to impose ‘iPod Tax’ while Sony, Warner still not signing with Apple iTunes – October 10, 2005
Why aren’t Sony, BMG, Warner, Victor making their artists’ music available on Apple’s iTunes Japan? – October 06, 2005
Sony and Warner holding out on Apple iTunes Music Store Australia – September 08, 2005
Musicians stage mutiny against Sony, defiantly offer music via Apple’s iTunes Music Store – August 10, 2005
Sony BMG and EMI try to force Apple to ‘open’ iPod with iPod-incompatible CDs – June 20, 2005
New Song BMG copy-protected CDs lock out Apple iPod owners – June 01, 2005
Record company causes Apple to hit ‘pause’ on Australian iTunes Music Store – May 05, 2005

43 Comments

  1. Wow, that’s is pretty good. the DRM software Sony included on their CDs caused problems on Windows machines, so contact Apple about fixing it.

    Hopefully even the most Gates-worshiping Windows zombie wouldn’t fall for that, right?

  2. Wow! For windows useres, It’s Sony’s fault for being so feakin’ paranoid with their cds. For Mac users, I guess Apple would have to take the blame for making it so easy (Or Sony for not giving a darn about Mac). And is it just me or did Sony just give out instruction to go aginst what their DRM was their in the first place: to protect the songs?

  3. Sony is slowly committing hari-kari.

    And they can’t even do that right, since you’re not supposed to kill yourself slowly.

    Sony, just do it and get it over with already. This is embarrassing to watch.

  4. “You’ve already lost badly…”

    That doesn’t matter. They should try to remain in online music retail as long as it can be a profitable venture for them. It doesn’t matter how “sad” it is. Marketshare comparisons are a form of penis envy. Profitability is what counts. “Keeping up appearances” and “looking good” is for shallow, fickle, and juvenile folk – the exact kind of people Sony doesn’t need at the moment.

    The problem is the digital music market might not be as potentially large as originally thought. And given that, Sony may not be able to have a profitable venture in online music retail – yet. They might have to wait for Apple to bring consumer grade digital media centers to more households before online media retail breaks into the kind of growth they want.

    In the interim, Sony would do well to make a weekly podcast of new artists and albums and whatnot and offer it on iTunes. Anything they can do to promote their music and expose people to a greater variety of artists. Just because they can’t tap the retail stream directly doesn’t mean they can’t profit from online sales. The fact that they can’t seem to grasp this simple concept shows that the change at CEO didn’t really do anything to change the entrenched management.

  5. Sony DRM is screwing the people who buy their CD’s. Their DRM tactics are doing nothing to keep their artists’ music out of Internet swap sites and they’re messing with Windows PC users.

    I buy CDs to get good uncompressed versions of music I want to listen to (not a bunch of extra hassle). HEY SONY, ARE YOU LISTENING? Me neither! I’m not buying your crapped up offerings.

    Perhaps it’s finally time for me to give LIMEWIRE a try!

  6. … to the fact that there are pages and pages of instructions for Windows and just a line for the Mac?

    Simple: no support for the Mac. They simply do not realize that it could be just that: just works.

    My friend recently had a techie home to install his ADSL line. He had pages over pages on what to do to set up a Windows PC in order to connect to the newly installed line.

    When my friend said “Err, I do not have Windows, I have a Mac” the techie raised his hands, put down the thick manual for Windows installation procedures and said “Aww, then you are on your own, I have no instructions on what to do for the Mac” and he left a sheet of paper with the minimal bare info like account name and password, DNS IP and router.

    My friend simply connected the Mac and he was online in less than 2 minutes.

    You see, all those complex procedures to have a Windows PC up and running is seen as “support”. The fact that the Mac does not need any and simply works is not perceived by Windows users/techies. They see it as “lack of support”

    My friend is my last switcher of the month. He called me back just to spell his amazement and marvel. “Man, I can’t believe I have been refusing to listen to you for so long. It is not a computer: it is a miracle”

    Well, to me a Mac is just what a computer should be, to Windows switcher it is indeed a miracle of next millennium technology. Weird.

  7. I’m fed up with all this crap such as DRM which is supposed to stop piracy. It’s such a joke, especially when Sony gives you instructions on how to break the DRM anyways. The truth of the matter is anything that can be viewed or listened to can be copied. See that audio out on your computer? Hook it up to a standalone audio CD burner, and all the DRM in the world won’t matter. DVD encryption? I could just run my DVD players video signal into a DVD burner. DRM doesn’t affect piracy, it simply causes hassles for regular people. I will state that again because it needs to be emphasized:

    DRM doesn’t affect piracy, it simply causes hassles for regular people.

    Why would I want to pay Sony upwards of $20 for a CD when I can’t even do what I want with it? It makes more sense to just download it on p2p and save some money and a lot of hassle.

    I would also like to point out that I do not pirate or file-share, and I purchase a bare minimum of one CD a week (mostly from independent labels). The major record labels are so corrupt it isn’t even funny. They totally rape their artists, keeping their masters and rights to their music and giving them an average of 6% backend. They pay radio stations to play their music constantly (usually the contracts stipulated the song being played once an hour). They buy reviews in magazines and pay off critics.

    I think it’s time to stop supporting major labels, especially Sony. Hopefully with the increased pressure from major labels Apple will step up and come out with their own music label. It’s a natural progression of their business model, and if they treated their artists fairly I’m sure they could lure a lot of musicians away from the majors.

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