Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Recordings: The Chieftains / Live from Dublin

This will be a somewhat unusual record review.

First things first: I like The Chieftains. They're a great band and seem to be fine people. "Live from Dublin" is a tribute to Derek Bell, their long-time harpist and all-around interesting guy. But I'm not going to buy it, because their record label, Sony, chose to include software which is not beneficial to people who legally own the CD, behaves like spyware and is dangerous to your computer.

According to Sony and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the software contains a defect which could allow malicious software to gain control over your computer. A similar piece of malware delivered on other Sony CDs in the name of copy protection was in fact exploited by virus writers.

According to Edward Felton, the software:

  1. Installs without meaningful consent or notification, even if you decline the license agreement
  2. Includes either no uninstaller or an uninstaller that fails to remove major components of the software
  3. Transmits information about you to SunnComm, the developer of the software, without notification or consent

If you already own this CD, don't put it in your computer. It is safe to put it in an audio-only CD player, however. If you have already put the CD into your computer then you may want to remove the Sony/SunnComm software from your computer. Don't use the so-called "uninstaller" included with the CD; like the uninstaller for Sony's other "content protection" system, it's as dangerous as software itself. However, the uninstaller linked on the EFF page has (at least temporarily) disappeared from SunnComm's site, and when you search SunnComm's site for an uninstaller, they try to talk you into updating the software instead. Unfortunately, there is little reason to believe that the problems disclosed thus far are the only problems with the software. [Update: Well, that didn't take long. A new problem in the patched version was announced while I was typing the original version of this post!] When a record label appears to presume that their customers are criminals, why would they worry about their customer's security? Why would I want to run software on my computer which does nothing for me? The EFF is suing Sony over this.

Think this doesn't apply to you if you have a Mac? I wouldn't count on it.

Sony would like to sell me a laptop. But given that they try to install this software and other software which is even worse on computers which they don't produce, why would I trust them not to put such malware on a computer they produce themselves?

I have no reason to believe The Chieftains have anything to do with this software being on their CD. I presume, based on what I know about how the record industry works, that the decision to include it was made by the record label alone.

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