Sony Settles with Canada over Rootkit

Back in February, Slyck reported on lawsuits against Sony BMG in Canada over encoding their albums with rootkit technology.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

Now it appears that there is a foreseeable conclusion to this story. A report by Jeremy DeBeer has surfaced that shows that Sony is settling with affected Canadians.

One of the biggest complaints was that notice on the US sites appeared over a potential security flaw in the music albums and it wasn’t until two weeks later that the notice appeared on the Canadian Song BMG web site. On December 28, 2005, the EFF reported that Sony agreed to settle with US residents (PDF) who bought the albums encoded with the SunnComm MediaMax or the rootkit technology.

Fast forward to today. On August 31, 2006, nearly one year later, it appears as though Sony has agreed to settle with Canadians. The court document (posted and hosted by Jeremy DeBeer) states, “Now, therefore, it is hereby agreed by between the Parties, that:

a) The actions be settled and compromised as between Plaintiffs (on behalf of themselves and all Settlement Class Members) and Sony BMG, subject to approval of the Courts of the respective provinces in which the claims were instituted, after hearings as provided for in this Settlement Agreement
b) Upon Court approval of the Settlement and compromise of the Actions, final Orders for each of Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, in forms to be agreed by the Parties or settled by the Courts […] be entered: (1) dismissing the Actions with prejudice (except in Quebec); and (2) barring and enjoining the prosecution by Settlement Class Members of all Released Claims against the Released Parties […]with prejudice”

What are these settlement terms? The court document explains:

“A. In exchange for dismissal of the Action […] Sony BMG shall make available to Settlement Class Members […]the “Settlement Benefits”)[…]

1. Sony BMG offered to all persons possessing any XCP CD the opportunity to exchange such XCP CD for an identical CD title that does not contain any Content Protection Software. Sony BMG also has offered any such person the opportunity to download non-content protected MP3 versions of the music contained on any such XCP CD that he or she is exchanging

2. In addition to the exchange […] Sony BMG also shall offer the [following] additional incentives […]

1. For each XCP CD returned by a Settlement Class Member, the Settlement Class Member may elect to receive a cash payment […] ($7.50 [Canadian]) plus an amount equal to 12% of $7.50 representing the GST and provincial sales tax, payable by Sony BMG by cheque and a promotional code allowing the holder of the code to download the contents of any one (1) of the albums specified on the list attached […]

2. For each XCP CD returned […] the Settlement Class Member may elect to receive a promotional code allowing the holder of the code to download the contents of any three (3) of the albums specified […] from an FTP website. The promotional codes will be fully transferable, and will expire no less then 180 days after they are issues.”

It is also noted that this settlement requires proof of purchase which is a purchase receipt. Additionally, Sony appears to be saying that it will do everything commercially possible to notify those who purchased the affected albums. Jeremy DeBeer notes, “An independent auditor has verified Sony BMG’s affirmation that it hasn’t collected personally identifiable information without consent, and Sony BMG has agreed to destroy every 10 days IP addresses logged from hits to its servers.

Settlement forms and additional information can be found here. Also worth noting: a complete list of albums affected can be found on the Sony BMG website.

Many have already noted that Sony BMG Canada is settling with Canadians customers in the same way Sony BMG settled with American customers.

Slyck also reported on just how damaging the Sony Rootkit was and how it changed the copyright debate.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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