Sean Sperte

Rootkit

08 November 2005

Thomas Hesse, President of Sony’s Global Digital Business, is not helping Sony clean up the mess they’ve made with the DRM rootkit issue. He’s quoted in this NPR brief as saying:

Most people, I think, don’t even know what a rootkit is, so why should they care about it?

Well, Mr. Hesse, you’re partially right. I had no idea what a rootkit was … prior to two weeks ago. Now, however, I’m very aware, and care a great deal about it. I think the world’s about to find out what a rootkit is, too, and I think your company stands to lose a lot if you don’t shut your yapper and start loosening your grip on rights management.

Just for the sake of review of my readership, here’s a recap:

  1. Sony puts DRM’d CD’s on the market that …
  2. Background-install a rootkit on PC computers (after a brief ELA message) that …
  3. Monitors which tracks are played and whatever other information might be “relevant” until …
  4. Mark’s Sysinternals reports that he’s discovered the rootkit forcing …
  5. Sony [or Sony’s third-party developer] to issue a patch that supposedly “fixes” the rootkit, but in turn causes …
  6. CD drives to be rendered inoperable.

Boycott SonyAt least that’s how I understand the issue. The details may be sketchy, but who cares. The bottom line is that Sony is attemping to usurp the music market (from Apple) by using tactics only comparable to priracy. This crosses lines of ethical business practice, and in my opinion, should only be responded to in a boycott of the company and its products.

The DRM fight is just heating up and there’s already losses on both sides. Hollywood, Nashville and companies like Sony (who make both the product and the content through their artist label) are bolstering their resources and throwing money at lawyers and technology in order to control their so-called empire of entertainment. At the same time, companies like Apple are taking advantage of this open opportunity and introducing new business models that are (seemingly) tolerated by consumers. The iPod is great not just because it’s white and cute; it’s an interface that works with DRM and still gives the consumer [at least the illusion of] ownership.

It’s a lose-lose for companies that don’t change their practices and adapt. Either they’ll waste their money on containment methods, or they’ll lose their market to companies that have already adapted. And it’s not enough to just adapt anymore: Now they must innovate. But that’s for another post …