Geekback - The Worst Sort Of Evil

More tales of inexcusable behavior. (UPDATE to include info on OSX kernel extensions)

The tale of Sony's evil attempts to control "music piracy" by installing a rootkit were chronicled in These Very Pages last week. Sony's response went from "it wasn't us, we didn't do anything" to "well, there's no real harm here" to "it's not like we didn't tell the users, sorta" to "really, we didn't do anything wrong but out of the goodness of our saintly hearts, we will stop doing this, at least for now, maybe".

Whether or not Sony broke the law (they did) and whether or not they misled consumers (the did that, too) is for other people to debate. Today's more interesting fact is that the Sony rootkit contains code from an open-source MP3 encoder - a product that is protected under the terms of the Gnu Public License. That wouldn't be a problem, except that Sony didn't hold up their end of the GPL by including the source code or by crediting the original work. Distill that down, and you get music weasels breaking a rights agreement to try and force consumers into a rights agreement of their own. You go, guys.

Meanwhile, the mainstream media checks in on this, a week or so late as usual.

NOTE: If your Dutch is a little rusty, a translation of the original story is here. Just in case.

LATE BREAKING NEWS: We originally pointed out that these things simply wouldn't play on a Mac. However, Sony added something new to their already-noxious brew on one of the last CDs manufactured under this process. The album, Speak for Yourself by Imogen Heap, adds an OSX startup app to the data folder, and when you put the CD into your Mac it tries to install a pair of kernel extensions (PhoenixNub1.kext and PhoenixNub2.kext). There is no info yet on what these kernel hooks actually do, since at this point no one has actually installed them - unlike Windoze, OSX warns the user that the attempted installs will modify and possibly harm their computer and requires an administrator password to complete the process. This is (if possible) even worse than the rootkit model inflicted on the Windoze crowd, since this is an actual corruption and violation of the core of the operating system. These guys are lower than scum.

Posted: Tue - November 15, 2005 at 11:45 AM