ALCEI Press Release – Nov, 4 2005

Legal proceedings in Italy by ALCEI
against Sony for a “criminal” offense

In a frenzy of attempts to prevent music reproduction,
Sony BMG Entertainment distributes dangerous software

The facts
On September 30, 2004, an antivirus supplier detected, in a Van Zant music CD produced by Sony BMG Entertainment, the presence of a “digital rights management” software (a device to prevent copying) with typical malware characteristics. This software behaves like a virus. It is installed without users being aware of its presence, it is very difficult to remove, and hides inside a PC potentially allowing other software and malware to wreak havoc.
When this fraud came to light, Sony BMG Entertainement released on November 3 a patch which “solves the problem” (or so it says). By doing so, Sony admitted and confirmed that it had committed an abuse against all the customers who have, in good faith, bought its products. To add insult to injury, customers (quite unbelievably) are forced to ask Sony’s permission to uninstall the DRM software, and get back into control of their own computer systems.

The implications
While there are broader perspectives to be considered (as pointed out several times by ALCEI) on the widely debated topic of “copyright”, and of the improper way this concept is applied, it is totally unacceptable for hidden functions of any sort to be installed stealthily on a system – especially when they can seriously compromise the efficiency and security of the computer (or any other device) where they hide.
It is also unacceptable that any products be sold containing invasive software, especially when its presence is not properly disclosed and notified to the users.
Furthermore, it is unacceptable that, after committing such serious offences, anyone can (wrongly) believe that “releasing a patch” can be enough to relieve the offender’s responsibility.

The environment
This abuse by Sony BMG Entertainment is all but a singularity. In a paranoid defense of their profits, many majors of music, entertainment and software are using increasingly invasive and dangerous methods against those who trust them, and buy their products (while such methods that are useless against the real abusers who trade in unauthorized reproductions). While there is an obsessive proliferation of debatable initiatives that favor a few and damage a majority of honest users, what is lacking is an adequate commitment against the spreading of scams and criminal activities, such as phishing and other frauds.

The law
The claim that ALCEI formally filed on November 4th 2005 to the Commander in Chief of the Fraud Contrast Group of the Financial Police in Italy (Guarda di Finanza) points out that the behavior of whoever decided, inside Sony BMG Entertainment, to use such a dangerous DRM system (and of anybody else who behaves similarly) is criminally liable, besides being unethical and fraudulent. The possible charges range from arbitrarily “self-made” justice, intentional damage to computer systems, and diffusion of software that damages information and communication systems – all of which are criminal offenses under Italian law.

The irony of this case is that the promoters of criminal indictment could be subjected (much more correctly) to the same rigor that they have been unfairly and brutally inflicting on their customers. While absurd laws in Italy, inspired by the lobbying power of very large economic interests, are condemning the holding of copied material as a ferocious crime, a correct and considerate law states that willfully damaging computer systems, as well as making justice “on his own” without taking the issue into court , are criminal offenses that the public prosecutor must investigate.
Further more, criminal liability, in Italy, cannot be waived by offering a “remedy” after the fact, which may perhaps allow a lighter penalty at the end of the process, but in the meantime it is an explicit admission of guilt.

ALCEI’s action
On November 4 2005 ALCEI formally requested that the Financial Police identify the authors of the software, and those who made the willful decision of distributing it in a hidden form, and also detect if other organizations committed similar abuses. Now the law enforcement bodies must mandatorily start the investigations. This is the necessary preliminary phase of an action that intends to bring to criminal court anybody who, in Sony BMG Entertainment , has committed such illegal acts in Italy, as well as anyone else who helped in committing such crimes – or, in any other prduccircumstances, performed similar actions.
While we wait for justice to make its due course, this press release is intended bring to the attention of public opinion, the press and all media the dangerous consequences of a distorted and lobbyist interpretation of “copyright”.