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Unsafe Sony CDs swapped for MP3 files, disks

Sony BMG said on Friday it would swap unsecure CDs for new unprotected disks as well as unprotected MP3 files.
/ Source: Reuters

In an attempt to make up with consumers whose PCs have been exposed to unsecure copy-protection software which acts like malware, music publisher Sony BMG said on Friday it would swap unsecure CDs for new unprotected disks as well as unprotected MP3 files.

The music publishing venture of Japanese electronics conglomerate Sony Corp. and Germany's Bertelsmann AG had already said last week it would temporarily suspend the manufacture of music CDs containing the controversial copy-protection technology.

The XCP copy-protection program, developed by British software firm First4Internet and used by Sony BMG to restrict copying and sharing of music CDs, acts like virus software and hides deep inside a computer where it leaves the backdoor open for malicious hackers.

Sony BMG, after announcing a recall of some 4.7 million CDs with the software on Wednesday, said on Friday consumers could mail their CDs to the company, and they would receive a new unprotected CD in return.

Pending the processing of the exchange program, consumers would also receive an e-mail with details of a Web site where they could download the music tracks as unprotected MP3 files.

Details of the swap program can be found on http://cp.sonybmg.com/xcp/. Music CDs with the copy-protection software can be identified by a web address containing the letters XCP printed on the back of the box.

Last week the music publisher said it would do anything possible make amends with its customers who were outraged when the first viruses were discovered.

Open-source twist
The XCP program will have installed itself on a Windows-operated personal computer when consumers want to play 52 title CDs from Sony BMG. The vast majority of the CDs were sold in the United States.

The copy protection software has become a debacle for Sony BMG. Angry consumers filed a class action lawsuit, and Microsoft said it regarded the copy-protection software as malware and would make a tool available to uninstall the program. Sony BMG also said it will make a new uninstall tool available, after the first uninstall method proved unsecure.

In the latest twist to the story, software engineers found earlier on Friday that the music player which is part of the XCP software contains components from an open source project, an MP3 player called LAME, raising questions about copyright.

First4Internet, which sold the XCP software program used by Sony BMG on its CDs, declined to comment after repeated requests since Monday.

Sony BMG has re-emphasized that copy-protection software is "an important tool to protect our intellectual property rights and those of our artists."