CyberTech Rambler

December 30, 2005

Sony BMG may settle the XCP/MediaMax case [the EFF case]

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:07 pm

According to several reports including this from Groklaw, Sony and the plaintiffs had reached a settlement proposal on the Class Action suite against it from the EFF. In it, Sony practically bowed to all the demands of EFF. The demands from EFF, as far as I can tell, is reasonable.

The most important aspect is that Sony agree to provide a “clean, non-content protected CD identical in music content to ech XCP CD exchanged”. Yes, you read rightly, Sony agree to provide non-DRM CD. Why is Sony prepared to drop the claim that it need DRM to protect the copyright content without even putting up a fight? If DRM was so crucial to protect the content, Sony would not had compromised so easily. This is a convincing proof that DRM is not really central to the protection of copyright content, as least not when it interfered with the rightful consumption of the content.

Sony also agrees not to distribute CDs with the current XCP and MediaMax for at least two years. It will affect the share prices of First4Internet and SunnComm (manufacturer of XCP and MediaMax). It will also devalue SunnComm’s current effort to spin off MediaMax. Other than that, not much worth talking about. As far as Sony is concern, XCP and MediaMax software, as it currently stand, is a no-no for future CDs so it would not affect it much. The damage to XCP and MediaMax brand name are already done. It would not surprise me if the two companies ditch the names and go through a rebranding exercise soon.

One last notable effect of this settlement is Sony’s agreement to go back to standard software installation practices, i.e., providing uninstaller and not to install anything when user says no. It is also forced to withdraw those nasty little End User License Agreement (EULA) clauses that are unfair.

Overall, a good settlement. Sony have to offer affected customers some sweetstake and bear the cost of distribution of these sweetstake as punishment. EFF succeeded in pulling Sony’s business practice back to the straight and narrow. Most importantly, the settlement establish a baseline on what acceptable practice for content distribution should behave.

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