A US District Court judge in New York gave preliminary approval Friday to a settlement for music fans who purchased Sony BMG music CDs containing flawed copy protection programs. Under the proposed settlement, Sony BMG will stop manufacturing CDs with both First4Internet XCP and SunnComm MediaMax software. People who have already purchased the flawed CDs will be offered the same music without digital rights management (DRM), and some will also receive downloads of other Sony BMG music from several different services, including iTunes. The settlement would also waive several restrictive end user license agreement (EULA) terms and commit Sony BMG to a detailed security review process prior to including any DRM on future CDs, as well as providing for adequate pre-sale notice to consumers in the future.
Consumers can exchange CDs with XCP software for clean CDs now, but the rest of the settlement benefits will not be available until an official notice to the class has been issued. The court ordered that the notice–via newspaper ads, Google ads, email and other means–must occur by February 15. Once that notice goes out, consumers can begin submitting claims for settlement benefits and should get those benefits within 6-8 weeks of submitting the proof of claim form. To help consumers figure out what the settlement means to them, The EFF has posted a list of frequently asked questions (FAQ) on its website (see below). The FAQ tells music fans how to return their flawed CDs, how to get their clean CDs and downloads in exchange, and how to opt-out of this settlement. The deadline to opt-out of the settlement is May 1, 2006. “The settlement helps consumers finally get music that will play on their computers without invading their privacy or eroding their security,” said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. “Now that the court has given preliminary approval, the next step is to make sure that the millions of music fans who bought these XCP and MediaMax CDs understand what is available and how to get it.” The problems with the Sony BMG CDs surfaced when security researchers discovered that XCP and MediaMax installed undisclosed–and in some cases, hidden–files on users’ Windows computers, potentially exposing music fans to malicious attacks by third parties. The infected CDs also communicated back to Sony BMG about customers’ computer use without proper notification.
FAQ on Sony BMG settlement proposal: