The whole Sony XCP scandal has been a real pain to read about. Up until this point, there's really only been one lesson: People don't read the licenses that come with software, and they sure as heck don't bother with them if they're attached to their music CDs. I grabbed a copy of Van Zant's Get Right with the Man which I hope to play around with once I've got an old, "disposable" laptop running, in spite of the horrible music (and I like Lynard Skynard, who have a similar sound; the lyrics on this disc are simply horrible) to see what kind of warning you get, but essentially what you've got is a very effective way for Sony to police the IP it controls, in this case music.
I mean, come on, the deal here isn't [primarily] piracy, but who controls the music's playback. Sony doesn't want Van Zant on your iPod, they want it on a Sony-friendly device. Apple and Sony are at each others' throats, and you can throw Microsoft in for good mix. Sony's CEO does.
from here: "We have so many rivals it's frightening. The week after next I will meet Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and I will [shake hands and] look down and see if I still have a hand." Sony's Stringer on his role at the top of the Japanese electronics giant. He added that his family thought he was "insane" to take the job. (June 22.)
It's not like Sony is worried about cassette recorders. Piracy is a worry, sure, but once the files hit Limewire from any source, it's everywhere! Macs don't get hit with the XCP, so we can expect that someone, somewhere is going to use their 3% marketshare Apple to rip the thing into mp3s and get it moving. Perhaps it takes an extra week to hit Gnutella networks, but "Nobody Gonna Tell Me What To Do" is making it, like it or not.
What Sony wants is to stop you -- no, you right there. You the individual. You, the person rich enough to buy an iPod (or two) and probably not computer savvy enough to spell Limewire. Sony wants to stop you from putting these tracks on your iPod. While they're at it, why not go ahead and restrict how many copies of the CD you can make with their player? Still, that's not the crux. They want their customized player to open whenever Get Right With The Man or any other XCP protected -- any other Sony -- disc is inserted into the system so that those tracks never see the inside of an iTunes XML library file. The battle for who plays the disc is part of the reason Sony's "fix" when XCP received the horrible PR was to replace XCP CDs and give you a link to download its mp3s! (though I wonder what the bitrate is?!). If this sort of protection means you can't play any CD if you uninstall the XCP player, well, too bad. You okayed the installation. From Sony's point of view, this is a perfect solution, and does a great job protecting its property, at least on Windows 98 through XP.
The bottom line is that if you consent to having this jive put on your computer and ignore the warnings, you reap your just rewards. Want to play the CD on your computer without installing? Well, there're other sources for free music.
Those were my feelings, that is, until this story come out. Here's where we might really have an issue.
From a recent Slashdot story: HikingStick writes 'News.com is reporting that the Texas attorney general is expanding the allegations against Sony. It seems the software would install even if users declined the EULA.
Now that's a problem. Now instead of simply a draconian approach, we've got what's increasingly turning out to be a sloppy app. It might have LGPL code (if you're a Linuxphile, that'll make sense quickly. If not, it means you've got code with a so-called viral license, meaning Sony should have to give away XCP's programming for free), it might almost irreversibly bork your computer's ability to play CDs, but if it installs when you legally decline the installation, that's more than just bad QA/QC. That's negligence.
Anyhow, enough of rant #2 for today. Hopefully some day I'll fix the issues with the writing (spelling, grammar, logic), but for now I believe you get the point. For the most part, XCP isn't such a bad idea. It shows what's at stake when we talk about iPods and Walkmen (the sale of which, we should note, also benefitted greatly from pirated tapes), and how your computer and its operating system have become a highly contested space. It also shows how I use this blog as much to work out what's on my mind as it is any sort of space for people to actually attempt to read and comprehend what the heck I'm talking about.