Sunday, February 12, 2006

SONY Does Bad Things

I've never been a big fan of SONY or its products. I got a SONY stereo for Christmas one year: it broke within six months. I was unduly influenced by a sale at Circuit City and bought a SONY discman: it conked out in about 9 months.

Then I moved to Japan and had similar problems with a SONY Vaio desktop computer that I bought back in 2003. My students let me in on a little colloquial expression around here, 'SONY-time', which means "the tendency to break down two or three times a year".

My experiences with SONY's products were never that bad, but I've made sure to avoid their stuff at all costs. I will happily pay a bit more for a SONY competitor, although the opposite seems to be necessary here in Tokyo, Japan. SONY products are usually more expensive than their competitors products in this town. Why? Excellent question. I suspect that it's because the people over here have been buying SONY incessantly since the late 70's. They also happen to be accustomed to paying top yen for things, so there's little reason for SONY to break the trend.

What has pushed me over the edge now is the crap that SONY has been packing with its CD's. If you weren't awake for the uproar last year caused by the copyright protection software SONY uses, head on over to this article by J. Alex Halderman for some background information.

Here is my boiled-down version of the situation: I tried to listen to Z, an album by My Morning Jacket. Oops. Due to the fact that I am like the vast majority of computer users (i.e. I am stupid and run my computer in administrator mode), my computer automatically ran and installed a number of copy-protection files on my hard drive. Sounds normal, right?

Wrong. The little window asking for my consent didn't show up until after about a dozen files were loaded on my computer. And here's the fun part! Despite assurances to the contrary, you can't uninstall these files, and they tend to act a lot like spyware. Furthermore, some of the cloaking software (which is worse than it sounds) used by SONY was proving to be pretty effective cover for viruses written by some of the more computer-savvy among us. And wouldn't you know it, the software also manages to garble music from SONY-produced CD's that you may be trying to play on your iPod (or in iTunes).

After two and a half hours of reading and researching, I was able to uninstall the files completely (I think). There is currently a mammoth-sized Class Action Lawsuit going down in the states. If you would like to opt out, you should do so soon. Everyone else has until the end of the year (12.31.06) to file for compensation under the Class Action suit. Compensation maxes out at a few free digital albums which is not very helpful if (like me) you're not a big Mariah Carey fan. I think they have around 175 titles to choose from. I haven't seen the list.

I have no problem with companies attempting to protect their intellectual property rights, and those of the artists signed with said companies. However, SONY installed files that report information about my system and possessions back to its partners without my permission. In addition to breaking the law, SONY has hereby earned itself several more years without any of my money. And to think that I was this close to buying a new SONY Ericsson cell phone!

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