The spyware that Sony installs on the computers of music fans does not even seem to be correct in terms of copyright law.
It turns out that the rootkit contains pieces of code that are identical to LAME, an open source mp3-encoder, and thereby breach the license.
This software is licensed under the so called Lesser Gnu Public License (LGPL). According to this license Sony must comply with a couple of demands. Amongst others, they have to indicate in a copyright notice that they make use of the software. The company must also deliver the source code to the open-source libraries or otherwise make these available. And finally, they must deliver or otherwise make available the in between form between source code and executable code, the so called objectfiles, with which others can make comparable software.
Sony complied with non of these demands, but delivered just an executable program. A computerexpert, whose name is known by the redaction, discovered that the cd “Get Right With The Man” by “Van Zant” contains strings from the library version.c of Lame. This can be conluded from the string: “http://www.mp3dev.org/”, “0.90”, “LAME3.95”, “3.95”, “3.95 “.
But the expert has more proof. For example, the executable program go.exe contains a so called array largetbl. This is a part used in the module tables.c of libmp3lame.
This discovery can have far-stretching consequences for the music giant, who claims only to protect copyrights. Previously, judges in Germany already forced various companies to release source code to the public and to deliver the goods necessary for compiling. It is also possible to demand financial compensation for damages.
Meanwhile, Other details are also becoming clear. The Electronic Frontier Foundation complains that the spyware makes the legal listening to the music on iPods impossble. The organisation is busy making a list of cds containing the hidden software and publishes this on her website.
Various calls to SonyBMG remained unanswered despite promises to call back.
Thank you brenno for raising these questions. It will be interesting to see how this little tidbit plays out.