FTC: Consumers Must Be Able To Uninstall Copy Protection

In a decision that sets some limits on its copy-protection of content, Sony has settled with the Federal Trade Commission over security it imbedded in its CDs. The FTC said Sony may not hide the security system from consumers and, beyond that, must "provide a reasonable and effective way to uninstall any content protection software."

The company came under heavy fire for not disclosing that the digital rights management security imbedded in its disks not only restricted the number of copies that could be made but included spy software that monitredd listening habits for marketing purposes, actually exposed users computers to security risks, and was tough to uninstall.

Under the proposed settlement, the company is required to disclose copy limitations of its CDs, prevents it from collecting marketing information via the copy-protection scheme. It also requires the company to exchange the CD's for new ones through June of this year, and to reimburse up to $150 for repair to any computers that might have been damaged in trying to remove the software.

“Installations of secret software that create security risks are intrusive and unlawful,” said FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras in announcing the settlement.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.