Sony BMG Bites DRM Developer

Sony BMG is suing one of two developers of digital rights management schemes that spooked consumers, compromised the security of their PCs, and forced the music label to pay settlements in numerous lawsuits.

The DRM in question is Mediamax from SunnComm International, now known as the Amergence Group. When consumers placed Mediamax-tainted CDs in their computers, the software installed itself and made the machines vulnerable to hijacking or theft of personal information.

As a result, many consumers sued, and Sony had to pay out $6 million in settlements. Sony is now seeking $12 million from Amergence--which is fighting back, saying Sony approved the specs.

Mediamax is actually the less notorious of the two DRM schemes Sony tried. The other was XCP (Extended Copy Protection) from First4Internet. That company has also changed its name, to Fortium Technologies Ltd.

Ironically, despite all the trouble with Mediamax, the DRM didn't provide much protection against copying. As I discovered in my little experiment, it was possible to use a SCMS-enabled component CD burner to copy Mediamax CDs to music-type CD-RWs and rip them normally without harming the PC.

The music industry has since dispensed with DRM on CDs and concentrated more on its legal strategy--filing lawsuits against consumers suspected of illegal peer-to-peer file sharing. More than 20,000 such suits have been filed by the Recording Industry Association of America.