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11/4/2005
02:20 PM
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Amazon.com Reviewers Roast Sony Over DRM Fiasco

Activists are fighting back against Sony on Amazon.com, following complaints that Sony incorporated spyware into the copy-protection on its music CDs.

Customers have used Amazon.com's review feature to slam a Sony CD implicated in a security and copy-protection brouhaha, reducing the online retailer's rating for the Van Zant album, "Get Right with the Man," from three-and-a-half stars to just one-and-a-half in the space of a few days.

Since Oct. 31, every review posted on the album's sales site has taken Sony BMG Entertainment to task for using a hacker-style rootkit to hide copy protection software which limits the number of times tracks can be "ripped" to a computer.

Van Zant's album attracted attention because it was cited in a researcher's investigation into the Sony copy protection scheme.

Mark Russinovich, the co-founder and chief software architect at Winternals Software, named "Get Right with the Man" as the source of the rootkit that he found on his PC.

As word spread, customers roasted the Van Zant album in their reviews.

"Once again the honest purchaser is treated like a criminal," wrote a reviewer identified as "Doctor Goats."

"No offense to the Van Zant brothers [but] the hidden program and directories that the copy protection method installs on your system can be used by viruses to hide from AV software," wrote "T. Rowe."

One review may have been written tongue in cheek.

"It is the first publicly available ROOTKIT that will be passed over by virus scanners and most game anti-hack protection schemes," wrote "Catriona Smithers." "Use it to protect World of Warcraft hacks and any other thing you might want to hide on your computer from just about anyone except your more proficient computer guru. Trust a corporate developed rootkit from a known dependable source."

Although Amazon.com's customer rating of the album plunged from three-and-a-half stars before the rootkit news broke to the current one-and-a-half stars, that didn't translate into fewer sales by the Seattle-based online retailer's account.

Thursday, the album's sales ranking was 1,299, while Friday's was slightly better, at 1,113.

The band, meanwhile, issued a statement on its Web site, saying that "management for Van Zant is continuing to gather more facts concerning this and will be posting other details once they get in all the facts surrounding this issue."

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