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MADISON - Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced today that Wisconsin received a settlement payment from Sony BMG (Bertelsmann Music Group) as a result of a multi-state action against the company relating to its software. Consumers affected by Sony BMG's use of anti-copying software have until June 30, 2007, to submit refund claims at the Sony Website (below).
During 2005, Sony BMG distributed more than 12 million CDs with two kinds of anti-copying software. Sony BMG did not provide consumers with information on the outside of the CD boxes or elsewhere that the CDs contained anti-copying software or Digital Rights Management (DRM) software.
One version of the software was called XCP, designed to hide or "cloak" a number of the program's files and operations. When consumers played XCP CDs in their Windows-based computers, consumers did not know that the anti-copying software was downloaded onto their computers.
XCP created vulnerabilities on Windows-based computers by exposing them to security exploits, including viruses and other problems. Also, when consumers did discover XCP on their computers, they experienced problems when they tried on their own to remove the software. Some consumers who tried to remove XCP crashed their CD- ROM drives as a result.
Another version of the anti-copying software used by Sony BMG, called MediaMax, caused a driver to download into consumers' computers even if the consumer declined to accept the software. One version of MediaMax, Media Max 5.0, also created a less significant security vulnerability on consumers' computers by allowing subsequent users the ability to modify the contents of the computer, and to run dangerous programs that they would not otherwise have been able to run.
In December, 2006, Sony BMG Music Entertainment entered into a settlement agreement with Wisconsin and 39 additional states, agreeing to pay a sum of $4.25 million to resolve the states' investigation into consumer problems with the anti-copying software. This week the Wisconsin Department of Justice received $5,000 to cover its costs. Under the settlement, SONY BMG will also provide refunds up to $175 to all consumers who experienced harm to their computers when they sought to remove the DRM software, and will not use anti-copying software on its music CDs in the future without informing consumers of its use.
The other states participating in the settlement are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming, and by the Attorney General for the District of Columbia.
To submit a refund claim, consumers should go to Sony's website (www.sonybmg.com) and access a link set up specifically for filing claims, or go directly to the link itself (http://sonybmg.com/copy_protection_settlement.html). Consumers will have a choice between (1) submitting a claim form concerning harm caused to their computer when they sought to remove XCP; or (2) submitting a claim form concerning CDs purchased which contained Media Max or XCP software.
Consumers have until June 30, 2007 to make refund claims with SONY BMG.