Sony Will Never Learn...

november 15, 2005

How many times has Sony's want to protect "its" things gotten them in trouble? It has gotten them financial troubles: ATRAC3. When Apple was making the iPod, Sony did not come into the HDD MP3 player business because it did not have a real good way to protect its goods. So, Sony waited and developed ATRAC3 for "protection". When it was finally ready, the HDD MP3 player market was already owned by Apple. Sony has yet to get a substantial market share with its ATRAC3-based players. Minidisc and SonicStage are the other parts of the ATRAC3 trinity. Minidisc being a damned good format for ten years ago, but nothing worthy nowadays. SonicStage being the crappy software that needs to be used to transfer any music from a Windows PC to any Sony music player (using a Mac? Sorry, Sony doesn't cater to us Mac users -- and that maybe a good thing!). Yes, you may say, with an iPod, you have to use iTunes to transfer music also. But, iTunes does not alter the music as it is going over to the iPod. SonicStage wraps MP3 files with some proprietary Sony stuff before shooting it over to the music player. Worse yet, is the crappy copy protection scheme that Sony somehow thought they could hide from consumers. Now that copy protection scheme (XCP) has been discovered, it is egg on Sony's face as it has been linked to hackers exploits. It is all over the news and there are now is a Boycott Sony site because of this whole mess. What are you thinking Sony? Why do you continue to do this? Silly facist protection schemes do nothing to "protect" your stuff. Eventually, someone will find a way to crack it. Sure, the normal consumer won't find it. But, there are some smart people out there that will: 1) Find out about these stupid schemes and 2) Crack the stupid scheme. That is guaranteed. The following outrage will come either as lucky (no one talks about it) or disastrous (it explodes into a PR nightmare like this XCP thing has). You can't lose that much money if you sell your CDs at a decent price and don't try this foolish stuff. I wonder what the financial fallout of this whole "protection" scheme will be. Will it be more than what Sony hoped to have saved by keeping people from pirating their stuff? Most likely because this will leave a bad taste in people's mouths for a long time to come. In the age of blogging and internet news, things spread quickly. This whole XCP scheme was a disaster to start with and somehow someone let it happen. If you thought the XCP software was bad, you probably missed the EULA (End-User Licence Agreement) that is attached to it. The EFF has a layman's translation of the 3000 word EULA here. It basically says:

  1. If your house gets burgled, you have to delete all your music from your laptop when you get home. That's because the EULA says that your rights to any copies terminate as soon as you no longer possess the original CD.
  2. You can't keep your music on any computers at work. The EULA only gives you the right to put copies on a "personal home computer system owned by you."
  3. If you move out of the country, you have to delete all your music. The EULA specifically forbids "export" outside the country where you reside.
  4. You must install any and all updates, or else lose the music on your computer. The EULA immediately terminates if you fail to install any update. No more holding out on those hobble-ware downgrades masquerading as updates.
  5. Sony-BMG can install and use backdoors in the copy protection software or media player to "enforce their rights" against you, at any time, without notice. And Sony-BMG disclaims any liability if this "self help" crashes your computer, exposes you to security risks, or any other harm.
  6. The EULA says Sony-BMG will never be liable to you for more than $5.00. That's right, no matter what happens, you can't even get back what you paid for the CD.
  7. If you file for bankruptcy, you have to delete all the music on your computer. Seriously.
  8. You have no right to transfer the music on your computer, even along with the original CD.
  9. Forget about using the music as a soundtrack for your latest family photo slideshow, or mash-ups, or sampling. The EULA forbids changing, altering, or make derivative works from the music on your computer.
Number 7 is definitely a head-scratcher. Sir Howard Stringer was supposed to bring change to Sony. All I am seeing is more of the same. More lame protection schemes. More proprietary stuff. Come on Sir Howard, get off your tuff and make some real changes! All of this crap tanishes the already declining global image of the Sony brand name. There needs to be some radical changes within Sony and its businesses, and it needs to happen quickly. My armchair-CEO suggetions: Open up. Forget about proprietary, embrace the open. Use industry standard formats like AAC (not suggesting WMA since Sony and Microsoft have bad blood). Open up the PSP to homebrew applications. Stop trying to protect your stuff so much and trust that consumers will consume. Make CDs real CDs. Let the consumer consume the music the way that they want to. If they want to rip to MP3 and throw the music onto their iPods, let them! They have bought the rights to listen to the music the way that they want, not the way that you want. Stop being so proprietary and damned expensive at the same time. Case in point: MemorySticks. Either give me cheap MemorySticks with prices on par with something like SD, or make devices that take cheaper memory. If and when I buy a new compact point-and-shoot camera, it will probably not be a Sony if the Sony cameras continue to take the expensive MemoryStick. If you choose to make it proprietary, don't make it so frigging expensive at the same time. People are not stupid, so don't treat them that way. Anyways, enough of my Sony rant. Sir Howard, I have an open letter for you still. Again I ask, how will you change Sony, Sir Howard Stringer?