Sat 07 Jan 2006
In the wake of the Sony BMG settlement, I am making some modifications to this website to simplify and outline the information offered here. This post, therefore, will replace my other, previous posts. If you would like to read them, they are available in the archive. As always, information about each of the major class actions is available from the links to the right. You can also view the Michaelson page for actual information about the settlement.
As of this post, there is one class action in the United States, created by consolidating the at least twenty-one class action lawsuits that were filed across the United States into one giant class action that covers anyone in the US who purchased, received, came into possession of, or used one or more XCP or MediaMax CD. Not impacted by the settlement are the two class actions just now shaping up in Canada, a lawsuit by the Texas Attorney General, other legal action in Italy, and possible litigation by the Florida and New York Attorneys General.
As part of the settlement, Sony BMG will exchange your XCP-infected CD [Full List of XCP CDs] for one that does not have XCP. There is an exchange program already in progress at this website, and you may also be able to return your CD to the store where you purchased it. Before you mail or otherwise return your CD, make a copy of your receipt, and of the CD and its case, so that you can prove you had an XCP CD if you need to do so in the future. If you don't return your CD to Sony BMG directly, be sure to get proof that you have returned your CD, most likely in the form of a receipt from the retailer indicating the return.
To encourage you to return your CD, Sony BMG is required to offer you a choice of two incentive packages, as follows:
Package 1: Sony BMG will make a one time payment by check or debit card to you in the amount of seven dollars and fifty cents ($7.50), and you get a promotional code that allows you a free download of one entire CD from a selection of about 175 Sony BMG titles [Full List].
Package 2: Instead of getting a cash payment, you get three promotional codes, each allowing you a free download of one entire CD from a selection of about 175 Sony BMG titles, for three complete CD downloads [Full List].
Sony has to offer the download from at least three different websites, including iTunes. To claim your choice of the incentive packages, you will have to return your CD directly to Sony BMG or prove that it was returned to a retailer after November 14, 2005, run the Sony BMG XCP Update or the Sony BMG Uninstaller (see below), and complete an online or hard copy claim form. The claim forms will be available once the settlement is approved.
As part of the settlement, Sony BMG will offer to anyone who purchased one or more MediaMax-infected CDs [Full List of MediaMax CDs] an opportunity to download a non-DRM MP3 version of the CDs they purchased and a promotional code that allows you a free download of one entire CD from a selection of about 175 Sony BMG titles [Full List]. MediaMax CD's do not qualify for check or debit card payment, or for the three download option. MediaMax CD's will not have to be returned. The MediaMax claims process will be very similar to the XCP claims process.
It is not known at this time if Sony BMG downloads using the promotional code will include DRM, but if music is downloaded from iTunes, it likely will, since other iTunes downloads have Apple's DRM. It is hopeful that Sony BMG will have at least one of the three services offer completely unprotected, high bitrate, MP3 (or even better lossless FLAC) downloads.
Sony BMG is required to offer a downloadable update that uncloaks XCP from the operating system, and one that removes XCP completely. Once you've removed XCP, it is very important that you do not re-infect your computer by attempting to re-use the disk in your computer. Sony BMG is also required to offer an update and an uninstaller for MediaMax.
IT IS VITALLY IMPORTANT THAT YOU REMOVE XCP FROM YOR COMPUTER AND THAT YOU RETURN THE CDs FOR A REPLACEMENT. Keeping the software on your computer without an update or a removal can expose you to some very serious security risks. Keeping the CD around could mean that someone you or else could infect another computer later.
Additionally, if you used the earlier web-based XCP uninstaller from Sony BMG, you should have received instructions on how to disable the vulnerable ActiveX control. If you did not receive those instructions, or have not yet done so, follow these instructions to remove it, as it causes even greater security flaws than XCP.
A trustworthy source has assured me that the updates and uninstallers linked above have been evaluated by some of the top security researchers in the field and have been certified to actually do what they claim to do, and that they don't pose a security threat. If you are uncomfortable with downloading additional software from Sony BMG, I have also been informed that Microsoft has made an update available that will remove the XCP infection. It is available by running "Windows Update" or by downloading Microsoft's removal tool.
Not everyone who was infected by XCP or MediaMax had such an easy time. I, for instance, found that my laptop crashes often since my use of an XCP CD. In the interests of full disclosure, I have filed my own personal action against Sony BMG for the damages caused to my laptop.
Sony BMG, as part of the settlement, has released their customers from many of the worst provisions of their EULAs, including the New-York forum provision, and the limitations on liability. This means that individuals can bring a lawsuit, on their own behalf, against Sony BMG for damages they have received over and above those damages that the class action settlement was designed to cover. These include hardware damage to your machine, and other damage you received as a consequence of XCP or MediaMax.
Therefore, if your specific claim wasn't taken care of by the class action settlement, you can still sue in court. The links to the right provide information about small claims court in your state, where you can usually represent yourself in a claim against Sony. If you claim exceeds the amounts offered in your small claims court, or if you have legal questions, you should consult a licensed attorney in your area. An attorney will be able to properly evaluate your case and inform you of all of your options.