and entertainment industry giant Sony has unleashed what BusinessWeek calls “a
firestorm by including a covert program on music CDs that leaves PC users prey
to viruses.”

Ever since it
acquired a major Hollywood studio and CBS Records, Sony has
been a company frequently at odds with itself where the pace of
technology that helps sell its hardware, poses all kinds of conflicting
copyright problems in trying to protect its software – particularly
compact discs, computer games and DVDs.

But as
BusinessWeek makes abundantly clear, even Sony has outdone itself this time as
it now faces potentially massive losses through product recall, consumer laws
suits and the intervention of regulatory
agencies. And worst of all might be
the PR disaster that could create a huge
consumer backlash.

For years now
Hollywood, the music business and game developers have been furiously
working on questionable technologies aimed at protecting software
copyright. But Sony has gone much
further in trying to prevent copying of CDs or converting music files to PCs –
with what BusinessWeek calls a “program to surreptitiously bury itself deep
within the Windows operating system completely hidden from

the code “known derisively in techie parlance as a rootkit – could easily be
co-opted by virus writers. The warning was all but an invitation, and soon
enough the viruses began circulating.”

Just weeks
after the code was first uncovered in October, Sony finds itself being attacked
on all fronts with Microsoft declaring the code a security
risk and the US Homeland Security Department telling Sony, “It’s very important to remember that it’s
your intellectual property – it’s not your computer.”

Now Sony is
recalling 4.7 million music CDs – including 2.1 million already sold to the
public – but that is only one aspect of the scandal for a corporation that is now going to
have to deal with a massive loss of public trust.

And begs the question: are Australian PC users also facing covert invasion and possible virus or security breaches of their
hardware through Sony CDs?