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State sues Sony over programs hidden in CDs

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State sues Sony over programs hidden in CDs
Attorney general says embedded spyware is 'horribly malicious invasion of privacy.'
By Mark Lisheron
Monday, November 21, 2005

Texas today became the first state in the country to sue Sony BMG Music Entertainment on behalf of consumers for including hidden programs on millions of its music CDs. The programs might damage computers and might be relaying private information back to the company, Attorney General Greg Abbott said Monday.

Tens of thousands of discs equipped with programs that ostensibly prevent a computer user from copying them remain on store shelves statewide, despite a recent recall of all the discs ordered by Sony BMG, Abbott said.

The discs include new releases by artists including Neil Diamond, Celine Dion, Cyndi Lauper and Ray Charles.

A state law passed in the most recent legislative session allows the attorney general's office to sue companies in civil court for using so-called spyware computer programs. Abbott said Sony BMG could face fines of up to $100,000 for each violation. The law allows for consumers to make complaints to the attorney general's office, but it has no provision for consumers to join in a class-action suit, he said.

Abbott referred to reports that the cloaked spyware can cull information from computers such as recent music purchases and relay the information back to the company. He called that a "horribly malicious invasion of privacy."

"What we are saying with this lawsuit is don't mess with Texas computers," Abbott told reporters at a press conference Monday at the Price Daniel Building. "Sony does not have the right to invade your computer."

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