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By | OUT-LAW.COM 16th July 2007 10:46

Sony BMG sues DRM developer

Seeks $12m damages

Record label Sony BMG is suing the maker of digital rights management (DRM) software which was accused of harming computers in 2005. The company is seeking $12m in damages to compensate for the effects of the software.

Sony is suing the Amergence Group, which was previously called SunnComm International. In 2005 software from SunnComm called MediaMax was included on some Sony BMG CDs. Designed to limit the number of copies of a disc that were made, it reportedly caused widespread problems with users' computers.

Security experts said the MediaMax software created a directory on computers which could allow hackers to hijack a computer.

Sony BMG now says the Amergence Group violated its deal with Sony because its software did not perform as it was meant to. The lawsuit accuses it of negligence and unfair business practices.

The storm over the MediaMax vulnerability in 2005 followed just weeks after a scandal about another piece of DRM software on Sony BMG CDs. Software from UK firm First 4 Internet called XCP was found to install a "rootkit" on systems.

This is a way for the software to have access to the core of a computer's operating system, and is a style of program usually used in hacking. This was condemned by users and computer experts as unsafe and as exposing a user's computer to hackers.

Sony was investigated by some US state officials and its DRM software was the subject of class action lawsuits. Sony paid out $5.75m last autumn to settle several cases. In a previous settlement it agreed to pay users $7.50 per CD and to undergo independent audits for its DRM software in the future.

Amergence said the problems faced by consumers were not its fault.

According to a statement from Amergence, Sony BMG's suit alleges, among other things, that SunnComm's CD copy protection component, called MediaMax, "was defective and that the small Phoenix-based company has a contractual obligation to indemnify the entertainment giant against consumer actions which Amergence believes resulted primarily from 1) Sony's under-tested release of a competitor's technology, and 2) BMG's 'final authority' input in determining the functional specifications of the MediaMax copy protection".

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OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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