Ken Paxton

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Attorney General Abbott Slaps Sony With New Spyware Violations

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today bolstered his pending November lawsuit against SONY BMG Music Entertainment by adding a number of new allegations that reflect harm to consumers who purchased certain compact discs (CDs).

In November, Attorney General Abbott sued the New York-based company under the state’s new spyware law of 2005, making him the first state official in the nation to bring legal action against SONY BMG for embedding illegal spyware in consumer products.

In new allegations today, Attorney General Abbott invoked the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The Attorney General alleges the company’s MediaMax technology for copy protection violates the state’s spyware and deceptive trade practices laws in that consumers who use these CDs are offered a license agreement, but even if consumers reject that agreement, files are secretly installed on their computers that pose additional security risks to those systems.

We keep discovering additional methods SONY used to deceive Texas consumers who thought they were simply buying music, said Attorney General Abbott. Thousands of Texans are now potential victims of this deceptive game SONY played with consumers for its own purposes.

The Attorney General’s lawsuit asserts the company failed to clearly warn consumers of the harm its copy protection software could cause when installed on consumers’ personal computers, and the fact that files secretly embedded in certain CDs purchased at retailers would likely compromise computers.

In addition, Attorney General Abbott is taking action to minimize the number of consumers who become potential victims of SONY’s spyware on millions of certain CDs by various artists. In a letter sent today, he urges retailers who continue to carry the tainted 52 CDs titles to take quick action to remove them.

These CDs open the door for malicious hackers to target consumers’ computers. Hackers may be using the SONY files to install viruses, malware or even commit identity theft, warned Attorney General Abbott. Retailers that continue to sell these CDs may be just as liable under the law as SONY.

The original suit in November alleges the company surreptitiously installed spyware using so-called XCP technology on millions of CDs that consumers unwittingly download onto their computers when they play the CDs. Today’s amended lawsuit alleges SONY CDs containing MediaMax technology can compromise and harm personal computers at least as much as XCP technology and that SONY has utilized the same deceptive means with consumers.

Attorney General Abbott is warning consumers to take extreme caution with these CDs and contact his office if they have experienced problems related to either technology. The Attorney General’s toll-free complaint line is (800) 252-8011, and consumers may also file complaints online at

In addition to violations of the Consumer Protection Against Computer Spyware Act of 2005, which allows for civil penalties of $100,000 for each violation of the law, today’s amended suit alleges violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practice Act. Penalties under this law can be a maximum of $20,000 per violation.