By TOM ZELLER Jr.
The global music giant Sony BMG yesterday announced plans to recall
millions of CD's by at least 20 artists -- from the crooners Celine
Dion and Neil Diamond to the country-rock act Van Zant -- because they
contain copy restriction software that poses risks to the computers of
The move, more commonly associated with collapsing baby strollers,
exploding batteries, or cars with faulty brakes, is expected to cost
the company tens of millions of dollars. Sony BMG said that all CD's
containing the software would be removed from retail outlets and that
exchanges would be offered to consumers who had bought any of them.
A toll-free number and e-mail message inquiry system will also be set
up on the Sony BMG Web site, sonybmg.com.
"We deeply regret any inconvenience this may cause our customers," the
company said in a letter that it said it would post on its Web site,
"and are committed to making this situation right." Neither
representatives of Sony BMG nor the British company First 4 Internet,
which developed the copy protection software, would comment further.
Sony BMG estimated last week that about five million discs -- some 49
different titles -- had been shipped with the problematic software,
and about two million had been sold.
Market research from 2004 has shown that about 30 percent of consumers
report obtaining music through the copying and sharing of tracks among
friends from legitimately purchased CD's. But the fallout from the
aggressive copy protection effort has raised serious questions about
how far companies should be permitted to go in seeking to prevent
The recall and exchange program, which was first reported by USA
Today, comes two weeks after news began to spread on the Internet that
certain Sony BMG CD's contained software designed to limit users to
making only three copies. The software also, however, altered the
deepest levels of a computer's systems and created vulnerabilities
that Internet virus writers could exploit.
Since then, computer researchers have identified other problems with
the software, as well as with the software patch and uninstaller
programs that the company issued to address the vulnerabilities.