Abbott Expands Sony Spyware Suit

Music giant also engaged in deceptive practices, AG says

Attorney General Greg Abbott
Attorney General Greg Abbott (Photo By Jana Birchum)

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Dec. 21 socked Sony BMG Music Entertainment with additional allegations related to a rogue spyware program contained on thousands of copies of 52 music titles. Last month Abbott filed the first-ever suit under Texas' newly enacted Consumer Protection Against Computer Spyware Act of 2005 against Sony, alleging that in the course of trying to prohibit unfettered copying of copyrighted music, the company caused consumers to unwittingly install cloaked files that offer hackers and identity thieves easy access to personal information. In the course of trying to prevent illegal copying, Abbott said, "It turns out that Sony BMG is the one acting illegally." Last week, Abbott amended his suit, to allege violations of Texas' Deceptive Trade Practices Act, including that Sony misrepresented that its "goods or services are of a particular standard, quality, or grade," when in fact they are not. In part, Abbott's amended suit alleges that instead of installing the cloaked files onto a consumer's computer only after the user has agreed to an End User License Agreement, the spyware files are actually installed onto the computer whether or not a consumer agrees to the EULA's terms. "We keep discovering additional methods Sony used to deceive Texas consumers who thought they were simply buying music," Abbott said. "Thousands of Texans are now potential victims of this deceptive game Sony played with consumers for its own purposes." Abbott has also penned a letter to Texas retailers warning that continuing to sell the infected CDs titles – including discs from Phish frontman Trey Anastasio, Earl Scruggs, and Celine Dion – the retailers run the risk of becoming defendants in the pending suit.

Each violation of the DTPA is punishable by a maximum $20,000 fine; each violation of the CPACS is punishable by up to $100,000. For more on the lawsuit, go to www.oag.state.tx.us.

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