As many commenters have observed, the Sony spyware fiasco constitutes world-class lawsuit bait; see here, here and here for more. As dangerous as the ‘cloaked’ spyware may be by itself, the buggy “patch” only made things worse by opening another security hole and creating the potential for an unexpected system crash. It should suprise nobody, then, to hear that the State of Texas AG Greg Abbott has decided to file suit under the state’s anti-spyware law. Expect more.
If you have loaded Sony music CDs onto your computer, go here to find out what you can do about reducing your risk. I would describe Sony’s own response to date as inadequate.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (home of the famed Godwin) has filed a class action suit in Los Angeles.
Especially since the supposed “patch” doesn’t do what it says it does, loads more spyware into your system, and opens even bigger holes for security.
Sony used to be a good company. What’s happened?
…one of those decisions that will be poured over in B-school classes as an example of how NOT to Win Friends and Influence People.
I realize it’s standard practice for blog commentors to claim expertise on anything and everything, but I actually was one of the first lawyers to bring Internet privacy class actions. We sued RealNetworks, DoubleClick, and all sorts of other folks who thought it would be fun to secretly gather your personal information and sell it to marketers.
The state of the law has made it easier to bring these lawsuits (who ever heard of an anti-spyware law 5 years ago?). But one thing that always frustrated us is that at the end of the day, when the companies finally acknowledged what they did was wrong, there wasn’t much we could get out of them to compensate the victimized class other than a court order saying they should stop doing it. After all, if RealNetworks had to give $5 to everyone who downloaded one of their products, they’d go bankrupt, and you’d hardly care if you got $5 anyway.
Suffice it to say there are no such financial restraints when it comes to Sony’s ability to pay. Making this situation EXTREMELY fertile ground for class-action lawsuits.
My heroes! Thank you for sticking it to those bastards and their arrogant decisions to lay down toxic software without telling the users what they were doing.
If it were up to me, I’d make them shell out the $5. If it bankrupted them, too bad. The world does not need RealNetworks.
While I’m glad we were able to do some good, and we filed plenty of lawsuits that weren’t solely about money, the reality in the class-action world is that when everyone realizes there is absolutely zero chance for a payoff from one of your cases then you start to get dirty looks around the firm. For example, one of the more creative cases we brought was a class action against the government of a certain South American country on behalf of US purchasers of a government-issued bond they had defaulted on. Now, it never really occurred to anyone at the time that a national government might have no money, but in hindsight, one logical reason why someone might default on a bond would be… lack of money. So when you find yourself halfway through a lawsuit with no possibility of recovering actual money, it can be tough to find a cheap way out. My idea was that they should print a special 1 billion peso note, the size of those big checks from Publishers Clearinghouse, and we could hang it in the front lobby of our firm since it wouldn’t be worth any actual money. Sadly, no one liked my idea.
When are we going to start hearing the *good* news about the Sony spyware fiasco?
Real, along with Apple and a few other companies have never seemed to understand that you don’t win over customers by installing crap that runs in the background and periodically pops up messages telling you about their new products they want to sell.
Sell to the content producers, buddies. The only reason I have quicktime or real on my computer is because of them.
What we got out of them in lieu of money was actually pretty good for everyone.
It’s too bad you didn’t get them to agree to just plain stop plaguing the Internet with their crappy software and crappy formats.
Now that comment reminds me of the time we sued AOL…
Glad you sued Real. What a shit-hole. That company couldn’t care less about their customers. You’re also right that the current laws don’t allow for penalties severe enough to stop the biggest companies (Sony, Microsoft, etc.) from simply “begging forgiveness later” rather than “asking permission first”. Microsoft has simply figured out that billion-dollar anti-trust lawsuits are just a “cost of doing business”.
That’s precisely why we need trust-busting laws an why I oppose any caps on jury awards. If your a company that’s guilty of maining 500 people with your un-safe product, but the judgement costs you less than the cost of building a product safely to begin with, you won’t build things safely (assuming you’re a immoral/amoral or unethical company).
Frankly, I would be glad to see certain companies several hurt. If they’re repeatedly swindling billions out of the rest of us, or employing illegal monopolies to gain competitive advantage, or “0wning” our computers, they deserve to be punished, up to being forced out of business. Until companies realize that they can, and will be put out of business as a result of their illegal actions, they won’t stop.
Since when do punishments have to leave everyone feeling “OK”? If you do something wrong, you go to jail. Corporations are granted all sorts of rights (limited liability, corporate personhood, tax breaks, etc.). If a corporation does something wrong enough, then they go to “jail” too (don’t get to sell that product anymore, have to shut down a line of business, pay back consumers greater than 100% of the purchase price, etc.). I have little to no sympathy for these corporations that act as if they are above the law.
The only people I feel for in that situation are the innocent employees of those companies who end up losing their jobs (see Adelphia, Worldcom) and possibly their retirements.