Texas is suing Sony BMG Music Entertainment, alleging the company illegally installed spyware on millions of music CDs that Attorney General Greg Abbott says can make computers “vulnerable to computer viruses and other forms of attack.”
Abbott said the spyware installs files onto the computers on which the CDs are played.
"Sony has engaged in a technological version of cloak and dagger deceit against consumers by hiding secret files on their computers," Abbott said.
"Consumers who purchased a Sony CD thought they were buying music. Instead, they received spyware that can damage a computer, subject it to viruses and expose the consumer to possible identity crime,” he said.
The lawsuit alleges the company violated a new Texas law protecting consumers from hidden spyware.
Sony says on its Web site that it has recalled all the affected CDs, but Abbott said investigators were able to buy a number of titles at retail stores in Austin as recently as Sunday evening.
Abbott says the CDs contain embedded copy protection files or XCP technology, which prompts consumers to enter into a user agreement to install a Sony audio player.
Consumers who agree to the terms, however, aren’t aware that files are secretly installed, Abbott said.
Sony says it has instituted an exchange program for consumers who purchased the affected CDs and says the issue involving the CDs arises only when the discs are played on computers.
“We share the concerns of consumers regarding these discs, and we are instituting a mail-in program that will allow consumers to exchange any CD with XCP software for the same CD without copy protection and receive MP3 files of the same title,” the company said.
“We also have asked our retail partners to remove all unsold CDs with XCP software from their store shelves and inventory.”
The Attorney General, meanwhile, has posted a complaint form online for consumers who have purchased the CDs.