Sony temporarily halts use of crippleware, but Homeland Security still is not pleased

Nothing like lawsuits to get a response, if only for the moment.

Stung by continuing criticism, the world's second-largest music label, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, promised Friday to temporarily suspend making music CDs with antipiracy technology that can leave computers vulnerable to hackers.

Sony defended its right to prevent customers from illegally copying music but said it will halt manufacturing CDs with the "XCP" technology as a precautionary measure. "We also intend to re-examine all aspects of our content protection initiative to be sure that it continues to meet our goals of security and ease of consumer use," the company said in a statement.

Note that customer satisfaction is not mentioned. We don't even get a crocodile tear.

I must say, I find their contempt for the customer -- or, at best, disregard for customer satisfaction -- astonishes me.

It apparently also offended the sensibilities of the new assistant secretary for policy in the Department of Homeland Security, Stewart Baker:

"I wanted to raise one point of caution as we go forward, because we are also responsible for maintaining the security of the information infrastructure of the United States and making sure peoples' [and] businesses' computers are secure. ... There's been a lot of publicity recently about tactics used in pursuing protection for music and DVD CDs in which questions have been raised about whether the protection measures install hidden files on peoples' computers that even the system administrators can’t find."

In a remark clearly aimed directly at Sony and other labels, Stewart continued: "It's very important to remember that it's your intellectual property -- it's not your computer. And in the pursuit of protection of intellectual property, it's important not to defeat or undermine the security measures that people need to adopt in these days.

"If we have an avian flu outbreak here and it is even half as bad as the 1918 flu epidemic, we will be enormously dependent on being able to get remote access for a large number of people, and keeping the infrastructure functioning is a matter of life and death and we take it very seriously."

Now that's an angle I hadn't thought of.

Laura Scott is a designer, tech geek, fiction editor, and author.