Sony Settlement a Blueprint for Legislative Action (Michael Geist)

The Sony Rootkit controversy, in which the world’s second largest record label rendered hundreds of thousands of personal computers vulnerable to hacker attack by inserting faulty copy-protection software into dozens of CDs, stands as one of the leading technology law blunders of 2005.

Sony faced an immediate onslaught of bad publicity as thousands of consumers awoke to the negative effects of copy-protection technologies, also known as technological protection measures (TPMs). Moreover, the company was forced to address the legal fallout from the case with dozens of class action lawsuits launched throughout the United States.

Last week Sony took a major step toward putting the rootkit fiasco behind it by reaching a tentative settlement that will put a quick end to most of the U.S. lawsuits. While it still requires court approval, the settlement is significant since it contains a series of restrictions and conditions on the use of TPMs. This could create the starting point for a future statute that protects against the misuse of such technologies.