Sony BMG just settled with the states of California and Texas over their fantastic XCP and Mediamax rootkit that they shipped on 2.1 million CDs.
Back in December of 2005, I offered to take the job of Senior Vice President of Common Sense after this debaucle first came to light. Later on that same month, I posted about their "patch" that introduced even more problems to victims computers.
You would think installing invasive software without permission on millions of your customers computers that allows just about anyone root access to the victims most sensitive data would be a criminal act. Any normal person would go to jail forever and ever for doing this sort of thing. But not Sony. Oh no. Their punishment isn't even a slap on the wrist.
"Under the terms of the separate settlements, each state will receive $750,000 in civil penalties and costs. In addition, Sony BMG agreed to reimburse consumers whose computers were damaged while trying to uninstall the XCP software. Customers in both states can file a claim with Sony BMG to receive refunds of up to $175. State officials estimate some 450,000 compact discs carrying the XCP software were sold in California, while about 130,000 were sold in Texas."
So the maximum liability for these two settlements, assuming EVERY consumer can come up with a $175 receipt proving they had to pay to have this malicious software removed would be:
California: $750,000 + ($175 x 450,000) = $79.5MM
Texas: $750,000 + ($175 x 130,000) = $23.5MM
Total of two states: $103MM (max)
In reality, I think we'll only see a few hundred people actually take advantage of the settlement, since the majority of people that know about it are computer geeks - and those geeks wouldn't pay to have the product removed and will thus have no receipts to get reimbursed with.
So pretty much, Sony BMG got away with only paying a few million dollars for damaging millions of machines with the most VILE form of software imaginable. Pennies per CD. This is a complete travesty of justice and I firmly believe that someone should have gone to jail.
Want to know more? Read the slashdot responses.