Sony faces multiple lawsuits over DRM rootkit

A number of American and Italian organisations are considering suing Sony over its use of copy-restriction software

A large Italian consumer group is the latest organisation to consider legal action against Sony for a particular type of digital rights management (DRM) software it has included on various music CDs.

The software, created by First 4 Internet, runs even when the CD is not being played, and hides itself using rootkit technology. The software is difficult to remove and if removed manually could shut off access to the computer's CD player.

Italian consumer group Altroconsumo sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Italian division of Sony BMG on Thursday, according to Marco Pierani, the public affairs officer at Altroconsumo.

The letter asks Sony to not distribute the CD in Italy. If the CD has already reached Italy, Altroconsumo wants Sony to say which CDs are affected and to contact any Italian customers to advise them to download the patch that makes the software visible.

Altroconsumo is not aware whether the affected CDs are being distributed in Italy, but if it finds that they are it will take Sony to court. "As a consumer organisation we have the power to go to court for an injunction in the case of companies that cause consumer detriment with their behaviour," Pierani told ZDNet UK.

Another Italian organisation, Electronic Frontiers Italy (ALCEI), is also considering legal action against Sony. Last week, the organisation asked the financial police in Italy to investigate Sony to find out who decided to use "such a dangerous DRM system".

"The possible charges range from arbitrarily 'self-made' justice, intentional damage to computer systems, and diffusion of software that damages information and communication systems — all of which are criminal offences under Italian law," the organisation states on its Web site.

Sony could also be at risk in the US, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation is considering a lawsuit, an EFF spokeswoman confirmed on Thursday.

In addition, Ethan Preston, who works as a lawyer in Illionois, is "investigating a possible consumer class action" against Sony, according to an advert on his Web site.