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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 January 2006, 08:06 GMT
US judge approves Sony settlement
Louis Armstrong, AP
A Louis Armstrong CD was among discs protected by XCP
Millions of people look set to get free downloads from Sony BMG after a judge provisionally approved a settlement for many lawsuits against the music maker.

The settlement was negotiated following legal action over controversial copy protection technology.

The virus-like techniques used by the anti-copying system led to a lot of bad publicity for the music maker in 2005.

However, still pending are legal cases mounted by several US states over Sony BMG's anti-piracy technology.

Big deal

The row blew up in early November following the discovery that Sony BMG was protecting some of its CDs using a system called XCP.

When played on PCs, this software installed a proprietary media player and hid itself deep inside the Windows operating system.

Following reports that virus writers were starting to use this ability to hide their malicious creations, many consumers took legal action over the software.

Other consumers took action over CDs that were being protected with a technology known as MediaMax.

The consumer lawsuits were all rolled together and a tentative deal to settle them all was reached shortly after Christmas.

Now following a hearing US District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald has given tentative approval to the terms of the deal.

The deal involves Sony BMG giving cash refunds and downloads to consumers who bought CDs that used the XCP technology. Consumers can forgo the cash and get more downloads.

Those who own CDs protected by MediaMax will only get downloads as part of the deal.

The settlement also requires Sony BMG to stop using XCP and MediaMax. The music firm is already recalling all XCP-using CDs but so far has said nothing about swapping MediaMax-using discs. The XCP technology was used on 52 releases and MediaMax on 27.

Sony BMG has also pledged to produce tools that make it easy to uninstall all traces of the XCP software.

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