The lengths some paranoid fatcats will go to ...

Bugged Out 

The lengths some paranoid fatcats will go to ...

Last month it was revealed that Sony Music BMG had been covertly installing spyware on its CDs in order to combat music piracy. Sony used a program called XCP, created by UK firm First 4 Internet, that employed a cloaking system to hide the proprietary media player that consumers were forced to download to play Sony Music CDs. Software included with that media player remains hidden and active after installation. According to the attorney general of Texas — who, along with the state of California, launched a class-action lawsuit against Sony — this anti-piracy scheme makes users vulnerable to security risks and possible identity theft.

But a computer virus pales in comparison with some of the other ideas tossed around by Sony executives to combat music piracy. Here is a partial list of the strategies that were, fortunately, rejected.

Ebola: Feeling that the virus approach had been successful, though not fully fleshed out, the executives at Sony Music BMG decided to leave traces of the Ebola virus in CDs marketed to "high risk" customers — i.e., indie rock, hip-hop and Latin markets. In an internal memo leaked to Internet muckrakers www.rawstory.com, Sony CEO Andrew Lack remarked to board members that even though this audience constitutes only 40 percent of the company's market, it is responsible for 90 percent of downloads. "Once we weed out a few hundred thousand bad apples," Lack said, "we'll be able to sell directly and without interference to our loyal customers." Similar ideas included pet viruses (studies find that those in mourning are 75 percent less likely to download music), CDs that cause skin irritation and liner notes infected with hair lice.

The reintroduction of the 8-track format: Realizing that profit margins were higher before record companies began to tinker with their music formats, Sony board members briefly considered once again tinkering with their formats. The long-forsaken 8-track was a leading contender for re-introduction because it was a predigital format that held ironic allure for hipster consumers and nostalgic appeal for older consumers — both of which are target markets for Sony's hopeful holiday breakout CD, Neil Diamond's 12 Songs. The idea was nixed when Sony executives concluded that they would personally find it difficult to snort cocaine off 8-track cases.

Continuing stream of shit music: Understanding that piracy is essentially a byproduct of music fandom, Sony decided that the less excited its customers were about the music they were purchasing, the slighter the chance that they would want to swap and share files. Though this move would appear to be self-defeating, Sony execs felt that there was a large enough market for compulsory purchases, sales based on marketing or packaging, and quickly disposable novelty hits (see aforementioned Neil Diamond CD) to sustain a multibillion-dollar market of completely worthless music. And the best thing about this strategy was that neither Sony nor any other major label would have had to dramatically shift its business model.

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