Switchfoot and Sony part ways

One of the must amusing moments in the Sony-rootkit debacle was when one of the bands with a copy-protected CD posted instructions on how to bypass that copy-protection. Now that band, Switchfoot, has gone independent

I first heard of Christian alt-rock band Switchfoot in late 2005, when Sony Music came under fire for including a copy-protection technology on some CDs.

The issue wasn't so much the copy-protection itself, but rather that the software installed itself surreptitiously, hid itself from view, and usurped user control of some OS functions (qualities that led security experts to call this software a "rootkit"). In theory, malicious software (viruses, spyware) could attach itself to this copy-protection software, making it extremely difficult to detect and remove the malicious software.

At any rate, Switchfoot's CD Nothing Is Sound (ironic title, huh?) was one of the affected CDs. Rootkit aside, the copy-protection software prevented users of Windows computers from accessing the unprotected CD audio files. Instead, they could access only a "second session" of copy-protected WMA Lossless files. This made it impossible to transfer songs directly from the CD to an iPod.

Like most musicians, Switchfoot want their music to be as widely heard as possible. (Most major label bands make relatively little money from CD sales anyway; the real money's in touring, merchandise, and publishing.) So, Switchfoot bassist Tim Foreman posted detailed instructions on how to bypass the copy protection on a fan forum run by Sony Music. Sony removed the entry, but it's been archived for perpetuity elsewhere.

Now, it looks like Switchfoot has parted ways with their label entirely, and will go it alone. The point? Record labels exist for one reason, and one reason only: to help musicians deliver their music to as many hungry fans as possible. If the label doesn't live up to its end of the bargain, there's no reason for the artist to stick with that label one second longer than its contract demands.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Rosoff is an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, where he covers Microsoft's consumer products and corporate news. He's written about the technology industry since 1995, and reviewed the first Rio MP3 player for CNET.com in 1998. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network. Disclosure. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattrosoff.


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