We sure wouldn't want to be in Sir Howard's shoes these days. After a rare David and Goliath moment in the consumer electronics industry, in which eagle-eyed blogger Mark Russinovich discovered that certain Sony BMG audio CDs automatically install a pesky little dermatophyte of a rootkit that opens up your system to viruses (which did in fact begin to appear) and gobbles up resources, Sony has backtracked from its "most people, I think, don't even know what a rootkit is, so why should they care about it?" stance, issuing a public apology and pledge to halt production of the Extended Copy Protection (XCP) discs. Sony's announcement follows a fumbled attempt to save face by providing anti-virus firms with a patch that didn't remove the rootkit, but merely made the hidden files visible, and more recently, an international spate of lawsuits by angry consumers. Sony still maintains that it stands by content protection in general (duh), but concedes that it needs to reexamine its policies so "people won't get so darn pissed at us" (our words, not theirs).
Update: According to the Washington Post, US Department of Homeland Security officials spoke to RIAA execs and others on Thursday, and warned them that "it's important not to defeat or undermine the security measures that people need to adopt." While there's no proof that the Bush Administration influenced Sony BMG's decision, it's still a reminder of the government's influence. So, DRM-makers, remember: don't mess with Texas. Y'all.
[Thanks, Dave and Corey]