Consumer Lawsuit Victory

In the record industry's ongoing battle against its customers, score one for the consumer. Amid recent industry rumors that Universal Music Group has retreated from its position of adding restrictions to all of its new CDs, a lawsuit over a Charley Pride release has been settled in California, paving the way to alert the public to playback restrictions on discs.

Last September, Californian Karen DeLise sued restriction technology company SunnComm along with Fahrenheit Entertainment and its record label, Music City Records, on behalf of the General Public of the State of California, "to enjoin them from selling music compact discs that have been designed, programmed, and implemented to defeat the rights of consumers [and] that include misleading advertising, defective notices, and invasions of privacy."

DeLise wanted to end what she and her attorney, Ira Rothken, perceived as threats to consumer privacy as implemented by Music City and SunnComm's CD restriction system. The suit alleged that the Pride CD included technology that "tracks, stores, and disseminates specific consumer personal identifying information, listening data, and downloading habits to entities beyond the control of the consumer." The suit also pointed out that there was no practical way to opt out of the data collection or destroy the data once it had been collected.

According to Rothken, the companies named in the suit have agreed to clearly alert consumers to playback problems with the CD in DVD players, MP3 players, and CD-ROM drives; they will also stop tracking private and identifiable information about consumers and will destroy all data collected to date.

In announcing the decision, DeLise stated, "I am very satisfied with the settlement we obtained for the benefit of the general public. I applaud Music City and Sunncomm in deciding to resolve this case and to give consumers better notice, so consumers can make an informed decision as to whether they want to purchase such functionally impaired CDs."

Arizona-based SunnComm also announced last week that its chief technology officer and director, John Aquilino, has departed the company to "pursue other opportunities."