Sony BMG has agreed to pay $1 million to the Federal Trade Commission to settle charges claiming Sony violated the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). While $1 million might seem a drop in the bucket to a company like Sony, the FTC points out the $1 million penalty matches the largest ever paid in a COPPA case.
The suit, which was filed just yesterday, alleged that Sony managed to collect personal information on roughly 30,000 users under the age of 13, including full names, gender, birth date, email addresses, mobile phone numbers, and in some cases, full mailing addresses. According to the FTC, the information was obtained through various Sony-owned websites designed to promote and advertise the company's music offerings, but didn't restrict visitors under the age of 13 from registering.
"Sites with social networking features, like any Web sites, need to get parental consent before collecting kids' personal information," FTC Chairman William Kovacic said in a statement. "Sony Music is paying the penalty for falling down on its COPPA obligations."
In addition to the $1 million penalty, Sony must also delete all personal information it had collected from those under 13 years old, and must also distribute the FTC's "How to Comply with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule" to all of its employees. In addition, Sony's also required to link to the children's privacy section of the FTC's website for five years.
More bad news for big business, as Japan's Sony Corp. announced plans to cut 16,000 jobs, cut back on investments, and pull out of businesses all in attempt to save $1.1 billion a year. The job cuts rank as the biggest ever announced by an Asian company so far in the economic crisis, but some analysts are saying it might not be enough.
"The number sounds big, but this staff reduction won't be enough," said Katsuhiko Mori, a fund manager at Daiwa SB Investments. "Sony doesn't have any core businesses that generate stable profits. After the workforce reduction, the next thing we want to see is what is going to be the business that will drive the company."
Sony already trails Apple's iPod in portable music and the company is losing money on flat TVs. But it could get even worse. Sony acknowledged the market may force its hand at making equivalent cuts from its videogames and movie businesses, saying that the situation was "under simultaneous review."
To weather the storm, Sony said it has also raised European prices for its electronics products. And yes, that could mean higher Blu-ray player pricing, but not for PS3 consoles.
On Wednesday of last week, Microsoft rolled out its long anticipated dashboard update for the Xbox 360 console. Among other things, the update incorporated support for Netflix subscribers with an Xbox Live Gold account to be able and stream the online rental service's catalog of downloadable movies and TV shows through the Xbox 360, some of which is in high definition. With consumers slow to warm to Blu-ray, the Netflix capability could potentially nudge undecided console owners in Microsoft's direction rather than opting for Sony's Playstation 3 + Blu-ray combo. But does Sony feel threatened?
Officially, the answer is 'no.' Following the dashboard update, Sony films pulled a disappearing act from Xbox's Netflix streaming service prompting all kinds of speculation and conspiracy theories. And all of it wrong, according to Sony.
"This issue is not specific to Xbox or any other individual platform," Sony said in an email statement. "Sony Pictures is currently in discussions with the relevant parties to resolve certain licensing matters related to the distribution of its motion pictures. Given the ongoing nature of these discussions, we don't think it is appropriate to comment further at this time."
Netflix spokesman Steve Swasey didn't wish to comment on any specific studio licensing deals either, saying only that titles "come in and out of licensing all the time." And that's where things currently reside in the standoff between Sony and Netflix. Some Sony films have reappeared on the streaming service, but neither Sony or Netflix are saying when the rest might return.
According to a filing released Thursday, the Vista Capable program originally included support for the Windows Driver Display Model (WDDM) as part of the requirement for support of core Windows features. Although OEMs such as Dell, Sony, and Fujitsu all asked for waivers from the WDDM requirement for various computer models that used Intel chipsets with integrated graphics that could not run WDDM drivers, Microsoft refused all three companies' request for waivers because of the improvements in stability and features resulting from WDDM drivers.
However, when Intel came calling on Microsoft , it was a different story. After a series of email exchanges between Intel and Microsoft, Microsoft dropped the WDDM driver requirement, enabling Intel and its OEM partners to market systems with Intel 915 integrated graphics as being "Vista Capable" - even though their integrated graphics would never support Aero Glass or be supported by a WDDM driver.
To find out why some OEM vendors were pleased with Microsoft's relaxing of the WDDM rules, and some weren't, join us after the jump.
It seems there's always a notebook battery recall taking place, and the latest round comes from a handful of PC manufacturers using Sony-manufactured batteries. Potentially affected units stands at 100,000 worldwide, with 35,000 of those in the U.S.
The affected lithium-ion batteries were manufactured by Sony Energy Devices Corporation of Japan. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says the batteries could overheat and pose a fire hazard, a likely result given the complaints that have trickled in so far. According to the CPSC, there have already been 19 reports of overheating batteries, and all but 2 of those reports also indicated flames or fire. Two consumers report suffering minor burns, and 10 have complained of property damage.
No OEM has been more affected by the latest recall than HP. Out of the 35,000 batteries recalled in the U.S., 32,000 are being used in HP systems. These include the HP Pavilion dv1000, dv8000, and zd8000 sold from December 2004 to June 2006.
Other popular vendors include Toshiba and it's Satellite A70/75, P30/35, M30X/M35X, and M50/55 notebooks, as well as Tecra A3, A5, and S2 systems sold from April 2005 to October 2005 (3000 in all), and about 150 Dell Latitude 110L, Inspiron 1100, 1150, 5100, 5150, and 5160 notebooks sold between November 2004 to November 2005.
Notebook owners sporting one of the potentially affected units are advised to remove the battery and head over to CPSC's website for more information on how to contact the manufacturer to obtain a free replacement.
Edited 10/31/08 for clarification on the number of units affected and to include CPSC information.
"Fallout 3, Far Cry 2, Fable 2... uh, LittleBigPlanet," I nonchalantly listed, sliding my scroll bar up and down a ludicrously large list of games that'll begin hogging shelf space next week. Instantly, a deafening shout of "OH! LittleBigPlanet!" flew straight and true, right into my unsuspecting ears, from the other side of a view-obscuring television. "You're so buying LittleBigPlanet!" My friend's voice continued, registering at somewhere around War-crime on the decibel scale.
Yeah, LittleBigPlanet's kind of a big deal around the gaming scene's more console-y bits, but what's it mean for PC gamers? Well, in these parts it's not quite a revolution, but it's pretty damn close.
Over the past couple years, "user-created content" has crept onto many game developers' billowing lists of PR-friendly buzz words, and with good reason. Whether it's Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion's character creation system or Spore's, well, everything, people love to spill their creative frustrations onto videogaming's canvas. (And drawing new Mega Man levels on graph paper is so nineties.)
Now stop! Take your finger off the scroll wheel; the comments section isn't going anywhere. Yes, PC gaming gospel states that we must fling ourselves into Internet forums, kissing the ground, and praising mods -- and games like Oblivion and Spore did not invent user-created content -- but guess what? Mods are old news, no matter how crazy-awesome they might potentially be.
Why? Consoles. Consoles. Consoles. Like it or not, aside from a few shining examples, game design has parked its heart in simpler interfaces and ease-of-use. PC gaming, its cash cow now six feet under for a number of reasons, simply isn't worth the effort these days. As a result, real mod support -- sloppily attempted in only a single console game -- watched its bungee cord snap as it plummeted right off developers' priority lists. After all, mod tools don't just appear out of thin air; they siphon extra time and cash away from other areas of development. When simple user-creation tools can offer a menagerie of similar (but less versatile) powers to a wider range of people, mod tools sadly get kicked to the curb.
Continue reading to find out why this trend might not be as awful as it sounds.
We don't know what it is about Sony and DRM, but the company just seems intent on unnecessarily pissing off customers. For those who might have thought the whole rootkit fiasco would turn out to be a learning experience for Sony, well, guess again.
This time its console junkies who plan to download movies who have reason to be angry. On the Playstation 3's support page, the terms state that purchased "content cannot be re-downloaded once it has been downloaded to either a PLAYSTATION 3 or PSP system." That means if you run out of room and delete content to make room for new flicks or upgrade to a bigger hard drive, you're hosed. Sort of.
"If a consumer deletes a purchased movie from their PS3, they will not be able to redownload the movie without assistance from SCEA's consumer services," said Lincoln Davis, who handles media relations for the Playstation Network, in a statement to Arstechnica. "Consumer service can issue a redownload as a one-time courtesy, as provided by our guidelines, for the title to allow the consumer to go back and download the movie from their PSN download list."
In other words, you get a one-time do-over, should you need it, which requires jumping through a hoop. To be fair, Sony may not be entirely at fault and it could be the content providers who are pushing the issue. But no matter who's really to blame, as is always the case with DRM, it's the paying customer who ultimately gets the shaft.
Who do you blame more, the studios or Sony? Hit the jump and sound off.
Perhaps the death knell for Blu-ray among sub 17-inch notebooks isn't yet ringing, even if Asus and Acer are reluctant to keep forging ahead. Or maybe Sony is intent on not letting Blu-ray drives fade from the mobile scene anytime soon. But whatever the state of the high-definition format, expect to see it in Sony's new wicked thin VAIO TT series of notebooks.
As is becoming trend of late, the VAIO TT sports a sleek looking carbon-fiber shell, underneath which sits a modest 11.1-inch XBRITE-DuraView screen capable of a 1366x768 resolution. The small stature and ultra thin frame helps the new notebook boast a manageable 2.87 pounds and a thickness of just 1 inch.
The new notebook will be based around Intel's Centrino 2 platform, with a Core 2 Duo SU9400 clocked at 1.4GHz and 4GB of DDR3-800 RAM providing the horsepower. For home theater buffs, the VAIO TT can be outfitted with an optional Blu-ray drive, and then beamed to an HDTV via an integrated HDMI port. Also erring on the higher end, Sony says users can stuff dual 128GB SSDs in RAID-0 array - oh my!
Pricing starts at $2,000, though the cost of entry jumps to $2,700 for the model touting a Blu-ray player.
I'd like to think that I'm a fairly well-adjusted person. I'm generally jovial, well-versed in a range of topics, and only fly into embittered, cursing rages when people really deserve it, or when they speak to me between the hours of 9 AM and 3 PM without having submitted the proper paperwork. Overall, though, I'm a circular peg in the round hole that is our society.
But it wasn't always this way.
As a wee lad, I was quite the little nerdling. I wiled away my time basking in the glow of a computer monitor, sending tiny green orcs to be trampled into tiny green puddles against insurmountably immense forces.
But that wasn't enough for me.
When I wasn't playing, I was drawing. Covered in construction paper scraps and the glue I didn't ingest, I'd emerge from my lair looking like a Swamp Thing pinata. There was a purpose to my demented sciences, however. In essence, I created the ultimate fan art. Towering paper monuments to my favorite videogame characters, they were. Four feet in height, and crafted with the utmost care. They were at once my greatest friends, yet also my only friends. (Note that I was, like, eight. It was perfectly normal, right?)
So, has gaming ever busted down the doorway into your day-to-day life? Any stories you'd like to share? Art projects? Fan fiction? Halloween costumes?
Regardless, today's Roundup is right up your alley. Boiling in the belly of this monstrous site are stories about a console developer decrying consoles, a PC developer spitting in the face of piracy, and Peter Moore dropping a big, bad F-bomb right on top of Sonic The Hedgehog's creator.
Most times when you read about a notebook recall the problem typically stems from a defective battery. But that's not the case with Sony's voluntary recall of 440,000 Vaio TZ notebooks. Sony says "irregularly placed wires near the hinge, or a dislodged screw inside the hinge, may create a short circuit, causing localized overheating." Affected models include:
The issue potentially affects all modes sold between July 2007 and August 2008. If you own one of the above models, Sony advises visiting http://esupport.sony.com/fixmypc where you'll be prompted to input your product code and serial number to see if your unit is affected. Alternately, you can call 1-888-526-6219, and if your model qualifies, Sony will provide a free inspection and on-site repair.