assuming that the unconfirmed reports are accurate, we have here a media company infecting users’ machines silently with a file that affects a computer’s functionality, without first obtaining informed consent: a likely violation of pretty much every jurisdiction’s anti-hacking laws. It’s possible to foresee criminal charges being brought at some point: after all, having a good reason for spreading malware has never been much of a defence in court. And a file that alters a computer’s functioning without the owner’s informed consent is the very definition of malware. Because this malware can be transferred from machine to machine on a removable disk, and requires user interaction to spread, it is, quite simply, a computer virus. (A worm, on the other hand, is distinguished by its ability to spread without user interaction.)
It does seem deceptive for companies to limit the functionality of something they’re selling you without making it clear to the consumer before purchase. I wonder if the actions taken by this CD are close enough to the legal definition of a virus to enable some kind of lawsuit.