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Another PlayStation2 Flaw TOKYO — Japanese electronics giant Sony Corp. faced fresh embarrassment on Friday when its new, hugely hyped PlayStation2 game console revealed another flaw, sending its share price sliding. Sony’s gamemaking unit, Sony Computer Entertainment, said it had found users of PS2 — launched two weeks ago in Japan amid huge publicity and frenzied demand — could manipulate it to watch DVD software sold overseas.
That breaches an agreement among DVD player manufacturers worldwide that stipulates machines can only play domestically-sold disks equipped with disenabling codes. “Filmmakers in Hollywood could file a lawsuit against the maker because of violation of copyright,” said Hideyuki Irie, a Japanese director at DVD-Forum. “Sony could be accused of selling DVD players whose functions on copyright protection can be easily altered,” he said.
Sony said the problem had been identified but played down the significance of the second glitch in a week. “We have not launched a recall or stopped shipments, although we can’t completely dismiss for now the possibility of a recall,” a Sony spokesman said. Just a week ago, the world’s second-largest consumer electronics maker revealed another DVD-related problem on its PS2, saying it had received 340 complaints from clients about memory-card glitches that caused malfunctions, such as erasing data or programs needed to playing the disks.
The number of reported problem memory cards had risen to 1,000 by Friday, the spokesman said. Concerns over the flaws sent Sony shares down to close at 1.37 percent, at 26,640 yen, recovering slightly from early losses. As early as next week, the company plans to start shipping PlayStation2 players with an upgraded utility software disk and memory card that will prevent users from changing the regional code, the spokesman said. Sony said it would take appropriate steps to solve the problem on machines already shipped after consulting DVD-Forum, he added.
DVD players sold in Japan can usually only play disks with region code number two, which is also the code for Europe. There are six codes in all, with North America having code number one. “These codes were created because of demands by Hollywood filmmakers who usually launch new movies in the United States first and in other regions later,” Irie said. Since movie makers, major suppliers of DVD content, are extremely sensitive over copyright, fearing loss of revenue if audiences don’t then bother to go to cinemas, DVD player manufacturers are anxious to avoid upsetting them, he said. “The Sony issue may add to the difficulties in ongoing format negotiations between music providers and DVD manufacturers and could even bring a new demand from film makers to reinforce codings,” Irie said.
Total shipments of PlayStation2, the successor to the blockbuster PlayStation game console, topped one million on Wednesday, only 12 days after its launch. Sony plans to ship 1.4 million consoles by the end of this month and 500,000 a month from April. “We are asking buyers to return memory cards or consoles for checks and repairs while at the same time investigating the reasons for the glitches,” the spokesman said.