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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 July, 2003, 14:00 GMT 15:00 UK
Electronics firms accused over piracy

by Darren Waters
BBC News Online entertainment staff

One of the most influential figures in the global music industry has launched a scathing attack on consumer electronics firms for failing to help stem piracy.

Jay Berman, chairman of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, made his comments as a report showed the number of illegal CDs produced globally in a year had hit the one billion mark.

"We haven't been able to engage in a dialogue with either the consumer electronics companies or for that matter with the computer industry, from the very beginning.

CD-R disc
The cat was let out of the bag when digitisation and the CD arrived
Tim Bowen, BMG

"Their attitude to copy protection has always been 'no way under no circumstances'."

The IFPI is battling industrial-scale CD copying across the globe as well as private copying by consumers on home PCs.

The problem for the music industry is that the compact disc, as developed by Philips and Sony, has never incorporated copy protection.

Explosion

The ability to make copies of CDs has until now only been limited by the cost of the copying technology.

Over the last 10 years most pirated copies were "pressed" in unlicensed plants but the recent explosion in the use of CD-Rs, or recordable CDs, has exacerbated the problem.

A large proportion of pirated CDs are now made using multiple CD-R copiers stacked in a lab, office or garage.

Robbie Williams
Record labels want to protect their artists
In 2002 50 million pirated CDs were seized, split evenly between discs pressed in factories and discs copied using CD-R copiers.

"We would have been a lot further along than we are today if we had had a level of co-operation with the electronics industry," said Mr Berman.

Tim Heath, sales director of copy protection firm Macrovision, agreed.

"If copy protection had been thought of when CDs came onto the market in the 1980s then piracy would not have reached the stage it has," he said.

Mr Berman said the music industry had been forced into the use of "unilateral protection" for CDs.

Macrovision is one such company that provides protection for labels.

Many record firms have started using copy protection on their own CDs but such a fractured approach has brought its own problems.

Some discs refuse to play on older CD machines, high-end hi-fi equipment, in-car CD players or on PCs.

Mr Heath said the latest protection systems were sorting out many of the problems.

"Both we and the consumer would be better served if there was dialogue about the use of bilateral protection," said Mr Berman.

He added: "But we were told up front by the computer industry 'no way... [there should be] unlimited copying'."

Denied

Mr Berman said that if the recording industry could have predicted the explosion in CD copying more than 20 years ago when the technology was being developed they would have lobbied harder for copy protection.

Tim Bowen, chairman of record label BMG in the UK, said "the cat was let out of the bag when digitisation and the CD arrived".

"From that point on there was very little the music industry could do to protect the product," he said.

He denied the industry had failed to come to terms with changing technologies.

"We are not technocrats, we are humble creators of music.

"It is a complete myth to say it is the record labels responsibility to create technology."

The record industry has been criticised for not embracing developments such as file-sharing or dealing with the CD piracy threat.

But Mr Bowen said: "We are not Apple and we are not Microsoft."


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