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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 January, 2004, 14:05 GMT
Consumers sue over anti-copy CDs
CD in computer
The music industry has been cracking down on CD copying
Major record labels are being sued by a European consumer group over copy-protected CDs that fans say are faulty.

Belgium-based Test-Achats says new technology that stops CD copying also stops fans playing them on some devices and making legitimate back-up copies.

The group wants EMI, Universal, Sony and BMG to stop releasing copy-protected CDs and to reimburse fans.

But the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), a trade group, said the suit was baseless.

The copy protection technology was introduced two years ago by record companies who faced a sales slump and wanted to stop pirated CDs reaching the black market.

A CD by Shakira was among those affected, Test-Achats said
It usually works by placing a layer of data on a CD that only enables playback on a home stereo or portable hi-fi device.

But Test-Achats, known as Test-Aankoop in Dutch, said it had received 200 complaints from fans who were angry at the fact that they could not listen to the discs on some CD players.

Big-selling releases including Shakira's Laundry Service and Radiohead's Hail to the Thief were affected, they said.

Test-Achats spokesman Mechels Ivo said: "We are trying to establish legal precedent in this matter. Then we expect other consumer organisations will follow."


But an IFPI statement said: "European law is clear that record companies and other copyright holders have the right to protect their works through technical means."

Industry observers say the lawsuit is the biggest European legal challenge yet to the music industry's practice of releasing copy-protected discs, according to the Reuters news agency.

The lawsuit is expected to be heard in a Belgium court this week.

Warner Music is the only one of the five major music labels not named.

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