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Last Updated: Monday, 4 October, 2004, 08:40 GMT 09:40 UK
Sony abandons copy-protected CDs
compact disc
Music fans have reported problems with copy-protected CDs
Sony is abandoning its copy-protected CDs that use built-in technology to limit copying them.

The CDs allow users to copy their music once for free onto a personal computer, but use the internet to charge a fee for subsequent copies of the same disc.

Sony Music Entertainment said it would stop producing the CDs because its message against illegal duplication has widely sunk in.

A spokesperson said only a small part of the population illegally copy CDs.

Restricted playback

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.

It usually works by placing a layer of data on a CD that enables playback only on a home stereo or portable hi-fi device.

However, in January Belgium-based consumer group Test-Achats said the technology also stopped fans playing the CDs on some devices and making legitimate back-up copies.

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

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

Piracy slowdown

In July the International Federation of Phonographic Industries (IFPI) estimated that 35% of all CDs sold in the world were pirate copies.

The ratio of illegal to legal sales had increased from one in five in 2000 to one in three in 2003.

The growth of pirate CDs has slowed, however. The number of pirate CDs rose 4% in 2003, compared with a 14% rise in the previous year.

Sony recently started adapting its copy protection strategy due to the proliferation of MP3 computer files, used to store music in portable audio players such as Apple's iPod.

Last month Sony announced that its own portable audio players, which will soon go on sale in Europe, will be able to use any MP3 files. Previously, Sony's players only handled MP3 files that were converted into the company's own format.


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