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Last Updated: Friday, 27 August, 2004, 10:19 GMT 11:19 UK
Is music safe on compact disc?
By Tom Bishop
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Dire Straits
Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms was the first million-selling CD
Compact discs were sold as the durable alternative to vinyl - but anyone who opens the case of an ageing CD may be in for a nasty surprise.

Earlier this year, US web designer Dan Koster found 15% of his 2,000 CDs had begun to rot, and were unplayable and worthless as a result.

Holding his CDs up to the light, he said: "I was shocked to see a constellation of pinpricks, little points where the light was coming through the aluminium layer."

As we increasingly convert CD tracks for use on portable digital players and copy songs and photos onto CDs, there is renewed interest in the format's longevity. What causes CDs to deteriorate, and how wide is the problem?

Still vulnerable

Soon after compact discs came onto the market in 1983, owners realised that - while they were indeed more durable than vinyl or cassette tape - the CD was by no means indestructible.

Each CD comprises an aluminium layer which holds its data, sandwiched between polycarbonate and a protective lacquer.

The inlay booklet that came with your copy of the first big-selling CD, Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms, warned that the disc remained vulnerable to heat, cold, light, dust, fingerprints and scratches.

Stacking discs horizontally was bad for them, as was any Tomorrow's World stunt involving jam, drills or bulldozers. By obeying these rules, we were promised "a lifetime of listening pleasure".

To say they will last for 100 years simply isn't true
Jessica Ross,
Computing Which? editor

That claim has since been questioned by CD owners including Jessica Ross, editor of Consumer Association magazine Computing Which?

"I have several that are unplayable a few months after buying them," she said. "To say they will last for 100 years simply isn't true."

Yet manufacturers maintain that bad handling is the main cause of problems with compact discs.

"Most people believe the underside of the CD is its most vulnerable part, when in fact it is the side with the label on," said Roy Varley, managing director of CD manufacturer Spool Multi Media.

"A slight scratch on the label side can damage the metal and cause the CD to skip or become unreadable."

compact disc
Compact discs were made commercially available in 1983

However, this does not explain why careful CD owners have found discs in a worse condition than when they left them.

Eleven years ago thousands of compact discs in the UK became unplayable after they changed colour from silver to gold in a process known as "bronzing".

This was initially blamed on a reaction between the CD's lacquer and chemicals within the cardboard cases which housed them at the time.

But two months later, CD manufacturer PDO said all affected discs had been made in the late 1980s at its plant in Blackburn, Lancashire, which had used a silver coating on its discs instead of the standard gold.

Rusting effect

Spool Multi Media said while "most CD manufacturers aim for high standards", faults still occasionally develop.

"When the CD is made, protective lacquer is dropped onto each disc, which is spun to spread the lacquer to its outer edges," said Mr Varley.

"If this is not done properly, the lacquer may not cover the disc, enabling air to penetrate and oxidise the aluminium. Over time, this rusting effect can ruin the CD."

Millions and millions of compact discs have been made and problems have only been found with an absolute minority
Jeannet Harpe, Philips communications manager
Record companies Warner Music, EMI, BMG, Sony and Universal declined to comment on the deterioration of compact discs.

Similarly, a spokesperson for CD manufacturer Sonopress would only say: "We tend to distance ourselves from being linked with CD deterioration."

But Philips, which co-developed the compact disc with Sony, said CD deterioration was an isolated problem.

"The reason for the huge success of the compact disc is its robustness, durability and quality," said communications manager Jeannet Harpe.

"Millions and millions of compact discs have been made and problems have only been found with an absolute minority of them. This can happen with any product."

Digital duplicates

Philips and Sony list the specifications of audio CDs in a manual known as The Red Book, which all compact disc manufacturers are required to adhere to.

"There is no problem with those specifications," said Ms Harpe. "If they are followed when a compact disc is made, it will last a lifetime."

No matter how remote the threat, the possibility of losing treasured albums, singles or digital photos will inspire many to duplicate their digital information onto a computer hard drive or recordable compact disc as a precaution.

"But recording your own CDs is not an exact science because home technology is not as sophisticated as professional CD manufacture," said Mr Varley.

"Computers can also develop faults - no format is completely 100% reliable. With that in mind, the compact disc is still the best format there is."

Have your CDs survived 20 years, or are they deteriorating with age? Below is a selection of readers' comments. "Pure, perfect sound forever" (Phillips, 1983) - that sounds like a guarantee to me.
Simon Sellick, Evesham, UK

I have quite a large collection of both music CDs and Computer games, I have found that none of the music CDs have deteriorated whatsoever, however I have had numerous occasions where I have gone to install a program or game and the CD refuses to work in the drive. I'm guessing its just the way they are manufactured.
Gareth Orrill, Nottingham, England

It appears that none of the present formats are suitable for archiving, including the ubiquitous and billion dollar industry of recording weddings. This applies to DVDs v.v. miniDV tape v.v. S/VHS tape v.v. conventional film. The last has been proven to last a mere 100 years (i.e. with black & white stock anyway; with colour the dies can fade.). With magnetic tape (digital and analogue) this can suffer from degradation - the 'glue' sticking the magnetic particles to the plastic tape base can oxidise and cause clogging of the read heads. Also with analogue tape the condition of the recording deteriorates with every playing or copying. The longevity of magnetic tape can only be about 50 years. Finally with DVDs - they are of the same media as CDs which have been shown to NOT last long enough for normal consumer use let alone for archiving, even if kept in environmentally controlled conditions. The Library of Congress in Washington estimates that it will lose about 90% of all of its media recordings in the next 50 years, due to deterioration and obsolescence of equipment to play these. Sadly CDs and DVDs are not the answer for archiving. But what is?
Chris Brady, London, UK

I remember the nonsense hype on TV features smearing jam on the disk. I don't think so. My old CD's are much thicker than new ones and all play fine some gold some silver. The new ones however are wafer thin and much more prone to damage. However fair pair to the CD stores as they always change a dodgy one.
Martin, London UK

So how do the record companies store their original recordings? Perhaps we should have the same system. Personally I am very happy that my wife's "Best of Cliff Richard" CD is now unplayable
Alan Parsons, Burton on Trent

If you really want to keep your audio from your CDs then here are a few suggestions (the may not be technically legal places that do not have sensible "fair use" laws so check in your area) 1. Copy the audio to your PC - you can compress it if you like but use FLAC (FLAC lossless audio codec) which wont lose any quality. Bypassing the copy protection on CDs which have been crippled with such is relatively trivial - in the worst case hooking up a standard player with digital out to a soundcard with digital in will always work. 2. Burn this audio to a CD and use that CD to listen to (to avoid scratches on the original) 3. Put the original somewhere safe 4. For total protection, record the audio you saved on your PC to tape. Tape is well known to be the best durable long term backup media - with some tapes being able to store up to 250Gb (that's about 500 CDs). You wont be able to play from this however you will be able to restore a CD should the worst happen to your original. Unfortunately tape drives are not cheap. This may be a fair amount of messing around, but its about the only way I can think to protect your CD collection from the tests of time. (oh and for those more paranoid than the rest of us make TWO tape backups and store the second elsewhere - preferably in a fireproof safe)
Simon Day, Oxford

I have a CD of Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons' performed by the English Concert (Archive) that was issued as the very first batch of commercially available CDs; in fact I bought the disc in order to have one of the fist issues. In fact it was another six months or so before I bought the CD player in which to place it. I am pleased to say the CD after all these years is still playing as it always has.
Roger Lawrence, Yatton, North Somerset

I have several hundred CDs, several hundred vinyl LPs and 45s, a few dozen cassette tapes, and several hundred "clay" 78s - which date back 70 to 90 years. All are currently playable, on the appropriate equipment. (Some of the 78s sound as good as any CD.) However, all must be treated with some care, and are subject to deterioration. Each has their own problems - CDs "rot" or scratch, tapes stretch, LPs, 45s, and 78s get worn, scratched or dirty. With the LPs, 45s, and 78s the reproduction gets worse with wear and dirt. But they all play. With the CDs reproduction stays excellent - until they fail catastrophically.
EJBoris, Greendale WI USA

A format that uses moving parts is part of the problem. When they design a memory stick that can hold my entire collection and at a quality that of Super Audio CD (SACD), then I'll change.
Giles Heaton, Crawley, UK

One thing to bear in mind; traditional CDs store their data as a series of tiny intended dots (and gaps). Writable CDs instead have reflective and non-reflective areas created when the recording laser zapped a special dye layer on the CD. They appear the same to your CD player; however, this explains why recordable CDs are far more prone to damage if left in bright light, and so on. Put simply, the three types of CDs are different, and if you're concerned about longevity, it's best to consider them separately.
Graeme, Glasgow

The only CDs I've had problems with were those I've improperly stored. I don't understand the big deal, at least CDs are tougher than vinyl. Remember how paranoid we used to be about getting a little scratch on -those-? Cassettes too.. I had plenty of those partially melt in my car in summer. CDs may not last forever, nothing does, but is there a more robust alternative? The MP3 player, perhaps, but only because of the redundancy of backup up to your PC.
Jim Hoffman, Sacramento California, USA

It always struck me as strange that any company would sell you a product that would 'last for a hundred years'. music companies are always boosting their profits by re-releasing material, and at the same time they crack down on anyone who makes backups of their CD collection.
Tyler, Dundee

I have a large collection of CDs dating back to 1990. After reading the comments above I have had a look through all of my older discs (some haven't been played for a long time) and have found no sign of deterioration in any of them. All the ones I have tried play perfectly. I always handle my discs carefully but they have managed to survive all sorts of storage conditions over the years. I guess the answer is that time will tell....
Warren, Christchurch, New Zealand

I've not had much problem with unplayable CDs -- and the ones I've had have been handling errors. The concern, expressed well in many of the comments, is that the software and hardware used to play them will become obsolete and unavailable. On the other hand, we have in our family some shellac records over 100 years old which still have excellent sound quality -- being mechanical analogues, LPs and 78s cannot become completely obsolete, and with any care last quite a long time!
Jamie, New Hartford, USA

I've been collecting CDs for a little over 12 years now, and have yet to have one fail on me. I've noticed that my peers who complain about CDs failing to play don't usually abide by the suggested storing and playing guidelines, and so I'm not surprised. All it takes is a little bit of responsibility.
Charly, Virginia, USA

Could air pollution, fumigation, and other chemicals in the air be causing deterioration of CDs? Are the people having the most trouble with CD deterioration living in the most air polluted environments?
Lynn, Santa Monica

I've never been happy with materials they use to make CDs. They put a scratch able material on top and you should have always in mind to don't put finger print on them or put them somewhere out of their cases or sunshine. I think memory cards are the best future way to go. They are not sensitive to environment at all and do the same thing as CD does (keeping data). Unfortunately good things are always expensive in present times.
Homer, Toronto, Canada

I have vast collections of tapes and CDs and I like to keep them both - there's a very small overlap of these collections. However, I don't think I'd converting my CDs to another digital format that involves high level of compression - like .mp3 or .wmv formats - I don't like the idea that an algorithm decides what I can or can't listen to.
Benjamin S, London, UK

I bought my CD player in 1991. It works as well now as it did then. I've got hundreds of CDs and I've never had any problems with any of them. I'm certainly not prepared to ditch these and buy them again, or spend weeks transferring them onto another format (who has the time to do that?!) No media storage is 100% reliable. For best results just buy good equipment to play them on and look after your discs! Handle them by the edges and don't leave them lying around to gather dust or get scratched.
Steve Smith, Nottingham, UK

I have 4 CD players in all, a CD changer in the car, a portable player, a Radio/CD player and a Hi Fi unit. What I have found, is that certain CDs will skip or not play on one of the players but be perfect on another. So obviously the quality of build and electronics have a dramatic effect. You get what you pay for.
Martin Clarke, Ottershaw, Surrey

I haven't had a serious problem (yet) with any format except reel to reel tape. But remembering your article about the indestructibility of flash memory cards, perhaps that is the way to go? Or is that another myth due to be rumbled in the years to come?
Steve, London

I did feel guilty for ripping off the music business, by downloading music free from file-sharing networks. Now I know they had it coming.
Jonathan M, Herts, UK

No, those little silver records don't last very long. Anyway, I never know which speed to play them on, and when I put the needle on, all I get is a funny scratching noise.
PJ, W. Yorks, UK

It may be advisable to keep CDs away from fridges, freezers and laser printers - which all produce ozone. Ozone a highly reactive oxidant and therefore may result in corrosion of CDs. Environmental conditions may explain why some people have problems and others do not. Regarding simple scratches, as to why those who make CD players can make them ignore a scratch rather than getting stuck is a mystery.
Fergus Kane, London

We have a collection of about 2000 CDs dating back to when they first came on the market. They have been stored vertically, never exposed to significant temperature changes and treated with great care. The bad ones, about 150, initially turn gold and then become unplayable. The problem appears to be restricted to a number of older discs which were pressed in the United Kingdom. None of the American imports or the European pressings have shown signs of deterioration.
Jane, Dudley, England

There's no doubt in my mind that vinyl is the best format for music. Also I have 2 copies of PJ Harvey's Stories from the Sea Stories from the City and both are unplayable. I have noticed that CDs seem to be thinner nowadays and both these CDs and others I've bought recently have scratched more easily. But I do know that the quality of the players helps.
Jim Painter, Camden, London

I have stopped borrowing audio books on CD from my local library. Invariably one of the CDs gets stuck half way through the story, with the narrator repeating a phrase over and over again. Makes me quite nostalgic for the needle getting stuck in the record groove. Provided you use up to date Hi Fi equipment with light weight pick ups I reckon Vinyl will outlast CDs any day. Not arf, pop pickers!!
bob butler, Chigwell, Auk

A few years ago at a meeting of the Audio Engineering Society there was a discussion about what was the best medium for archiving precious recordings. The answer? Vinyl. The reason being it is the only format known to not degrade in storage over 50 years and is playable on simple equipment. Tape doesn't match this lifespan, and it's certainly too early to tell for optical discs: the omens aren't good, especially with recordable CDs.
James Gray, Aberdeen, Scotland

I have quite a large collection of CDs ranging from 15 - 20 years old, all have been stored in the same place, most of them play, some still look in excellent condition but quite a few are bad to say the least. The manufacturing quality seems to vary tremendously.
Sean, Malvern

CDs having deteriorated after only a few months is absolute rubbish. If you were to stick them to the outside of your car tires and drive for 10 miles, then maybe that would do it.
Anon, Southampton

I now have my entire CD collection loaded into Apple's iTunes. Not only does this allow me to compile my own play lists, but if one of my CDs becomes unplayable due to excessive use in the car, I can just burn a replacement copy from iTunes. As I bought the original copy, this is entirely legal.
Jamie Adam, UK

All of my CDs are fine. It doesn't seem too much to ask for people to put them back in the box once they've been played. I borrow CDs from friends and libraries, and I'm at a loss to know how people manage to let them get into the condition they're in.
Damian, Bristol, UK

One scratch and it's all over. That's what I find annoying about CDs. The CD can get scratched just from the CD player spinning it and the movement of the CD going in and out of the player.
Sam Harrison, Grays, England

I bought a copy of Creep by Radiohead; several years later, I noticed that there appeared to be an oily film inside the plastic - the disc was unplayable. Such "concern" by the record companies makes their attitude towards bootlegging even more laughable. They are just waiting for the chance to reissue everything once again on yet another expensive format.
Graham, York, UK

I've got CDs that have rotted, no doubt the same will happen to DVDs. I think it's just a ploy to ensure that we continually have to buy the same items again and again and again .... My old records are scratched, warped and still play (as do my tapes), even if you do have to give them the odd jolt you only loose a small percentage of the overall recording not all of it and it sounds better than CD, it's real not digital.
John Pimm, Walsall

I have a large collection of CDs which I have acquired over a 20 year period - they are stored vertically on shelves, but with no particular extra care taken to prevent deterioration. So far I have had no trouble at all with any of them, even the cheapest, which continue to play excellently. I look forward to enjoying them for many years to come!
Malcolm Thorning, Corfe Mullen, England

As digital means of storage such as mobile devices and hard disks become not only more pervasive but also better, integrated CDs will be living on borrowed time. Why have hundreds or thousands of plastic containers cluttering up your house when you can fit your entire collection on something the size of a credit card. You can plug this in the wall with a hidden sound system with wireless comms to speaks and amplifiers and with that you have a wi-fi system that communicates with itself and is interchangeable with different devices.
James, UK

I have had many problems with CDs but still find them more durable than vinyl ever was. Remember how easy it was to scratch a record, or how they could warp in any heat fluctuation.
Charlie, Brighton, UK

Oh yes, no problems here. I've recently spent several weeks converting all my CDs to MP3 format for playing in iTunes. Every single one of them transferred with no problems at all. Many of them are 20 years old.
Nigel Goodman, UK

I have CDs I bought 15 years ago when I got my first CD player and they still play fine. What's more likely to be a problem is one day CD technology will be dated and cease to exist as newer technologies take over and make CD redundant. The CDs might last 100 years but how likely is it that CD players will be available in 100 years?
Paul, UK

I don't have a huge collection - about 500 - but I've never had any problems with CDs failing to play. At least, not because of the CD. There were several which wouldn't play on my old CD player, but a new player has solved that. I do look after them, though. I never leave them lying around, and always avoid touching the surfaces of them.
Will Duffay, Welling, Kent

Most of my old CDs (I stopped buying them after I realised that the sound quality was better on vinyl) that haven't been touched in years are practically unplayable, whereas my old vinyl records (some of which are nearly 50 years old) are still playing and sound great.
Mark, London. UK

It's my understanding that a number of problems we have with CDs not playing are because player manufacturers do not follow the stringent quality requirements defined by the CD standard. Players should contain all sorts of error-correction hardware and software which should enable CDs damaged by normal wear and tear to play just as well. Cheaper players contain cheaper components - you get what you pay for!
John Wingfield, London, UK

I bought my first CD player in 1988 and, when starting to import my whole collection into iTunes, noted that some of the early CDs were taking 4 to 6 times as long to rip as new ones, presumably because the conversion process was having to re-read the CD on encountering errors. With hindsight it was sheer good luck that I found this out now - a few more years and part of my collection might have been lost.
Alastair Scott, London, United Kingdom

I have a huge CD collection and many of them are 8 or 9 years old. I have only ever had 1 CD skip in the player, and that is because somebody used it as a placemat at a party; bad handling is the problem, not the medium. They might be tougher than vinyl but you still have to be careful...all of my 500 strong collection are in tip top quality after many years as a result
Alec, London, UK

I still have a tape I bought about twenty years ago, and vinyl that my grandmother bought I don't know how long ago - with good care these are still in good working order, but a good half of my CDs are damaged in some way. I've converted most of them to MP3, and so my music has (mostly) survived...But I wouldn't say it's a sturdy medium at all.
Dan O'Brien, United Kingdom

I've had the exact opposite problem several times - trying to destroy a CD containing proprietary data gave me the perfect opportunity to test their robustness. Firstly I used a paper knife to scratch a criss-cross pattern but it was still readable. Then I scratched a spider-web pattern in the back of it and still managed to read large amounts of it. Finally I gave up on the scratching approach and broke it into pieces....
John B, UK

When my dad bought a CD player back in the eighties, the first CD he bought was Bonnie Tyler. So this deterioration of CDs may not be all bad news!
Josh, Norwich

When I first looked at a CD player in a specialist shop, the assistant informed me the disks were indestructible & it would be perfectly feasible to fry an egg on one. Perhaps a slight overstatement on his part.
Derek Hutchinson, Newcastle GB

Ha - we lovers of vinyl will have the last laugh after all! LPs will always out live CDs, I can still play LPs from the 1960s and I am sure future generations will only be able to access music from our generations from this 'old' medium. After all, you don't need sophisticated electronics to play an LP, spin one on a platter with a cup and a needle and you will hear the contents - try doing that with a CD!
Keith Marriott, Crewe, England

Looking at some of the garbage in my record collection it's a shame some of them haven't perished !
Shaun, Baildon, West Yorkshire

I have around 1000 CDs collected since the mid 1980s. I have never had a problem playing any of them. I think perhaps people are not taking good care of their CDs - they were never sold as being indestructible. My old vinyl collection has not faired quite so well.
Music Lover, Bath, UK

Don't forget that by copying your CDs in any way you are, in some countries, breaking the law. It would be nice to see a guarantee from the record companies to replace faulty discs free of charge but I suspect that's unlikely.
Nick, London, UK

I bought a Killing Joke CD, took it home, and eagerly got ready to listen to it. The CD was difficult to get out of its case though, as the holder in the centre was extremely tight. Eventually the CD sprung loose but out of my grasp, and bounced off my CD player leaving it scratched and completely unusable due to "jumping" tracks. And I thought 15 quid was paying for a durable alternative to vinyl...
Chris, West Yorkshire

A number of my older CDs, 15-20 years old, have suffered from some kind of unavoidable deterioration. The 'browning' effect which at the early stage doesn't seem to affect the playback is one. The receding of the aluminium layer from the centre edge and outer edge of the disc, which certainly prevents playback is another and an effect where the layer of lacquer on the play side seems to "fog over" or crystallize, again, making playback impossible. I realise that nothing lasts forever, but doesn't this "rotting" CD's phenomenon just add fuel to the fire that the product is overpriced and therefore encourages illegal copying and file sharing activities even further!
Darron Heath, London UK

All well and good it 'may' last a lifetime and if it doesn't you end up paying twice for something. Video games are subject to the same problems and the manufacturers don't help at all, quite the opposite in fact with anti piracy measures.
Fat Herbert

Here's an idea - why not get your old treasured CDs transferred to vinyl. At least they seem to last longer than CDs!
Paul, Blackpool

Co-incidentally, I today pulled from the rack a CD by 'Swing Out Sister' which I noted was produced in 1983; it seemed as good as new! I'll check some of the others now though.
Chris , London UK

Those discs that will have started to deteriorate will be early transfers that sounded awful anyway. As albums are cleaned up and 'remastered', not only do they sound better, but the quality control in the manufacturing process will have improved.
Nick, UK

I don't even bother with CDs any more. I rip music to my PC's Hard Drive and then back it up onto DVD+R. you can fit about 150 albums onto a recordable DVD. Obviously you have the same problems with DVDs deteriorating over time. However, now I only have to worry about 7 DVDs of MP3 instead of 1000 audio CDs.
Rob, London

Initially the idea of CDs was supposed to be a robust alternative to vinyl and apart from CDs skipping they are still superior in quality. However, I think the argument is irrelevant as more and more people will turn to downloading instead.
Oliver Davis, London

Why is it that we modern people assume that indestructibility is something we deserve. Nothing lasts forever - we are not invincible and neither are the things we make. Maybe the sooner we accept this the quicker we will be to appreciate the benefits that our technologies offer us!
Dave H, Bedworth, UK

So basically, they don't want us to be able to make backups of the CDs any more but are basically admitting that they will become unusable, this just helps them because when your CD is broken you have to go and buy another one. I work in IT and have literally thousands of CDs and it is very common for them not to work, even some discs that I have never taken out of the packaging before sometimes do not work when I open them a year later. CDs were originally made from hardened glass and were pretty much indestructible but in the process of making them cheaper to produce (without passing down the savings to the consumer, I might add) they changed to using plastics and low quality production techniques for which the end consumer is not warned about or and has no rights about at all.
Jamie Ferguson, Edinburgh and Amsterdam

I've seen many CDs deteriorate over time. Original CDs are slightly more durable, but CD-Rs and CD-RWs are awful. I've got disks I've written 5 years ago that are in cases that are unreadable now. I doubt we'll see people buying antique copies of CDs in 50-60 years time on eBay, but vinyl will still be working fine. Ironic when you consider vinyl gets scraped by a needle!
David Rickard, Aylesbury, Bucks, UK

I have been a DJ for years and some of my CD singles from back in 1996 have begun to rust around the edges. I have taken special care of my CD collection so it is not user misuse. Luckily, the CD singles contain limited information and the rust has not affected the playback. But within time, I expect the disc to become completely corrupted. I wonder how we stand with making copies of our own CDs before they become unusable?
Matt Cartlidge, Stoke-on-Trent

So now I'm lead to believe that my CDs aren't going to last a life time? Maybe I should make a copy for safe keeping? But now with new copy protection I can't even do that! What should we do now?
IV, London

This story backs up my complaint over CD pricing. They are priced and sold as buy-once products and yet they are effectively disposables. I am having to start re-buying the first CDs I bought as many have started to deteriorate despite my looking after them carefully.
Karl Handy, Alcester, England

Most manufacturers nowadays add copy protection to CDs which means that they don't adhere to the red book standard anymore anyway. This gives multiple problems. One is that the CDs may not play on certain drives, or play only with errors (let alone degrading over time) and the other is that it is not easy to make backups in order to protect the music you have bought. Looks to me like the only people losing out here are the users.
Matt Lees, Hampshire, UK

I have never believed that CDs are infallible. I have heard of rot affecting both CDs and Laserdiscs for sometime now and think that the business should take this very seriously. How long before DVDs develop the same problem too?
Shaun Reid, South Shields

This just makes me more likely to make digital "rips" of my CDs and DVDs. I think the tactics of the music and film industries are disgusting - they just want us to rebuy the same content every few years.
Anon, Bristol

It's not just CDs that have problems. One of my DVDs has messed up having warped around the edges. This includes the unplayed and barely-handled bonus disc which has the same fault as the film disc. Clearly if DVD and CD manufacturers are advertising them as lasting a lifetime if properly kept and they are decaying, they are breaking consumer laws by misadvertising products.
James Newman, UK

Touch wood I've never had a problem with a CD, and am not too worried as all my CDs are now on my computer, which is backed up regularly, and my iPod, which acts as a redundant backup. But I have had a problem with a DVD. A copy of Sleepy Hollow which I purchased used online turned out to have damage to the edge of the disk which prevented it from playing past the half-way mark. The damage looked like tiny holes in the metal substrate all around the edge of the disk. Since it is impossible to back up DVDs (legally, because of the CSS encryption, and practically, because consumer DVD writers have half the capacity of purchased DVDs) this would seem to be a far more concerning problem.
Stephen West, London

So if I find one of my CD's has degraded, am I justified in downloading a copy of the music from the net on the assumption that I have a license to listen to it, given that the publishers have no method for replacing an 'unfit for purpose' CD?
Tom Jasper, Crowthorne, UK

Contrary to what the record companies say, I have often purchased CDs that in spite of being handled carefully don't last a year, let alone 20 years.
Steven, London

I fully expect my vinyl collection to outlast my CDs in terms of durability and longevity. The worrying thing is that many businesses are now using CDs as a form of data backup. What happens if these start to deteriorate in ten years? Put the data on vinyl?
Colin, Glasgow, Scotland

As a DJ I have seen a few of my discs start to perish over the years particularly the early cheap compilations. But my 1958 copy on vinyl of Johnny B Goode still plays no problem. Vinyl is still King!
Steve Bowles, Windsor, UK

The comment "the compact disc is still the best format there is" really depends on your definition of "best" - if you're talking about cheapest, most widely used then you're probably right. But these days I wouldn't trust anything (certainly not photos, etc) to removable media - everything gets stored on my hard drive, and with the price of CD-R media so cheap at the moment, I make reasonably regular write-once backups of important data to CD-R in case the hard drive dies.
Steve Hill, Southampton, UK

I bought my first CDs 17 years ago and they still play fine today (though my musical tastes have changed so they don't get played too often). If deterioration occurs only in such a minority of cases then the music companies should be prepared to replace dodgy disks free of charge. What worries me is that the ever reducing costs of data CDs might increase this problem - we need to know for the sake of photographic memories etc.
Mark, Fleet, UK

I've been collecting CDs for around 17 years, and own somewhere in the region of 650 albums. I can honestly say that I haven't yet seen any cases of this deterioration. I recall a story about 10+ years ago saying that a lot of CDs were being pressed "on the cheap" in substandard plants, and as a result were corroding within a year or two of manufacture. One wonders whether the experiences in this story are a return of that situation? Personally though, the only problems I've had with any CDs are with the so-called copy protected "CDs" (which don't meet the Red Book standard and therefore can't legally be called Compact Discs). These are so problematic I just refuse to buy them, despite the irritation of thus being prevented from listening to a number albums I'd really like to have.
Ian, Edinburgh, UK

There is a definite difference in the deterioration of the CDs depending on which label they were released through - some are perfect whilst others show extreme 'pricking'
Jon, Worcs

Happy 20th birthday to the CD
01 Mar 03  |  Entertainment
Farewell beloved CDs
23 Dec 02  |  dot life
Future of compact discs 'safe'
31 Jan 02  |  Entertainment
Music piracy rises worldwide
11 Jun 02  |  Entertainment
Music piracy in UK soars
18 Dec 02  |  Entertainment


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