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Friday, 5 October, 2001, 11:33 GMT 12:33 UK
CD protesters take to the streets
Random noise is being added to some CDs in an attempt to stop casual piracy
Music companies are tackling piracy with copy-protected CDs
By BBC News Online technology correspondent Mark Ward

A national day of action is being held on 6 October to raise awareness about the copy-protected CDs that are starting to appear in record shops across the UK.

The CDs are just one method that record companies are experimenting with in their ongoing attempts to stamp out piracy.

The protests are being organised because activists say that not enough is being done to warn consumers about the restrictions the CDs place on their ability to enjoy music.

The protesters also say the technology being used is a heavy-handed way of trying to limit piracy and may penalise legitimate customers.

Can't play, won't play

The copy-protected CDs that are starting to be sold by some record companies do not play when put in the CD drive of a PC, game console or DVD drive.

Campaign for Digital Rights protest leaflet
Leaflets to be handed out
The companies hope that this technology will discourage casual piracy in which CD tracks are converted in MP3 audio files and then put on the web for anyone to download.

To stop CDs being played on a PC, the signal on the disc is corrupted as it is being made in the factory.

Dedicated CD players can correct for these errors, but CD drives on PCs and other devices cannot and will be unable to play the disc. Older CD players could have problems playing the protected discs too.

The Campaign for Digital Rights (CDR), the group organising the protests, said consumers at least deserve to be told that these experiments with anti-piracy techniques are being carried out, and they deserve to be warned that some CDs will not play on a PC.

"All this will do is inconvenience the consumer and not solve the piracy problem," said Julian Midgley, spokesman for the CDR. "We know that given a few hours, someone with knowledge, nous and equipment can get good quality copies off these CDs"

Protests are planned at nine UK cities. Leaflets telling customers about the copy-protected CDs will be distributed outside city-centre record shops in Birmingham, Brighton, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Newcastle and Rugby.

"Our main aim is to ensure that these things are accurately and correctly labelled so people know what they are getting when they buy them," said Mr Midgley. "Paying 15 to take part in an experiment you do not know is going on is a bit rude."

So far the copy-protected discs are not being widely used. Sony has used the technology to protect promotional copies of Michael Jackson's single You Rock My World.

Inserting a CD into a PC CD drive
Careful, that CD may not play in your PC
Three anti-piracy systems are being tested on the new album of boy band 'N Sync.

In total record companies have reportedly slipped one million copy protected CDs into record shops across Europe.

In May Charley Pride's tribute album to Jim Reeves became the first copy-protected CD to go on sale.

One American woman has already launched a lawsuit against Music City Records, who released the Pride LP, for infringing her right to listen to the music.

Karen DeLise, the woman that brough the lawsuit, said she wants CDs to be labelled so consumers know what they can and cannot do with the music they buy.

See also:

03 Oct 01 | New Media
'N Sync fight the CD pirates
05 May 01 | Sci/Tech
Computers burnt by CD software
03 Oct 01 | New Media
EMI gives music to web rival
01 Oct 01 | Sci/Tech
Music's digital future
02 Oct 01 | Sci/Tech
Q&A: Fighting online music piracy
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