Like the Energizer Bunny, the record labels just keep plugging away pushing here, prodding there, doing all they think they can get away with to limit the freedom of consumers, especially the digital freedom of consumers. The latest tactic: restrict the number of times blank CDs can be copied:
- Tools under review by the major labels would limit the number of backups that could be made from ordinary compact discs and prevent copied, or “burned,” versions from being used to create further copies, according to Macrovision and SunnComm International, rivals that are developing competing versions of the digital rights management (DRM) software.
SunnComm said a version of its new “secure burning” technology is already being tested by BMG Music Group, the world’s fifth-largest record label and the most aggressive to date in pushing CD copy protection schemes in the United States. Macrovision’s version is expected to be ready in the next few months.
If implemented widely, the new technology would mark a substantial change in the way ordinary people can use purchased music, possibly alienating some customers, analysts said. Given the costs of piracy, however, the labels are moving ahead cautiously in the hope of striking on a formula that works.
“There is a fine (DRM) balance that nobody has struck, especially with physical CDs,” said Mike McGuire, an analyst with the GartnerG2 research group. “If there’s somebody who’s making 25 copies for the world and finds they can’t do that, then few people will probably complain. But if someone finds they can’t make a copy for their kid so he can play it in the car, you’re going to have a lot of people returning broken CDs.”
….Record labels are seeking a way to let consumers make a limited number of copies of their music–enough for a car, a vacation home and a friend, for example–without allowing for uncontrolled duplication. Under the current system, each copied CD can itself lead to an unlimited number of additional copies, cutting substantially into sales, they say.
Consumer advocates, meanwhile, have protested against abridgments of today’s unlimited freedom to copy, remix or sample from music CDs.
….The new plan to lock down burns could reignite a controversy that’s smoldered in the United States since the independent release of country artist Charley Pride’s album in 2002 incorporated SunnComm’s early copyproofing technology, prompting at least one consumer lawsuit.
In addition to adding a new layer of copy protection on CDs, SunnComm and Macrovision each say their CD burning limitations could be applied to digital download businesses such as Napster or Apple Computer’s iTunes, which do not put any restriction on burned CDs. That potentially could set off a new round of skirmishes between such digital download businesses and the record labels over how consumers can use the music they buy online.
….BMG announced last week that it would release three more albums using the technology over the next two months, including recordings by Velvet Revolver, Angie Stone and Yung Wun.
Other labels say they are still very interested, but not quite as far along as BMG.
“EMI does use Macrovision’s technology in just about every country in the world,” EMI spokeswoman Jeanne Meyers said. “We’re testing other forms of technology from a lot of different companies before launching in the U.S. and the U.K.” [CNET]
So what they are trying to do is, in effect, make defective CDs that will restrict consumer freedom to make copies at will, but not so defective that there will be a lot of complaint about it. We must be vigilant – burn on.