Copy-protected CD Reaches Top of US Chart

A copy-protected CD has reached the top of the US album charts for the first time. Velvet Revolver’s “Contraband”, published by BMG uses the MediaMax copy protection system from SunnComm.

BMG have stated that they intend to release more protected CDs over the year, but is carefully choosing which ones get the treatment. So far, the label has released 12 DRM-protected disks, with about 2.5 million units out in the wild.

The disk stops PCs ripping the audio part of the disk to MP3s, but has copy-managed WMA format versions of the music on another section of the disk. This of course means that consumers are getting a lower fidelity product because the full capacity of the disk is not used to store the original music. The Windows Media files also tend to be encoded at a lower bit rate than audiophiles usually prefer. Because of the mixed format, these disks are no longer strictly CDs because they don’t adhere to Phillips’ Redbook standard for Compact Disks.

The WMA/copy protection scheme used by MediaMax makes it all but impossible to transfer music you have legally acquired to an iPod, as Apple’s music player will not play Windows Media Files. Given that it’s the most popular music player out there, SunnComm are working with Apple to provide a solution, though this seems to be centred around petitioning Apple to incorporate other formats into the iPod rather than getting their own house in order.

You can of course circumvent the whole copy protection scheme by simply holding down the Shift key when inserting the CD. This technically means that American readers will be breaking the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and could end up in prison.


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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?