Sony BMG Music Entertainment has announced that it intends to add copy-restricting software to its latest CDs.
The software is designed to limit consumers to making no more than three copies of a CD, and marks Sony’s determination to bolt on restrictions to a twenty year-old music format that currently makes copying and digital distribution a breeze.
This year has already seen more than two dozen copy-restricted titles released – including albums from the Backstreet Boys, the Foo Fighters and George Jones – and Sony has flagged its intention to beef up their anti-copying campaign.
Rival US companies haven’t been too impressed with the restrictive software thus far, saying that the software was too easily defeated and that working versions did not allow consumers to transfer music to portable devices and music players as freely as the industry would like.
Instead, they’ve been badgering Apple Computer to amend its software and “make its technologies compatible with copy-prevention tools”.
A major sticking point is that the restrictive software used by Sony BMG is currently incompatible with Apple’s popular iPod.
This doesn’t affect Apple computer users – they can freely copy and transfer music from the restricted CDs to their iPods – but consumers using Microsoft’s Windows software won’t hear a note, although they will be able to transfer music to Windows Media-supporting devices.
Thomas Hesse, president for global digital business at Sony BMG, said Apple could “flick a switch” to amend its programming to work with the restrictive software.
“It’s just a proprietary decision by Apple to decide whether to play along or not,” Hesse said. “I don’t know what more waiting we have to do. We think we need to move this forward. Time is ticking, infringement of intellectual property is happening all over, and we’ve got to put a stop to it I think.”
Analysts suspect that Sony is playing to the gallery a tad here, seeing as a Web site set up by the company will happily despatch emails to users explaining how they can unlock the CD’s software and make music files available for unlimited copying and transferring.
Mike McGuire, an analyst at Gartner G2, summed up the move by Sony BMG by describing it as a “very interesting public negotiation”.