CD Copy 'protection'

Posted on 7 September 2003 in Music, Shopping (No comments)

Not long ago, record store Fopp managed to part me from a lot of money, in exchange for some silvery shiny things called CDs.

Despite the 'digital' revolution I still buy CDs. I don't download MP3s from any site unless it's a legitimate download that's free, or I simply can't get hold of something on CD - in that case I'm willing to pay.

I like CDs. I like the physical act of owning something - the shinny disc, the nice cover and a plastic case that you can plonk on a shelf. You just don't get that from an MP3, which by its nature is a small file sitting on your hard drive. A few megabytes here, and a file name. A CD of course also provides far superior quality to your average MP3.

I do occassionally rip CDs for personal use - either so I can take a CD full of ogg files (I prefer Ogg format to MP3) to work, or so I can record a compilation. I've been doing so for years - onto cassette of course at one time, and now onto CD.

And there's the problem. CD copy protection...

You want to actually play your CD on a computer? You fool!

Last week, not one of my CDs appeared to have any copy protection on them. I was quite surprised at this given how rife it's becoming. Indeed I only own two CDs which won't play or rip - for some reason a Utah Saints single refuses to be done, and a single by the band Mellow called Another Mellow Winter, struggles in my PC due to the fact that the CD has a black surface (ala Playstations).

I do have CDs which my ripper (CD Paraniona - the defacto Linux ripper) has problems with - mainly that it will keep trying to rip one track, but by being able to tell CD Paranoia the precise length of time on the desk to rip.

But what really galls me is that I have to go to this hassle to do something basic, and that I might go into a record store and physically buy a product that may not work on either of my two PCs, on my DVD player or even my portable CD player.

Oh I bet the filesharers are quaking in their boots.

Of course there's a reason why copy protection exists. It's supposed to stem the flow of illegal MP3s on the internet, via file sharing services.

I put the emphasis on 'supposed'. For despite these petty attempts, you'll find plenty of MP3 from so-called 'protected' discs. Why? Because there's more than one way to skin a cat.

Okay one is a commercial CD copier coming in at a couple of grand. If you're a serious pirate you'll have one of these. A lot more useful in homes is optical line in - an increasingly common connector on hi-fis and computers.

One little wire connected between a hifi and your computers sound card and you're away. Okay so it's a little more effort as you have to manually chop the recorded sound files up, but that's no biggy. Just a little more effort and you have your MP3s. Et voila. Time to load up the fileshares.

Big Record Companies = Clueless Morons.

The naivity of the record companies that a flawed piece of "protection" that could even damage people's CD drives (who can fail to forget the infamous case of 'Celine Dion Killed My iMac'?) will stop piracy is unbelievable. It's not as if the methods won't be broken by someone in the end anyway.

And until they realise just what a bunch of idiots they are, it is we, the humble law-abiding consumer who suffers. And indeed it's going to loose them custom...

Record companies are beginning to ramp up the number of CDs with protection. Well it's worth noting that many, myself included, won't stand for it.

Time to make a stand.

Any CD which I buy which fails to work on my PC or DVD player, will be returned to the store for a full refund and an explanation of why I won't accept a faulty product. Now of course will the humble shop clerk care? Maybe not. Will my message get back to the record company? Seems even more unlikely.

Which is why there is a second step. A letter will be written to the record company explaining why they lost a sale. And if I'm feeling really annoyed, maybe they'll get a tape recording of the album, resplendent with the words "ha ha" on the label.

And then there will be a third step for good measure. The retailer I bought the CD from will receieve a polite letter. Don't get me wrong - I have no beef with the shops. They are the middlemen in this one, but importantly they will be loosing money from this.

If everybody returned CDs that were "protected", their sales would decrease. I feel it's important that they know and understand that actually I want to give them my custom - that I wanted to buy the album. And I wanted to enjoy it. But I couldn't because some idiot broke the CD standard in a hopeless attempt to stop the sharing of MP3s over the internet.

Of course that all only covers CDs which I have bought. For those albums I want that I learn are protected prior to buying (through oncase labelling) I will not buy the CD. Instead both shop and record label will recieve a letter explaining the lost sale.

And the ultimate irony.

This then leads to a question. If I can't buy an album because of copy protection which means it won't play on most of my CD players, what do I do? How do I get that music? Seems to me there is only one way to get the music in a way that every CD drive, be it hifi, DVD player or PC will play... Download MP3 from a file sharing app and burn to CD. Hmm....

Not everyone will be as honest as me. A vain attempt to decrease file sharing is likely to have the exact opposite affect. Nice going guys...

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