June 17, 2004 3:48 PM PDT

Copy-blocked CD tops U.S. charts

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For the first time, the No. 1 album in the United States is loaded with anticopying protections, marking a clear step into the mainstream for the controversial technology.

According to figures released by Nielsen SoundScan, Velvet Revolver's "Contraband" was the top-selling album in America last week, despite being prominently labeled on its cover as being "protected against unauthorized duplication."

The success of the album is likely to prompt more experiments from BMG, the band's label, and other record companies, industry watchers said.

"It's too soon to tell whether the rest of the industry is going to be heartened by this," said Mike McGuire, an analyst at GartnerG2. "But clearly, there are going to be a lot of people who are very encouraged by the fact it is out on the marketplace."

The step forward is part of a slow increase in the flow of copy-protected compact discs into the American market, after several years of stalled progress. If the pace increases without substantial consumer backlash, the technology could become as commonplace as the antipiracy technology on DVDs, ultimately changing the way that consumers use their purchased music.

For several years, the big record labels have experimented with various versions of the technology, worried by the explosive popularity of CD burners and online file trading.

However, they have been wary of releasing the technology in the U.S. market on a wide scale. Early versions of copy-protected CDs had problems playing in some CD players and computers, prompting customer complaints and even recalls.

A vocal segment of the online population has been intensely critical of the copy protection plans, leading record label executives to worry about potential consumer reaction. Some artists, such as Virgin Records singer Ben Harper, have been bitterly angry at their labels' decision to include the technology without their approval.

The test with Velvet Revolver, a group made of alumni from Stone Temple Pilots, Guns N' Roses and others, was the largest yet for BMG. The test uses MediaMax copy protection from BMG partner SunnComm International. The label says it does plan a growing number of protected releases over the course of this year, but is still choosing which CDs will include the technology on a case-by-case basis.

"We're thrilled with the results we've seen and the apparent consumer acceptance," said Jordan Katz, an executive vice president in BMG's distribution arm. The company has released a total of 12 "copy managed" discs, with more than 2.5 million units now in the market, he said.

iPods still a problem
Like other recent copy-protected albums, the Velvet Revolver disc includes technology that blocks direct copying or ripping of the CD tracks to MP3 format. It also comes preloaded with songs in Microsoft's Windows Media Audio (WMA) format, which can be transferred to a computer or to many portable digital music players.

As in earlier tests by BMG and SunnComm, the copy protection on the Velvet Revolver disc can be simply disabled by pushing the "Shift" key on a computer while the CD is loading, which blocks the SunnComm software from being installed. The companies say they have long been aware of the work-around but that they were not trying to create an unhackable protection.

According to SunnComm, few purchasers have complained about the anticopying tools, although angry postings on sites such as Amazon.com are common. The sticker on the front of the Velvet Revolver CD and a link inside the software that loads automatically on a computer, once a user has given permission, points to SunnComm's Web site.

"We hear from less than half of one percent of people who have the Velvet Revolver disc," SunnComm CEO Peter Jacobs said. "Most of those questions are related to getting the songs onto an iPod."

However, the inability to move songs to Apple's popular digital music player, as well as to other devices that don't support Microsoft's Windows Media digital rights management services, is a serious shortcoming. Jacobs says SunnComm recognizes that--and that the company's next version will go beyond the Microsoft files and be able to create multiple kinds of digital files that will be compatible with the iPod.

But for now, iPod-owning Velvet Revolver fans don't have a direct alternative.

"We are actively working with Apple to provide a long-term solution to this issue," a posting on SunnComm's Web site reads. "We encourage you to provide feedback to Apple, requesting they implement a solution that will enable the iPod to support other secure music formats."

Also on Thursday, SunnComm announced that EMI Music would begin using its technology on advance and promotional releases. That marks the second major label, following BMG, to adopt SunnComm's tools officially, although others are also testing them.

EMI Music has "been encouraged by the success that SunnComm's MediaMax product has enjoyed," Richard Cottrell, global head of antipiracy for the record label, said in a statement. "We are pleased that SunnComm is developing a product that improves our ability to protect our artists' works, especially during the prerelease phase."

22 comments

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That's because the copy protection is easily defeated...
,easier than most any way. Just by pressing shift one can defeat the copy protection and proceed to rip and burn as usual.
Posted by unknown unknown (1951 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That's because the copy protection is easily defeated...
,easier than most any way. Just by pressing shift one can defeat the copy protection and proceed to rip and burn as usual.
Posted by unknown unknown (1951 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Want Velvet Revolver on your iPod?
Buy the latest Velvet Revolver album from the iTunes Music Store
directly. The tracks load right in to your iPod, you save a couple
of bucks vs buying a CD, and you don't have to deal with
another lame copy protection scheme.
Posted by (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It somewhat worked
My co-worker bought this CD and handed it to me asking if I could make MP3s out of the tracks. I used iTunes on the Mac and immediately created workable AIFF files that played perfectly on the Mac. What was surprising was when I tried to burn it back to a CD. All the tracks were scrambled.

Creating high quality MP3s was as simple as selecting the AIFF tracks and selecting Convert to MP3. I don't have an iPod so I don't know if they would play on one. Maybe my boss will let me borrow his to try out. :)
Posted by dscherf (2 comments )
Link Flag
I'm sure you can RIP to MP3
Using a basic Linux install I've not had problems saving MP3's of my most recent CDs for playback on the home computer, and I think that these should playback on an Ipod. You can probably create Apple format files from them too.

Recent "CD"s include JJ Cales new one which I guess is using the scheme. I presume the large non-audio track at the end is the implied encapsulated WMA files (totally useless on Linux) and thereby of no use.

This does not condone illegal use. It does allow you to access legitimately the music you've purchased.
Posted by Jon Williams (2 comments )
Link Flag
there is another way
You could just load the cd into iTunes, rip it to AAC and load it onto your iPod. It worked without a hickup for me.
Posted by metric152 (18 comments )
Link Flag
Want Velvet Revolver on your iPod?
Buy the latest Velvet Revolver album from the iTunes Music Store
directly. The tracks load right in to your iPod, you save a couple
of bucks vs buying a CD, and you don't have to deal with
another lame copy protection scheme.
Posted by (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It somewhat worked
My co-worker bought this CD and handed it to me asking if I could make MP3s out of the tracks. I used iTunes on the Mac and immediately created workable AIFF files that played perfectly on the Mac. What was surprising was when I tried to burn it back to a CD. All the tracks were scrambled.

Creating high quality MP3s was as simple as selecting the AIFF tracks and selecting Convert to MP3. I don't have an iPod so I don't know if they would play on one. Maybe my boss will let me borrow his to try out. :)
Posted by dscherf (2 comments )
Link Flag
I'm sure you can RIP to MP3
Using a basic Linux install I've not had problems saving MP3's of my most recent CDs for playback on the home computer, and I think that these should playback on an Ipod. You can probably create Apple format files from them too.

Recent "CD"s include JJ Cales new one which I guess is using the scheme. I presume the large non-audio track at the end is the implied encapsulated WMA files (totally useless on Linux) and thereby of no use.

This does not condone illegal use. It does allow you to access legitimately the music you've purchased.
Posted by Jon Williams (2 comments )
Link Flag
there is another way
You could just load the cd into iTunes, rip it to AAC and load it onto your iPod. It worked without a hickup for me.
Posted by metric152 (18 comments )
Link Flag
I didn't notice a thing
The threat of the security was one of the reasons I was NOT going to buy the CD. However, when BestBuy was selling it for $10, I figured what the heck.

I then proceeded to rip it to MP3 on my XP computer using MusicMatch and then make a copy for my truck using Nero.

What was I suppose to be unable to do with this CD again? Is it possible only the "clean" version had the copy-block, or only certain stores or states?
Posted by ydoineedausername (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I didn't notice a thing
The threat of the security was one of the reasons I was NOT going to buy the CD. However, when BestBuy was selling it for $10, I figured what the heck.

I then proceeded to rip it to MP3 on my XP computer using MusicMatch and then make a copy for my truck using Nero.

What was I suppose to be unable to do with this CD again? Is it possible only the "clean" version had the copy-block, or only certain stores or states?
Posted by ydoineedausername (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
People buying the CD is a result of GOOD music.
I've had the chance to listen to this CD from a friend and will perhaps go out and buy it myself. BMG just doesn't seem to get it. If you sell GOOD music, people will buy the CD despite whatever anti-piracy software is on it. Quit mass producing crappy artists and we'll quit complaining.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Amen to that!!
I've been waiting for this CD for over a year. It was way worth it. I've always bought STP albums over the years. They're about the only band I actually will pay $12-20 for. I also bought the Beastie Boys new one - another dollar well spent. I still think that $10-$20 is way overpriced.

As for the CD copy protection, I had already burned 3 copies for friends of mine before I read this article. I didn't do anything different than I had in the past. I never held down the shift key or took any other steps. Simply ripped it to my HD using realPlayer, then burned it. I bought the explicit copy if anyone is keeping track.
Posted by jamie.p.walsh (288 comments )
Link Flag
good music > copy protection
You are right. The reason sales of this CD are so good is because its not bad. Im listening to it right now and its an ok CD.

The copy protection is easily bipassed and there are already ripped mp3's on the net.

Record companies are just pointing to this trying to say the reason this CD is selling so well is because of the anti-copying tech, which is a load. The reason its selling so good is that its not the same mindless crap they have been putting out for the last 10 years.

Think about this question people, when was the last time you bought a CD and could listen to the whole thing? Its been a while hasnt it. Remember dark side of the moon? It continues to be a bestseller selling roughly 7000 units a week for the past 15 years. There is no copy protection on it, why is it selling so well? Its good music. The eagles greatest hits 70-79, or whatever it is, is the greatest selling album of all-time and its got no copy protection. Why does it sell so well? Its a good album with GOOD MUSIC on it.

The last CD I bought was that new Who cd that came out a couple months ago. I bought it because its a good cd. I just dont buy CD's anymore because there is no way I am spending $16 on an album that has 1 or 2 good songs on it that are, point blank, inferior quality. CD's are mediocre. I might pay $16 for a good SACD or DVD-Audio disc but not for a CD that has the fidelity of an 8-track.

The RIAA needs to stop BS'ing themselves and say "uh, maybe the reason we arent selling as many albums is that we should stop selling albums full of crappy songs that all sound the same because we sent them through the mixer 15 times."

idiots.
Posted by spec1alk (11 comments )
Link Flag
People buying the CD is a result of GOOD music.
I've had the chance to listen to this CD from a friend and will perhaps go out and buy it myself. BMG just doesn't seem to get it. If you sell GOOD music, people will buy the CD despite whatever anti-piracy software is on it. Quit mass producing crappy artists and we'll quit complaining.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Amen to that!!
I've been waiting for this CD for over a year. It was way worth it. I've always bought STP albums over the years. They're about the only band I actually will pay $12-20 for. I also bought the Beastie Boys new one - another dollar well spent. I still think that $10-$20 is way overpriced.

As for the CD copy protection, I had already burned 3 copies for friends of mine before I read this article. I didn't do anything different than I had in the past. I never held down the shift key or took any other steps. Simply ripped it to my HD using realPlayer, then burned it. I bought the explicit copy if anyone is keeping track.
Posted by jamie.p.walsh (288 comments )
Link Flag
good music > copy protection
You are right. The reason sales of this CD are so good is because its not bad. Im listening to it right now and its an ok CD.

The copy protection is easily bipassed and there are already ripped mp3's on the net.

Record companies are just pointing to this trying to say the reason this CD is selling so well is because of the anti-copying tech, which is a load. The reason its selling so good is that its not the same mindless crap they have been putting out for the last 10 years.

Think about this question people, when was the last time you bought a CD and could listen to the whole thing? Its been a while hasnt it. Remember dark side of the moon? It continues to be a bestseller selling roughly 7000 units a week for the past 15 years. There is no copy protection on it, why is it selling so well? Its good music. The eagles greatest hits 70-79, or whatever it is, is the greatest selling album of all-time and its got no copy protection. Why does it sell so well? Its a good album with GOOD MUSIC on it.

The last CD I bought was that new Who cd that came out a couple months ago. I bought it because its a good cd. I just dont buy CD's anymore because there is no way I am spending $16 on an album that has 1 or 2 good songs on it that are, point blank, inferior quality. CD's are mediocre. I might pay $16 for a good SACD or DVD-Audio disc but not for a CD that has the fidelity of an 8-track.

The RIAA needs to stop BS'ing themselves and say "uh, maybe the reason we arent selling as many albums is that we should stop selling albums full of crappy songs that all sound the same because we sent them through the mixer 15 times."

idiots.
Posted by spec1alk (11 comments )
Link Flag
What happens when your new 2008 PC no longer runs 2004 CDs?
Three things may happen I think:

1) They'll have to add more and more formats, taking more and more space on the disk, for more and more future players. It will become unmanageable, for no gain. Also, how can they stop people sharing the WMA files? There's no purchaser identification in them as they are on the disk. What does it gain?

2) These things require closed media formats, and in many cases they need Wintel32 executables. Thats fine if you have a 2004 Wintel32 system, but even if you religiously stick with Microsoft technology, you may soon have a completely different machine running a completely different architecture on which the Wintel32 binaries just won't run. A lot of old DOS apps won't run now. Why should these CDs run in a few years time?

3) If it can play in a CD player, there's probably a CDROM that can read it. If it uses the Windows Executable or Data Partition technique as this one does, then all CDROMs should be able to recognise it at least, even if the audio table of contents is corrupt. Unencumbered software, such as a Linux based ripper, would have no problem ripping it to MP3 or Ogg Vorbis. Copy protection defeated.

These copy protection schemes just act to hinder the honest, but don't stop the dishonest at all. They're a waste of time for everyone, apart from perhaps a paranoid music industry.
Posted by (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
wow using autoplay to implant copy protection... they get paid for that?
It's not cross-platform, it's hardly effective, it's not even very inventive... if anything... its just unethical... And I bet they pay these guys big bucks too... thanks corprate america! you guys rock!


fyi Mac users... although I respect Macintosh and use them semi-regularly, of course you won't have problems on the Mac... you don't have autoplay (a mostly usefull feature)... and nobody cares about your really small pop. percentage... simple bussiness practice to disregard strays
Posted by d2r4 (21 comments )
Link Flag
What happens when your new 2008 PC no longer runs 2004 CDs?
Three things may happen I think:

1) They'll have to add more and more formats, taking more and more space on the disk, for more and more future players. It will become unmanageable, for no gain. Also, how can they stop people sharing the WMA files? There's no purchaser identification in them as they are on the disk. What does it gain?

2) These things require closed media formats, and in many cases they need Wintel32 executables. Thats fine if you have a 2004 Wintel32 system, but even if you religiously stick with Microsoft technology, you may soon have a completely different machine running a completely different architecture on which the Wintel32 binaries just won't run. A lot of old DOS apps won't run now. Why should these CDs run in a few years time?

3) If it can play in a CD player, there's probably a CDROM that can read it. If it uses the Windows Executable or Data Partition technique as this one does, then all CDROMs should be able to recognise it at least, even if the audio table of contents is corrupt. Unencumbered software, such as a Linux based ripper, would have no problem ripping it to MP3 or Ogg Vorbis. Copy protection defeated.

These copy protection schemes just act to hinder the honest, but don't stop the dishonest at all. They're a waste of time for everyone, apart from perhaps a paranoid music industry.
Posted by (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
wow using autoplay to implant copy protection... they get paid for that?
It's not cross-platform, it's hardly effective, it's not even very inventive... if anything... its just unethical... And I bet they pay these guys big bucks too... thanks corprate america! you guys rock!


fyi Mac users... although I respect Macintosh and use them semi-regularly, of course you won't have problems on the Mac... you don't have autoplay (a mostly usefull feature)... and nobody cares about your really small pop. percentage... simple bussiness practice to disregard strays
Posted by d2r4 (21 comments )
Link Flag
 

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