April 4, 2002 12:50 PM PST

Dion disc could bring PCs to a standstill

It's not hard to believe that the voice of Canadian diva Celine Dion might shatter glass--but will it crash your computer?

That's the word from Sony Music Entertainment, the owner of Dion label Epic/Sony, which released a copy-protected version of her new album, "A New Day has Come," in Europe. The discs--Sony doesn't call them CDs--include a label warning consumers that they aren't meant to be used with either PCs or Macs.

That said, people who insert them into their computer drives may run into problems, a Sony representative said Thursday.

"It's possible that after you read the warning and decide to put it in anyway, it could crash your computer," the representative said, noting that the discs have been released only in Europe.

The discs are protected against digital copying using Key2Audio technology developed by the Sony DADC unit. The representative said Sony has released some 70 copy-protected albums in Europe but referred further questions about those releases to colleagues in Europe. A representative at the company's London office was not immediately available for comment.

Sony's copy-protection plans come as many record labels experiment with a variety of technologies aimed at preventing consumers from producing unlimited digital copies of CDs and making them available for repeated copying online. The efforts have sparked a consumer backlash as well as complaints from some lawmakers and CD technology owners.

Consumer-electronics giant Philips Electronics has complained that discs incorporating copy protection are not technically CDs--a contention that played into Sony's decision not to include the CD logo on the Dion disc, according to Sony.

Companies that provide such technology include Macrovision, SunnComm and Midbar Tech.

Universal Music Group, BMG Entertainment and Warner Music Group have all tapped Midbar's technology to lock up the ordinary audio files on discs. Those experiments have led to clashes with consumers over glitches with the discs and certain hardware configurations. Last November, for example, BMG agreed to replace a popular Natalie Imbruglia disc that used Midbar's technology after consumer complaints.

Despite some glitches, Midbar says it has released some 10 million discs with its copy-protection technology into stores.

Most of the copy-protection experiments to date have taken place in Europe, although some experiments have recently drawn negative attention elsewhere.

MusicCity Records, Fahrenheit Entertainment and digital rights management company SunnComm in February agreed to settle a lawsuit over the album "Charley Pride: A Tribute to Jim Reeves," the first known copy-protected album released in the United States. According to the settlement, the companies agreed to stop tracking listener habits and to warn consumers that the CD is not compatible with MP3 and other players.

Universal also released at least one copy-protected album in the United States, a soundtrack based on "The Fast and the Furious," a drag-racing movie.

 

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