Copy Protection & Canadians (Part Deux)
This is an archived article. Please consult the buymusic.ca blog for additional information.
It appears the labels have been listening to consumer complaints about copy protection. Both Sony and BMG are now experimenting with consumer friendly copy protection schemes that allow limited private copying from their discs and links that consumers can give to their friends to download material they can play for a limited time.

The Sony Situation

"ConnecteD" discs have been introduced in Germany by Sony to test consumer reaction to this new "second session" technology. It will feature several incentives including compressed digital files that people can transfer to their computers and Sony licensed portable digital music players and links to bonus material and offers that are only made available to people who have purchased the disc.

Sony believes that discs protected with this new technology will play on conventional CD players so the major limitations at the moment are the incompatibilities a person might encounter when they attempt to play the compressed material they've copied from the discs to their computer or non Sony licensed media players. The company is currently working on several software plugins and expect to make them available to the public in the new years. They also believe they will be able to fix the digital music player incompatibilities shortly.

The first German release to feature this new technology is Naturally 7's "What Is It". Sony expects to label all future "ConnecteD" releases in Germany.

The BMG Situation

BMG subsidiary Arista Records have released their own copy managed discs in the United States using Phoenix Arizona based SunnComm Technologies' "MediaMax CD-3" and "Promoplay" technologies. These discs also feature pre-ripped files in a "second session" but these files are Windows Media Player compatible, include limited burning to CD and copying to portable digital media players that are Windows Media compatible.

Like Sony's "ConnecteD" technology, these discs will also feature bonus material or links to bonus material. But SunnComm Technologies' "Promoplay" software will allow individuals to email links to time and copy limited material to their friends and this company's "License Management Technology" also limits copying of CDs and DVDs produced with the technology by reading physical markings found on individual CDs and DVDs.

The first American release to feature this new technology is Anthony Hamilton's "Comin' From Where I'm From". Whether this release or future releases will be labelled as copy protected is unknown.

Overview

Overall i'd say BMG's solution is preferable and more consumer friendly. But like Sony, the label and SunnComm claim the discs can be played on "conventional" players. This may or may not include some computerized CD or DVD players.

This is the major limitation to copy protection. - Many consumers will not know their player is computerized until they attempt to play an incompatible disc, though SunnComm Technologies assures it's consumers that CDs created with their License Management Technology are "100% compatible with standard audio CDs" and that "playability on any regular CD or DVD device is assured" And whether these discs will or will not qualify for certification as "Compact Discs" by Phillips is unknown so this article will be updated as the new technology and the BMG/Sony merger talks progress.

I believe the industry will co-operate with their consumers in this matter so it is important to inform them of your concerns regarding these new copy management technologies and any complications arising from the use of discs protected by this technology. You may contact them using the contact information provided on the discs.



UPDATE (May 15th, 2005) : Sony BMG Music Canada has adopted Sunncomm's "Mediamax" as copy protection on Sloan's "A Sides Win" compilation. This PC and MAC compatible software program allows consumers to make copies of individual tracks to their hard drive and some "compliant devices". The Ipod is unfortunately not yet compatible but a possible bypass is available according to the program's Official FAQ.

The software also enables people to send time limited tracks to their friends via email. These TuneShare tracks can be downloaded once from Sunncomm and played for ten days on an individual PC equiped with the latest versions of Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player. But software firewall users should note that they should configure their firewall to allow LaunchCD.exe access to the net ; This program runs from the disc itself.

UPDATE (June 1st, 2005) : Sony BMG is now experimenting with another copy protection scheme entitled XCP 2. Originating from British anti-piracy company First 4 Internet, this copy protection scheme enables the consumer to make personal copies but prevents copying from these personal copies. This scheme has just been introduced on a limited number of discs in the states. (Official Information)

UPDATE (November 15th, 2005) : Warning - Do not use XCP 2 Copy Protected Discs On Any Windows Compatible Machine. Computer Associates reports that this software has the ability to send information about the CDs you play on your computer to another party and can hinder the creation of Mp3 files from CDs. This software can also appearently be abused by a third party, to hide viruses on your computer. Sony-BMG has published a program that corrects some of the issues on their web site and has temporarily halted the production of XCP 2 protected discs. Click here for additional information, including tips on how to determine which Sony-BMG discs are protected by XCP 2.

UPDATE (December 15th, 2005) : Sony-BMG has encountered Windows based security issues with their Mediamax copy protection. The fifth version of this software was included on twenty three discs sold in Canada and must be updated. A list of titles, the update and uninstall instructions can be found on Sony BMG's site.

UPDATE (Jan 2008) : Copy protection is being phased out by the labels and paid download services.

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