It has become a trend for music labels to add copy protections to
their audio CDs. The problem of this is that by their actions they
are both annoying their customers by branding them all thieves and
they are also releasing an inferior product. In this article I hope
to be able to convince you the reader why firstly this is wrong
but also why the exercise is pointless.
Why are copy protected CDs inferior?
There are several reasons why they are but to fully understand the
reasons we will have to go into each of the problems in depth:
Copy protected audio CDs do not sound as good as regular audio CDs.
This has been confirmed by people who have bought a CD from two
countries, one which had copy protection and one that did not. I to
have been able to do a similar comparison and I can honestly say
that copy protected discs result in a more closed in and muffled
This reduction in quality is due to the fact that these CDs have
errors deliberately inserted into their audio data. Some copy
protection systems consist of many correctable errors and some of
the more extreme methods rely on uncorrectable errors. When
uncorrectable errors are encountered the player the player has to
use error hiding to make up the missing sound. The idea is that
computer CD-ROM drives are not as good as music CD players at error
correction and hiding so glitches such as pops and clicks should
be present when someone tries to record the CD.
The main problem with this is that all of the players have to work
much harder to get the correct information from the disc. This means
less of the CD players processor is devoted to improving the sound
and often incorrect sound is retrieved and error hiding has to be
relied upon. The problem of error hiding is that it softens edges in
the sound, (e.g. say a drum hit, or a vocal change).
Copy protected audio CDs may not work in your player and may even break it!
The Compact Digital Audio Disc (CDAD) was invented by Sony and Royal
Philips Electronics (Philips). There is a precise definition for
audio discs which producers of CDAD music CDs and players have to
adhere to. This makes sure that any CDAD will play in any CDAD
player provided the disc is in a reasonable condition.
Copy protected music CDs that rely on inserting errors into the
audio data do not conform to this standard. Therefore you can never
be sure that the disc will a) play and b) will not adversely affect
your player. There have been several reports that these discs have
caused effects such as player failure, lock-up, jammed CD trays.
This problem was foreseen by Philips. You simply cannot do the
equivalent of retro-fitting jet engines onto biplanes! Philips do
not allow the Compact Digital Audio Disc logo to be used on copy
protected discs. This should be telling you something.
Copy protected audio CDs remove established rights
How often have you made a party tape or CD, or perhaps a compilation
of your favourite tracks? Perhaps you have made a mix tape for a
friend to introduce then to some of your music? Now it is legal to do
the first of these two, however the second has always been illegal
but clearly benefits the record companies via promotion. However the
record companies are now trying to remove your right to make
compilation CDs for your own personal use.
What they are also doing is removing your right to listen to the
music you've purchased in any format you chose via recording. This
has an effect on all the new digital audio players such as the iPod
as you are stuck with the version they provide at the quality they
provide, if any at all. If your player does not support the format
they supply then you simply cannot use you player with your purchased
Copy protected audio CDs almost certainly have a shorter lifespan
Due once again to the errors inserted into the audio data, problems
are caused with copy protected audio discs. Simple idea to this one:
The more errors to start with the sooner further errors caused by
scratches will cause the CD to fail.
Some copy protected audio CDs install software on your PC without your permission!
Some copy protected discs rely solely on software protection and
others use it in addition to damaged audio data. The problem is that
some of these software protections auto install themselves when the
disc is inserted in your Windows PC, others merely get installed
bundled with an innocent program such as a player.
Many of these programs are officially classed as a Trojan program,
a class of malicious computer program. The name "Trojan" comes from
the Greek legend of the Trojan Horse, in which soldiers hid inside a
giant wooden horse, which was then presented to the besieged city as
a gift. The army holding the city under siege then left, and the
city's army wheeled in the gift, thinking that the other army had
given up. Under the cover of night the soldiers came out of the
wooden horse and opened the gates for the waiting army outside.
Virus checkers traditionally remove Trojans, however most do not
remove the music CD Trojans. These have various effects on computers:
some are designed to crash the computers, some to stop programs
accessing the CD. However the scope of these programs is not limited.
The simple question is that do you think that it is right to use
such programs? I think it might be the case one day that a music CD
Trojan will overstep the bounds of law and be prosecuted under the
malicious use of computers act.
Copy protected CDs are ultimately redundant.
Copy protected CDs were introduced to help combat piracy, which I
also fully condemn, specifically Internet piracy. However piracy is
made up 95% by fake CDs and only 5% via the Internet. So they should
really be aiming the efforts at the larger proportion.
The problem with trying to stop getting the music onto computers is
that any copy protection can always be circumnavigated or overcome.
I have not ever encountered a music CD protection that can stop you
running an audio lead between the speaker terminal and your
sound card. The problem with Internet piracy is that it only takes
one person to make the effort, once they have there is a huge number
of people who can copy that copy, who then allow people to copy their
copy, and so on, and so on.
In my opinion the record companies did the right thing by targeting
individual file sharers and prosecuting them. I believe this is the
most effective way to reduce Internet piracy, combined with child
However they have made a very wrong move by imposing draconian copy
protection methods on the average law abiding customer. It is the
equivalent of taking away all children's candy because one of them
stole a gumball from a candy shop. Don't know about you but I do
not like being treated as a child, and I do not like having the
quality and freedom of my music being removed because a minority
choose to pirate CDs.
Thanks for reading,