C
ardboard CD Cases

I've something to get off my chest: I hate cardboard CD cases with a passion.

It's not that I don't get the green ideals that often underlie the choice of a cardboard case over a plastic one, I do. Cardboard cases do take slightly less energy to manufacture and to transport (because they weigh less), as well as being biodegradable. All sound environmentally friendly reasons (as long as the wood for the cardboard was sustainably sourced).

However, at the same time they are also a case of green ideals triumphing over common sense, by ignoring the function of the object. Plastic CD cases are designed to last years of use and to be easily replaceable. They are designed to protect the CD from scratches and the artwork from damage. In short they provide a vital function.

Cardboard cases on the other hand often arrive damaged in the post and quickly become dog-eared, torn and scratched with regular use, but worse of all the rough cardboard can cause abrasion damage to the music CD itself. If the case becomes ripped or damaged, the chances of you getting a replacement is near zero. I own around 40 cardboard CD cases, over half are damaged in some way and a quarter have a rip. Each time I accidentally rip a case it is like the first dent on a new car.

I don't buy music CDs as throw-away items, I buy them to keep, to love and to collect. If a CD case becomes damaged, I replcae it and recycle the old plastic one. If I'm finished with a CD, then I take it to the local charity shop. Recycle and Reuse is a true way of being green.

In short if you want to do the green thing, then offset the carbon footprint of the plastic CD case production by planting trees, instead of chopping down trees.

C
opy protected audio CDs

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 sound.

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 music!

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 education.

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,

David.

A
rtwork

I hope to be uploading some of my artwork to this space in the future. Please check back in a few weeks time.


David.