Will CD Copy Protection Backfire?

I’ve been thinking a bit about the efforts that the RIAA has gone to in order to limit piracy of music via the Internet. Due to the recording industry’s random application of irritating copy protection schemes on audio CDs, will music consumers become so fed up with the inconvenience that they will actually be driven to the one place the RIAA doesn’t want them to go to get their music: the Internet?Several copy protection schemes are currently being tested on an undisclosed list of CDs. Most of these schemes involve methods that introduce pops and clicks when played in CD-ROM drives meant to read computer data, while sounding “acceptable” on consumer CD players that are more tolerant to the encoding artifacts due to their utilization of error correction mechanisms. These pops and clicks are meant to deter people from “ripping” the audio tracks from the CD and sharing them on the Internet after being encoded as MP3s.However, several of these copy protection schemes reek havoc on some computers, with effects ranging from being not playable at all to requiring repair from an authorized service center. There are no obvious markings on the CD packaging that would allow a purchaser of the CD to know they are purchasing a copy-protected CD, a fact that has upset many people including Phillips, the originator of the Compact Disc format.So now when you buy a CD in the stores, it’s a crap shoot as to whether you’re getting something that will work as a proper audio CD should or something that will give you more of a headache than searching for the audio on the Internet and burning your own copy. In fact, the only place that one might find the music without the pops and clicks would be the Internet! I wonder how long it will take people to become fed up with the inconveniences caused by the copy protection schemes and stop purchasing CDs outright. Of course, the RIAA would inevitably blame their slumping sales on Internet piracy again, convinced that the problem couldn’t be of their doing. No…I think the RIAA’s approach is totally wrong. First of all, applying copy protection schemes haphazardly is a mistake. It should be all or nothing. If every copy of a CD has the copy protection, then theoretically there should be no way to get an untouched version to the Internet. However, usually CDs are produced for more than just the end consumers; early release CDs, promo CDs, radio station promos, and demo CDs are made that often end up in the bins at used CD stores. And who’s to say that someone involved in the recording/mastering of the album might not slip a copy out. It only takes one un-“protected” CD to make an infinite number of digital copies.Not only that, but since some CDs have the copy protection, some don’t and neither are marked one way or another in an obvious manor, consumers will be hesitant to purchase a CD regardless of whether the CD does have copy protection or not. Clearly marking those CDs with copy protection would be preferable, though I doubt sales of the copy protected version would be very high when an alternative is in place. There is already a grass-roots movement to document the CDs that may or may not be copy protected.Perhaps the RIAA would be able to pawn off the copy protected versions would be to make them substantially cheaper than the untouched versions (or make the later substantially more expensive?). Of course, the copy protected copies would need to be more compelling than downloading the music off of the Internet.And the debate goes on…

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