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Sony's stealth copy-protection system. Do they still use the tools of hackers and virus writers?

Some of Sony's recent CDs use the same methods as viruses, worms, trojans and spyware to conceal there presence on your computer. Is this a good thing?

Comment from a Audio Masterclass visitor...

Hi David

I have read your article with interest, about Sony's latest copy protection, and I have a personal copy protection rant that I'd like to air. I have recently bought a CD which has DACD protection, it has proved to do nothing to deter pirates, just hamper end users. The CD is split into 2 volumes, but a computer media player will try and read the first. This causes applications such as iTunes or Media player to stop responding, meaning I can't rip it to my mp3 player. However, a mac will mount both volumes, one which is the "dummy" and the second which is a normal CD format. Open the latter, and copy. So it won't deter piracy, just makes it hassle for end users.

I agree we need to see an end to this sort of protection. However you can't argue that you should be able to do what you like with the music - every cd clearly states that copying is prohibited etc etc. This is a license, just like computer software. No argument, its there in black and white, just because people disagree with it doesn't matter, if you don't like the terms, take the disc back! So the companies have every right to protect their product in any way they can. Unless it interferes with the end user playing the disc ...
>>Some software uses a clever system of serial number activation, that could be used with CDs. You buy a CD, you register it, and once its registered, you have access to mp3's which are authorized to you, like the ones on the itunes store. Then you can put them on your iPod etc, but not distribute them. The only problem is that the CD would need to be completely invisible to a computer, and that's never going to happen, there will always be someone to reverse engineer.

I'd love to see the ultimate in copy protection. Make CD's bigger. Yes, we'll have to buy new players. But the new players would still play old discs. Don't license the technology to PC manufacturers, so the drives won't appear in computers. It still won't stop the professional pirate, but it would offset a lot of it.

Robert Holsman

Another comment...

Hi, i'm Fabrizio from Italy.

I would express my own opinion about the systems of protection used by music companies... they don't work!

Here the cost of a CD is about 20 or 25 Euros. I think is too much for a teenager, and all the systems to protect them is only against that people who bought the original CD. I think they can use all the protection system they want but if someone wants to copy or convert it as MP3 or audio CD they can always play it with their stereo system, and from the output channels send the signal to soundcard. maybe the quality will not be the best, but if you like the mp3 quality, you'll love this too.

The labels instead of wasting their time and money in those bullshits, they have to think about an higher lever of music quality and better artists.

David Mellor responds...

Good comments. Perhaps Sony were listening to the furore they created because first they issued a patch for their stealth software. Now they have announced that they won't be using the system any more.

However, they do assert their right to make copy protected CDs (which Philips would say are not CDs but silver discs with data and code on them) and say, "We also intend to re-examine all aspects of our content protection initiative to be sure that it continues to meet our goals of security and ease of consumer use".

So the argument isn't over yet. The goal of security combined with ease of use has been fervently sought for decades, but still it seems no closer.

Couldn't they just put all their effort into releasing great music?

By David Mellor Sunday November 27, 2005