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Corrupt CDs: Locking up music. (Citings).

IF YOU'RE HOPING to rev up More Music from The Fast and the Furious while you drive, you may be in for a disappointment--even if you like the music. The compact disc features a copy protection system aimed at preventing fans from turning its tracks into computer files and giving the music away online. Unfortunately, it also stops you from creating such digital files for your own use. Worse, some listeners have found that their copy-protected CDs won't play on their computers, DVD players, PlayStations, or car stereos.

Despite such side effects, some record execs have decided that the copy protection scheme is a dandy way to prevent music piracy. One label, Universal, says it hopes to release all its discs in this format by mid-2002. Understandably, this has angered a lot of consumers, and one might expect the companies who release such CDs to feel some heat in the marketplace. Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) would go farther: He wants the government to get involved.

In a letter to two prominent music industry lobbyists, the congressman invoked the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992, which taxes recording equipment and storage media, passing the take along to record companies. According to Boucher, the act "requires content owners to code their material appropriately to implement a basic compromise: in return for the receipt of royalties on compliant recorders and media, copyright owners may not preclude customers from making a first-generation, digital-to-digital copy of an album."

The new discs break this covenant, Boucher argued. The recording industry replies that this conclusion misreads the law--that the act keeps them from suing those who copy CDs, not from putting up private fences to prevent piracy.

In fact, the problem goes deeper. The music industry probably does have the legal right to experiment with copy protection schemes. Unfortunately, under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, consumers do not have the converse right to tinker with those fences once they theoretically own the CDs that contain them. Programmers have suffered legal threats and have even been jailed for circulating the means to circumvent such code.

So the obvious solution to corrupted CDs--fixing the built-in bugs, then spreading the news around until copy protection simply isn't worth the record companies' trouble--is illegal. To his credit, Boucher recognizes this problem as well, and hopes soon to strike such provisions from the DMCA.
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Author:Walker, Jesse
Publication:Reason
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2002
Words:394
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