Archives for: August 2004, 08

Sun, 08 August 2004

Permalink 01:44:35 pm

Worzel's Original

No reason, just something I did for b3ta

Worzel's Original
Permalink 02:45:26 am

Is CD Copy Protection Encouraging Illegal Downloads?

After coming across yet another copy protected CD, this time Brad Paisley's Mud On The Tires (another BMG CD), it occurred to me that by adding copy protection to CDs to prevent ripping, the record companies could actually be encouraging illegal downloads.

MP3 players are no longer the domain of geeks and early adopters - they are now the mainstream replacement for portable cassette and CD players. According to a recent article on the BBC, 10 million digital music players are expected to be bought worldwide in the next 12 months. Some people will give up buying CDs completely and start buying their music online, from Apple's iTunes and similar services, but for others the digital player won't be their sole music player and so they are likely to continue buying CDs. And this is where a problem arises.

To play the music on their iPod or other player, they need to be able to rip the tracks to a digital format, but copy control on CDs prevents them from doing this. So they now have three options:

1) Accept that they won't be able to play the tracks from their newly purchase CD on their digital music player.
2) Purchase the tracks online in a format they will be able to transfer to their digital player, and end up paying for them twice.
3) Turn to the P2P networks and use Kazaa or one of the other file sharing programs to download the tracks for free.

Option 1 is possible for those with very little technical knowledge, whilst option 2 is very unlikely to happen - who in their right mind pays again for music they've already bought. Which just leaves option 3, download the tracks illegally.

It doesn't matter whether a CD has copy protection or not, it will always end up on the file-sharing networks: hi-fi + cable to PC + PC audio recorder = high quality copy. There is no way to stop people from doing this, it is just a bit fiddly and time consuming to do, and it only takes one person to do it and then share the files and any copy protection is worthless.

So the person who's just bought a copy of a protected CD goes on to Kazaa, possibly for the first time, to download the tracks they've already legally purchased. Whilst they're there they realise that they can download almost anything they want. I challenge you to find anyone who won't think 'whilst I'm here, I'll just see if I can find the latest CD from X', and pretty soon you'll have a regular user of P2P networks.

If the record companies want to stop illegal music downloads, they should be doing everything they can to discourage people from using file-sharing networks. CD copy protection has the exact opposite effect. Sell 'clean' CDs at a sensible price and people will still buy them - the sound quality is better than downloaded versions (including legal downloads) and it's easier and cheaper to rip a CD to MP3 than it is to burn an MP3 to CD. Alienate your customers by adding copy protecting though, and you'll end up pushing them away.

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