Arista looks to Copy-protect all CDs.

By Richard Menta 4/3/03

If you are a fan of Pink or Outkast or Whitney Houston, very soon you better look at the label before buying that CD. That is because they are all Arista artists and this spring all of their albums will probably be copy-protected.

I don't know if Arista will start marking that they are disabled - no laws yet compel them to do so - but for now stand officially warned that their products will soon not allow you to rip, or even play, songs from your PC.

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CNET is reporting that Sterling Auty, a J.P. Morgan analyst, said that Arista was moving to copyproof CDs soon.

"We expect volume shipments of protected CDs to ship commercially in the U.S. as early as the May-June time frame using the SunnComm solution," Auty wrote. "This will be the first major step in the growth of the CD audio protection market."

The decision is a little surprising as most labels have backed away from these disabled CDs due to a very negative reaction by consumers in the past. This included lawsuits and CD blacklists. Most just simply returned CD when they didn't do what they wanted them to do - when the record store would take them back, causing badwill between customer and retail vendor.

More important, it is based on the flawed premise that the drop in record sales is all due to file trading. I think pissed off consumers accounted for more lost sales than KaZaa, but that's my opinion. It's an opinion that I detailed last October in my commentary Devaluing the Product - Copyright-protected CDs.

This recent update to the copyprotection racket uses a combined technology by Microsoft and SunnComm. Microsoft as we all know controls the operating system and plans to add a few more little surprises to the operating system to work with in tandem with SunnComm's technology.

But how effective will it really be? Here is another flaw that I brought up in the Devaluing the product article:

The folly of all this technology is that it is not necessary for some hacker to break through the added encryption to defeat it. Any consumer can circumvent it by playing that CD on a standard CD player, taking a feed from that player into the line-in jack on their computer, and record each track into a WAV file. Once a WAV the song can easily be converted to an MP3 using a myriad of programs freely available on the Net. It's considerably more time consuming compared with using a ripper, but it also only need one person to go through that effort, making it available on Napster clones where the files quickly multiply as users copy and trade them.

Most people don't buy a record just because it's a particular label they like - the days of Motown are long gone - they buy artists. It will be the artists name who gets put on the blacklists like Fat Chuck's and it will be the artist who will suffer along with Arista.

My advice, check out Madonna's new net only single "American Life" and get a glimpse of the new way artists will reach consumers - directly. Then check out the websites of other artists and download their music.

I say that because it gives the artists a shot, not against file trading but against ill-conceived record industry activities that will only distant consumers further.


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Other MP3 stories:
Apple Paid Digital Music Service - Can it Overcome Record Industry Resistance?
Mix cd swapping is goooooooooooood!

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