Copy-protected CDs - philosophical discussion

My previous copy-protection thread probably deserves a follow-up since the issue is just as troubling ethically/legally/philosophically as it is technically.

Record companies are selling CDs which do not play on a PC's CD player. However, the CDs are not identified as such and, according to at least one source, may have trouble playing on high-end systems and car CD players.

Here's the news story:

Here's an unofficial list of copy-protected CDs, authored by a guy whose opinion on the matter should be quite obvious:

Reserving the technical discussion and "can you actually hear it" discussions for my previous thread, what are your feelings on the softer side of this issue, especially given the vast amount of software that we collectively gave/received over the past couple of weeks?

Don't hold back, now!

FWIW, my take is that this is just another case of technology scaring the crap out of a lumbering entrenched industry with severely dated business models because the geeks are infinitely smarter and more creative than the suits can ever hope to be. Just like the lawsuit against Napster, it may succeed in its immediate goal (for a month or so), but misses the real point completely. Alienating customers who are not criminals is bad business. For many of us Audiogoners, I imagine the presence of "all but inaudible" distortion on a recording is reason enough to avoid it like the plague. The music business is not about “clicks and pops”; it's about music.
I think it's a load of crap that they encrpt the CD's. Once we buy it, we OWN it and should be able to do what we want with it.
Information has become and is going to become easier and easier and should be free-er and free-er. We can't put a price on EVERYTHING... they need to get more creative in ways to make money and this is not it.
...climbing down from her soapbox - aj


Angela, agree with you 100%. The music industry is trying to shoot itself in the foot with this one.....I don't burn cd's myself but feel I have a right to make my own copies if I had a player in the car....these encripted cds may not play in dvd, older cd and car players. Of course they will not be ripped either....But the cds should be plainly marked as I won't buy them....and I probably buy 100 cds a year...I'll start sticking with the smaller lables.I'll be complaining, though. Feedback is what they need and what they'll get. Cornfedboy..that's the way I feel before my first coffee,,,,I do not compute, where is my caffene....
sorry, i tried to send a post explaining, in exquisite detail, the legal and philosophical implications of encoding redbook cd's but somebody downstream (errrrr.....maybe upstream) encrypted it. can't find it on my computer now. BTW, it took me hours just to send this post. i restarted my mac numerous times. kept getting these images that looked somewhat like bill gates seen through the same lens bob dylan employed doing the cover for blonde on blonde. wow, this is some kinda' weird shirt. -cfb
CFB you know I speak that text, it sounds similar to R2D2 talking. And as Angela guessed in an earlier thread, yes I can make the correct noises! So all you have to do is plug the text into your R2 unit and he'll translate it for ya.

Oh and on topic if I ever purchased a CD that wouldn't play on one of my players I would set it a flame and throw it through the window of the establishment from which I purchased it! Is there any legal implication with that act!

Good day,
Tim The screwball guy
"All but inaudible" encription does NOT make INaudible. This is Corporate Greed at the height of arrogance! We pay our $ for the best sound possible & then it is deliberately degaraded... Henceforth it should only cost about half price, since that's in reality all that we're getting from it, but consumers be damned. Is it any wonder that people still cling to their records like glue? The philosophy used to *correctly* be that once you pay for something then you've earned to do as you please, for your own personal uses of course. Any perception of "lost revenue" is far negated by "customer alienation" which will cost them far more, but the yuppie schmucks will never understand THAT.
Just a shot in the dark but it seems like whenever there is a situation that potentially limits profits for corporate America, well then, uhm, ah, seems like my computer just made some popping & clicking noises & now I can't hear what I just said.
Is a copy-protected cd any longer a redbook cd or now something else? Is this a deceptive act selling a redbook that is altered? Is there a chance of a class action here? We're not be sold "pure product". Copy-protected cds should be renamed if they're not dvd-a, sacd or redbook cds....just a thought.....someone, somewhere will haul them to court, just for the principle involved here and good luck to them....
Follow-up question . . . Do the retailers know which of their CDs are copy-protected? Thanks, Joel
Kelly, we'll light the torches, you lead the way !

(Joel, the store OWNER might know, but tell me when was the last time that you asked a question to an employee and got any more than a shoulder shirk and a huh?)
I will probably draw much wrath with this response, but here goes: I understand what the major labels are trying to do, is to protect their financial interest and, yeah, even throw the artists a penny or two. My older brother, 50, was very proud telling me one day that the CD I loaned him, The Fairfield Four - "Standing in the Safety Zone" (very good recording by the way, that bass voice can go so low and actually have a definite pitch, he can hit notes I can't even croak in a whisper) was the most popular CD to be burned/copied in the Firehouse (yes, he's a fireman) - 21 times!! I wanted to strangle him. And this is just one instance in one small city in the laid-back state of Iowa. What goes on in New York, California, etc?

Yes, I can see protecting your interests, but not to the point of potentially ruining product for others and, then, being sneaky enough to not tell anyone which are coded and which are not.

They have fallen to a new low.

Todd you can't be blamed for your brothers act's, if I where held accountable for my brothers doings I would be in jail. I want nothing to do with 'burned' disks its just nothing I want to risk, why spend 10's of thousands of dollars(on the system) and risk it with a comprimised recording to save $10. I don't get it! Sure if the low-lifes want to try and record music that is there business(well in fact I don't think it could be further from there business, but you get the hint), they can enjoy there lives in there trailers, listening to there lower then bose systems, eating there spam, drinking there 1 gallon vats of wine(on sale for $3.99), each to his own. Those who enjoy the finer things in life, appreciate the level of refinement that thrifty-ness can never buy, I think most of us discern the differences rapidly, an astute look upon life, which money doesn't buy-don't confuse class and money, the two seldom go hand and hand. Well I suppose that is enough of a rant, sorry I just got home and dealt with too many less then scrupulous individuals and am nearing my threshold of peoples ignorance. Then top it all off with a little bit of cut-throat mega-corporation America, it is such a pleasant mix.
If I owned a record company I would want my product copy protected. I would never sell the product, I would only license it. The encoding/license agreement would be so strict that the disc, or digital file, would only work on a single digital playback device. If you wanted a copy for your car or for a second system, you'd have to buy another copy of the product. Such a drastic system is the only way to totally protect the rights of the owners. In return for such the complete protection of my artistic/capitalistic interest, I would charge a nominal fee for the use of the music product, say - $2.00/each. At two bucks a drop any law abiding person won't complain.

Regarding sound quality issues - who cares? Yeah, I'm sure there's some less than 1%er type with a mega-buck system would will truly notice the sonic degradation, but my marketing people have told me that those people don't buy much music.
Marketing people? Doncha know that there's a two drink minimum to work in marketing? You really BELIEVE what a marketing person tells you? Don't get me wrong, some of my "best" friends are in marketing ;-}
who cares about sonic quality issues? Man you're on the wrong board
......ummmmmmm, i think onhwy61 was being either ironic or parodic. perhaps, sardonic. less likely, bathetic. -cfb
CFB, take my earlier post at the literal level. If I owned a major record label my best capitalistic interests would be in implementing a foolproof copy protection system. That is how I would best protect the economic well-being of my shareholders and myself. However, if there was money to be made in putting out high quality sound recordings, my fictional major recording company then would do that too. Unfortunately, there is a very limited market for high quality sound recordings. Audiophiles , of which I am one, are a very small minority of the music buying public. In the real world, record companies only have two choices assuming they decide to continue to produce high quality sounding music. They could either subsidize the high end product line through the profits generated by mass music sales, or they could charge the audiophile buyer the true cost of production. Which route do you think the corporate conglomerates that run the modern music industry will take?
onhwy61: ok, i'll accept your model literally. it's clever but wanting , IMO, in several respects. first, there's yet to be invented a copy protection system that is inaudible; witness watermarking attempts. second, encryption merely presents challenges for "beautiful minds." witness the decryption of the dvd-v code. third, and most importantly, your model likely has no appeal to the best sellers in the digital world. why would they throw out instant gratification for a distribution model that pays out over a longer time span? still, i really admire your thinking outside the box and hope that those with real control of the audio software distribution system pay attention to your nascent ideas. -cfb
I can't be as eloquent as CFB, Onhwy61 go away! You don't get and no matter how much any one talks to you never will, mind as well save everyone time and hit highway 61 see where it leads you. I wonder what the "corporate conglomerates" at Telarc, Delos, MFSL, DCCG, DMP, Shefield lab's and all other quality recording studios would think of your proposition?
tim: have another beer, listen to you new pre-dac and go to bed. i think i get what you're tryin' to say but your sentences can't be parsed. onhwy61 is not a bomb-tossin' anarchist. his posts most always deserve respect. mine and yours. - cfb
Well first of all I don't drink beer, nor do I drink any more at all so I am unable to follow instructions(what's new). I never claimed he was an anarchist nor am I attacking his integrity but if he claims to be an audiophile and is yet willing to sacrafice quality for the dollar, it doesn't add up. Keep in mind Onhwy61 my coment was made all in jest and not meant to be taken literally(please don't wonder mindlessly on highway 61), I just feel it is an unusual perspective for an audiophile to hold. All kidding aside I think my earlier reply today makes sense, this isn't English class, you(Kelly) and I usually see eye to eye; though we are allowed our own opinions. Perhaps it is my age that allows me to act prior to the thought process completing its proper cycle, or all the freaking Aristotle I have been reading- translations to English yield less then superior grammer(I think it has been rubbing off). Oh yea and in regards to my statement made on 12-27-01, that was writen/typed in about 30 sec. in a fit of rage! I hope I can not be held accountable for that.
Happy Holidays,
tim: sometimes i can't slough off my tendancies to act as a parental unit, for which i apologize.. i do, however, most respectfully suggest you reread onhwy61's last 2 posts. his model is, in fact, designed to promote, not denigrate, the interests of those who proudly wear the mantle named "audiophile." -kelly
I stand corrected, I misunderstood his view, I hope Onhwy61 will accept my most humble appologize. I think I will now take your advice and enjoy the pre ;) Thanks for clearing the fog, which for some reason always seems to be clouding my vision. Good night

My earlier posts were written to express what I believe to be the attitude of the major recording labels. The heart of my hypothetical proposal is to exchange an absolute safeguard against unauthorized copying for a dramatic lowering in consumer prices. Cornfedboy has pointed out several valid problems with my position. It may not be financially viable and it is doubtful that the recording corporations would actually lower their prices.

Another point I was trying to get across is that audiophiles represent a very small percentage of the music buying public. Rightly or not, our fascination with sound quality is not widely shared. I point to the emergence of the MP3 format as evidence of what the general public is willing to accept regarding sound quality. Tireguy points out that there are several audiophile oriented music companies, but I would speculate that the combined sales of the six labels he mentioned in a decade is less than the sales of Sony/Columbia in any given week. The audiophile market is a very minor blip on the screen. It's a niche market that can easily be taken over by the major labels. Mosiac has done a marvelous job with their comphrehensive jazz reissues. How long did it take for Sony/Columbia to recognize the market opportunity and start limiting Mosiac's access to their catalog while they simultaneously released the reissues on their own Legacy label?

I make the assumption that any copy protection encoding will be audible under some set of circumstances. Whether we like it or not, it probably will be an important element of the music distribution future.
I agree with the points that, as a major music label, it's logical that they're trying look at some way to stop the proliferation of CD copying and that, for the vast majority of their buying public, the impact on sound quality is not a major issue. Certainly the impact on sound quality induced by copy protection isn't going to be worse than all the compression and fabrication that is put on a lot of the major releases already, the same stuff that has audiophiles lamenting the recording "quality" of most releases. I think the Telarc's and MFSL's of the world know who's buttering their bread and it will be a long time before they put copy protection on their products.

I also think it's true that the major labels are reacting to this like dinosaurs - they know something needs to be done, but they want to patch the problem instead of getting caught up with the times and reinventing the product, at the risk of destroying their cash cow, the CD with a retail price of $16.99. That's what annoys me to no end - they want to debilitate their current product without offering up any incentive to the customer. I buy a lot of CDs - easily 100+ a year. I make copies of all of them to put in CD changers in my system as well as in my car. I like having the original copy (I could borrow tons of CDs from the library or from friends to reduce my cost if I wanted to and felt right about it, but I don't). I shop for good prices - 20% off at the local outlet, the CD clubs, etc. In other words, I'm a prime example of why the current model is a cash cow for the companies. Now they want to change (in all negative ways) the model for me without offering me anything positive. Even if I don't take this as an inherent accusation that I am part of the problem, this is bad business. Gee, I'm sorry that it's going to cost you to "catch up" and to transform your business model, but you know what - that's what it's going to take if you want me to continue pumping $2000 a year into your market. Every other service I purchase gives me more each year for less, so it's not going to work for the music industry to give me less for the same amount.

So far I haven't encountered a copy protected CD, so I continue with the same model I've used for several years now. If and when it becomes a regular encounter, I will change the model. I would like to change the model by industry incentive - define a service that's worth the price (and there is a huge market for people willing to pay for a service) and meets my needs. If that isn't what's offered, then at a minimum I'll take a break from buying new CDs until some other model is defined.

Maybe the new model will be the new hi-rez formats, brought down to current CD prices - a hi-rez format with copy protection at the same price might be an example of give-and-take. -Kirk

ahem.... stepping back up on her soapbox...
well, we are CONSUMERS here and don't really care about the record labels continuing efforts to make money off everyone else's back!
If we roll over and just accept it, then shame on us.
and Tim, I appreciate yer passion!
With all due respect, the idea that once we buy a cd we own it and can do with it whatever we please is absurd. We are talking about copyrighted material and I find it interesting that in this entire discussion only one fleeting mention has been made of the rights of the artist. Every illegal copy that is made of a recording does in fact cheat the artist of income that he is entitled to by contract with the record company. Even in cases where not every copy sold means a piece for the artist, a recording's profitability definitely means better chances of another recording contract for that artist.

The unfortunately prevalent corporate greed should not be confused with the rights of artists; and while it is difficult to feel a whole lot of sympathy for pop artists who earn millions for putting out dreck, there are many especially in the jazz and classical fields, who are far from being properly compensated for work that is inspired and brilliant. There is a long history of abuse of artists and musicians by the industry and these artist's rights should be protected.

I believe that we are probably entitled to make copies of recordings for personal use; unfortunately there is a lot of copying going on that is not for personal use. As I left my relative's home a couple of days ago, he hands me a stack of copies of cd's that he made for me "for the road". A nice gesture to be sure, but I had to ask myself: "why on earth should these artists, and yes, even the record companies, not be compensated for their work?". I think they should.

As far as encrypting or watermarking is concerned, I don't know what the answer is. What a shame that we may have to deal with something that degrades the sonics of a musical project; as an audiophile I find that unacceptable. I suspect that a solution will be found; I can't believe that with the fact that more and more consumers are using their computer to play music, that the record companies will shoot themselves in the foot like that. I have not heard any watermarked CD's that I am aware of, so I will reserve judgement.

The last thing that I am interested in is helping corporations profit at the unfair expense of the consumer; but I am very interested in doing what I can to make sure that an artist receives the compensation that he/she is entitled to.

Happy New Year.
Frogman, you bring up some interesting points, but at the same time not many people are burning CD's for resale. I don't agree with copying CD's period, but many here enjoy a "spare" copy for the vehicle which is wrong and they should not do it, but I don't think you are going to change them. Hackers hack everything, if encryption is going to be what happens those who break laws will continue to break laws and in the end the only people who will suffer and pay for it are honest consumers like most all of us here, sad eh?
So what, specifically, do people recommend we do as consumers to not just roll over and accept encryption and watermarking? I don't imagine anybody on this forum wanting either of these, but it seems just as apparent that the major players are going to bring it to us, like it or not. Call it corporate greed or whatever, it's deep-pocketed corporations who have a huge revenue stream to protect and, having woken up, they're going to do something even if audiophiles don't like it, so what are we going to do? Will we just stop buying the "tainted" product? Will we say "this is war" and start leveraging the efforts of the hackers to utilize the product as we see fit, whether that's to make personal copies to protect your investment or dozens of copies to give to friends for "evaluation"? Anybody planning on suing Sony or organizing a class action suit?
Suing sony, no way but I made a hell of a law suit against Mcdonalds and their too hot coffee :) well maybe not me but I am sure we are all familar with that one. I am sure someone will find a way to file a class acion law suit, but I probably won't be involved, I would simply boycott who ever's product is "tainted", hell I have been looking for an excuse to focus my energy on vinyl! There are plenty of good recordings out there already(on digital) perhaps it will bring value to our current collections, maybe the used non-encrypted CD arena is the next BIG thing, who knows, but I will NEVER buy an infereior CD simply because others are breaking the laws. Tyrants rule when good people sit back and do nothing, it is time for those who follow the rules to stand up and say that this isn't fair!
Music software sales fell by 5% in 2001 compared to 2000. The best selling software in December for Wintel machines was Easy CD Creator; the Mac best seller for the same month was Toast, another CD burning software. It's easy to see why record companies are trying to prevent the computer copying of their products.