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1m anti-piracy hi-fi nuking CDs hit Europe

Your Speakers are Toast

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New Scientist later retracted its report
"that an anti-piracy technology, called Cactus, from Midbar Tech of Tel Aviv, could damage hi-fis and loudspeakers (New Scientist, 4 August 2001, p19). This is incorrect". You can read the correction in full here.

One million CDs have been released in Europe which are protected by the controversial anti-piracy system Cactus Data Shield.

Israeli security business Midbar brags that it has reached the one million milestone and says plans are under discussion for a US invasion. Sony's Music Entertainment division is trialling the technology.

The Cactus Data Shield system is controversial because the technology could blow your hi-fi speakers. Like Macrovision's SafeAudio, Cactus adds noise to the music data stored on the CD. Unlike SafeAudio, Cactus flags the noise as control information. On playback, this is ignored, but on duplication - even with consumer CD-to-CD systems, which are not disabled by SafeAudio - the noise disrupts the copier's error correction system.

New Scientist discovered that the result is a CD-R full of noise, not music. And worse, the generated waveform is of a kind to which hi-fi and loudspeaker circuitry is particularly sensitive. Play the noise-filled disc back at too high a volume and your speakers are toast.

New Scientist also discovered the ability to damage equipment can be effectively switched on or off by the CD-mastering company by changing the characteristics of the noise and thus the soundwave generated by players' error correction systems.

According to Midbar "industry associations IFPI and RIAA gave the Cactus Data Shield (CDS) solution the highest score possible for protection effectiveness. CDS protected CDs play on all types of machines without making any change to the quality of the recording or the abilities of the playback machinery itself. The only thing CDS prevents is the illegal and/or unauthorized reproduction of content." ®

Related Link

Midbar statement

Related Story

CD anti-piracy system can nuke hi-fi kit

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