‘Hi-fi nuking’ CD technology safe claims developer

Other noise-filled CDs can, though - as the software biz has already admitted

The anti-piracy system that was last week said to nuke loudspeakers playing pirate CDs this week... well.. doesn't.

So says New Scientist magazine - at the behest of the technology developer's lawyers, it seems, if the language used in the 'correction' (journalese for 'apology') is anything to go by.

The technology, called Cactus, adds bursts of noise to the music data encoded on the CD. Developer Midbar Tech says the noise is eliminated by a conventional CD player's error correction system, but defeats attempts to read the music as data, as a PC-based CD drive would if it were copying the disc's contents.

Essentially, if you try to copy a Cactus-protected CD, you end up with a CD-R full not of music, but of noise.

New Scientist technology writer Barry Fox reckoned said noise could send lethal spikes through your speakers - in extreme cases, causing them to blow.

Bollocks, says Midbar, which adds that any such effect would be "totally unacceptable". It has forced the magazine to state that "there is nothing in its technology on the market, past, current or future, that could, or would, be potentially damaging to equipment".

As we speculated when we gave our take on the New Scientist story, such an effect would open both Midbar and the music industry to some very interesting legal issues, particularly in territories where it's legal to copy CDs for personal use.

Clearly, Midbar's legal people reckon so too. Or perhaps Sony's, since that's the company that has been distributing Cactus-protected CDs in Europe. Hence the move to claim that its technology can't be used to hammer hi-fis when playing pirate CDs.

Of course, we only have Midbar's word for it. As Cactus-protected discs are identified and tested, we'll see just how accurate its claims are.

Certainly noise can damage hi-fi, as software suppliers frequently pointed out in the early days of CD-ROM technology. We recall a number of game CDs on which software was encoded as the first track, allowing in-game music, recorded as the remaining tracks, to be played on a regular CD player. Those discs warned users not to play the first track lest it damage amplifiers and/or speakers.

That's not to say Cactus would do so, but we remain suspicious of any system that pumps noise through hi-fi systems. As we say, with at least one million Cactus-protected CDs in the marketplace, time will tell. ®

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Related Link

New Scientist: Apology to Midbar