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CD ripping is 'plague of locusts'

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A trade body for UK independent record labels has begun an investigation into putting copy protection technology onto music CDs.

The Association of Independent Music, whose members account for a quarter of the record market in Britain, is concerned about losses aused by fans illegally making copies of music CDs.

Figures from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, released this week, blame a decline in record sales of 5 per cent to $33.7 billion in 2001 largely on "mass digital copying and the Internet", along with the general economic slowdown.

Record sales in Britain were up 5 per cent, despite which AIM spokesman Sam Shemtob said the trade body viewed CD copying technology as a "plague of locusts" which is liable to decimate future sales.

To tackle this music piracy problem, AIM has signed deals with companies like OD2, Whipet and Napster which offer legitimate software downloads. It is also tackling the problem of ripped tracks appearing on MP3-sharing sites such as Morpheus at source by creating a steering group which will evaluate the various anti-copy CDs technologies available.

This group will negotiate the best terms under which labels may use copy-protection measures and consult with retailers in order to develop the best alternatives for the independent business.

The review will lead to voluntary recommendations to AIM's 650 label membership by the end of summer, it's hoped.

Last November, Natalie Imbruglia won the race to produce the first copyright-protected CD on general release to the UK public. Early versions of White Lillies Island, featured Midbar's Cactus Data Shield protection, which is designed to prevent MP3-ripping by encoding content so that it won't play on a PC. Audiophiles using a Hi-Fi to play the disc wouldn't notice the difference because error-correcting mechanisms could compensate for the corrupt data, Midbar claimed.

The move proved unpopular with buyers (not least because they were not informed of the encoding) and days after its release Bertelsmann Music Group offered replacement discs - without the controversial anti-rip technologies - to disgruntled punters.

Epic/Sony's release of Celine Dion's A New Day Has Come CD this month, which included copy protection technology from Key2Audio, caused a furore after online sites reported that attempts to play the disc on a PC caused computers to crash.

AIM said it was looking to put forward copy protection technology that would be "endorsed by consumers" but wasn't able to give firm guarantees that anything it came up with would still allows buyers to play their CDs on PCs. ®

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