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Marker pens, sticky tape crack music CD protection

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Music disc copyright protection schemes such a Cactus Data Shield 100/200 and KeyAudio can be circumvented using tools as basic as marker pens and electrical tape, crackers have discovered.

The Blue Peter-style hack, which was first unearthed by a reader of chip.de works by covering up the outer ring of a copyright protected audio disc.

On copy protected discs this outer track is corrupted, which prevents copying, or even playback, by PCs but is ignored (at least in theory) by regular CD players.

Simply covering up the outer track disables the protection, allowing a disc to be played as normal in a PC or Mac.

The cracking technique seems crude, but Reg reader insomnia skunk tells us he was able to use it to defeat the copyright protection on Natalie Imbruglia's 'White Lilies Island' CD, early version of which used Cactus Data Shield 200 anti-rip technology.

He writes: "The process is pretty easy: I took a bit of electrical tape and applied it to the edge of the CD, the 'shiny side', - just a half inch of the stuff - and aligned it with the very edge 'data track session ring' visible on these copy protected CDs. Took the tape out to the outside of the CD and put it in my CD Rom."

"And guess what - it played, and ripped, with no problems at all," he adds.

Celine Dion ate my iMac

Record labels are beginning to ship discs with copy protection technology as a means to tackle music piracy at source, by preventing tracks been ripped on PCs and posted onto the Internet file sharing sites.

Epic/Sony's release of Celine Dion's A New Day Has Come audio disc 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.

The problem can be even more severe for Mac users.

Not only will the Celine Dion audio disc fail to play on new flat-screen iMacs but it will lock the CD tray and prevent the machine from been rebooted properly. This is not something users can fix themselves and means a trip to a dealer for repairs. An article on Apple's knowledge base explains the issue in more depth.

Jim Peters, of the Campaign for Digital Rights, which is protesting against music industry plans to market copy-protected audio discs, said the problem is caused by labels in creating non-standard and corrupt audio CDs, which Apple can't be expected to have tested against.

"It is clearly Sony's fault, and their warning 'Will not work on PC/Mac' isn't the whole truth - it should be 'Will not work on PC /Will kill your iMac'," said Peters.

The symbol for a corrupt CD should be that used for poison - the skull and crossbones, he adds. The CDR has set up Web site documenting Sony's use of corrupt audio discs, aka "copy-protected CDs". ®

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