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All CDs will be protected and you are a filthy pirate

EMI Deutschland consumer relations ups the ante...

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One mad consumer relations team might be an isolated incident, two begins to look like a trend. The dismissive response Bertelsmann Music Group's copy protection team recently issued to a consumer's query essentially boiled down to, 'all Cds will be copy protected, it's not our problem that they won't play on some devices, so tough.' But apparently, it's a competition. EMI Germany is taking pretty much the same attitude, and its humorously-tagged Consumer Relations team is calling the customers pirates while it's about it.

Thanks to DeeKay for drawing our attention to this little stunner, and for help in the translation. German speakers can view the original in all its glory here, but we think the following loose translation captures the flavour of the atrocity (our bold on the best bits).

"Dear Mr. xxx,
We will refrain from addressing the points in your email that are clearly erroneous. We also don't want to bore you with a lengthy explanation of why the music industry is forced to use copy protection measures, even though we would prefer to do something else. Only this much: There are 250 Million blank CDRs and tapes bought and used this year for copying music in comparison to 213 Million prerecorded audio media. This means the owners are only being paid for 46 per cent of the musical content. For a comparison: In 1998 almost 90% of all audio media was paid for. Even without a degree in economics everyone should realise that such trends will result in the music industry ceasing to exist. Only one measure can be used against widespread cloning of prerecorded audio media by burning CDRs: copy protection! This is also the reason why record companies increasingly have to protect their CDs. An alternative solution for stopping this abuse is unfortunately not within sight. But we fear that these facts don't interest you at all. Because these measures mean the end of free music, something that must cause you much grief.

"Should you really have a problem with playing the CD in question, we would like you to name the exact model of your player. Then we can compare this model with the list we have of players that our CDs run on without any trouble. Then we'll see if the problem really is the copy protection or if there are completely different reasons. The case you are reporting that even multiple players refuse to function can, in our experience, only originate from the realm of fairytales. The copy protection we employ is state of the art, this means there's nothing better available to date. If there will be something better, we won't hesitate to use it. Problems with playing on common CD-players are minimal, but every now and then it happens that copy protected CDs don't work on a player. We forward these cases immediately to our copy protection-provider, which is trying hard to adapt the technology accordingly and solve the problems.

"If you plan on cracking copy protection measures and burning the CD by other means we must point out to you that this will be illegal in the near future when the new European Intellectual Property law is introduced in Germany. Such breaches of intellectual property will then also be legally pursued by the state. The officials of the consumer rights ministry won't tell you anything different - after all it was the politicians who urged us to finally introduce copy protection measures.

"If you plan to continue protesting about future audio media releases with copy protection, forget it; copy protection is a reality, and within a matter of months more or less all audio media worldwide are copy protected. And this is a good thing for the music industry. In order to make this happen we will do anything within our power - whether you like it or not."

Good, isn't it? What it has in common with the BMG response is first, that it is written from the standpoint that the company will not readily accept the argument that a protected CD that won't play in some players, meaning that consumers rejecting copy protection will therefore face a long slog if they pursue the matter with the music company. And they might also get a visit from the anti-piracy squad. It still seems relatively easy to get a refund from stores, because most of them seem not as yet to be parroting the music companies' 'it's not broken' line, but their attitude may change. Note however EMI's introduction of the consumer rights card â this suggests the company intends to use the new copyright laws to fuzz up the consumer's existing rights to have products that actually work. Or perhaps even to overthrow these rights.

Second, the 'all CDs will be protected' line is clearly massively important to them. If it's possible to buy CDs that aren't protected, and consumers are aware of the differentiation, then not a lot of people are likely to want to buy the protected versions, so the introduction of copy protection will fail. If however it becomes more difficult, and finally impossible, then refuseniks will be driven back to recording from the audio output. Still not an ideal outcome for the music business, but they no doubt calculate that the added inconvenience will reduce copying substantially, and besides, they're not finished yet.

Finally, view these two responses (and no doubt many others out there) as an example of how cuddly, responsive and customer-centric the music business will be when it has DRM. They really are looking forward to the day when you have no rights. ®

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