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Copy protected CDs illegal in France? Not quite

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Big news from France today where EMI has landed in the soup for selling 'defective' copy protected CDs.

A Nanterre court has ordered the music label to refund a woman who could not play her new Alain Souchon CD on her car CD player. Alternatively, EMI is to provide a full-working copy. The ruling applies to all people who have bought CDs which they cannot play on some CD players, computers and Walkmans.

But EMI was not forbidden by the court to sell copyright protected CDs per se, merely that it must not sell defective CDs. So it appears like it could be back to the drawing board for the anti-piracy measures it uses.

Also in the Nanterre dock was Auchan, the giant department store chain, which sold the offending (and to non-French ears, offensive) CD. It escaped punishment for its offence of failing to inform the Alain Souchon fan that the CD was copy protected.

The unnamed woman who struck a blow for French shoppers was supported by UFC, the French consumer rights group. It is to appeal the Nanterre court's decision against banning copy protection.

UFC is also sueing Warner for selling a copy protected Phil Collins CD in Macintosh and a Universal executive for the protection on the DVD of Mulholland Drive.

According to this report (in French), some French retailers are trying to ward off legal action by issuing warning notices about copy protection at point of purchase.

Of course, EMI sells its defective product all around the world (and I, I, can't find my CD). In Australia last month the firm escaped sanction for selling CDs that refused to work on some CD players. The Age has an instructive account of a consumer complaint against EMI and its decidedly consumer-unfriendly rejection here. ®

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