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EMI admits CD copy protection compatibility problems

Fix coming in April

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EMI's Australian operation has admitted that its CD copy protection system has resulted in "compatibility issues" since it began using the technology in November 2002.

The confession came in an email sent to an Australian music buyer, Michael Ellerman, The Melbourne Age reportedyesterday.

Over a year ago, Ellerman complained when his copy of Massive Attack's 100th Window album wouldn't play on his CD player at home or - crucially - his Linux box. It would only play on a Windows PC, he said.

EMI finally got round to replying to his email this week - a point not ignored by the record company, to be fair.

"We have been advised from our parent company that an updated version of the Copy Control software will be available in April 2004 and believe that this version addresses most, if not all, of the incompatibility issues that have been raised in relation to earlier versions," the company wrote.

EMI's system is believed to introduce errors in the music encoded as a data on the disc. A regular CD player should have a good enough error correction mechanism - and there are a lot of errors, even on a non-copy protected disc - to generate the sound quality we've come to expect from the medium. PC-based CD drives are supposed to balk at these artificially induced errors and refuse to play or RIP the discs.

The trouble is, many portable players also use the error correction mechanism as the basis for their anti-skip systems. So do in-car CD players, which is why copy protected discs are causing such a fuss among UK motorists at the moment.

Come April, and presumably it will be these very "incompatibility issues" that EMI - for one - will fix. Of course, that doesn't help you if you already have a disc that won't play in your shiny new Ford Fusion.

International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) guidelines published in May 2002 suggest that record labels clearly state what kinds of machines their discs will and will not play on. ®

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