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Copy protection to extend to multiple but limited burns

Bracing for America

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The two most prominent suppliers of copy protection for music compact disks, are set to come back to the market with rethought offerings whereby CD copying is allowed, but limited to a set number. This strategy, dictated by the record labels as “where they are trying to get,” will emerge in new offerings from market leader Macrovision and SunnComm, during the course of 2004.

So far, CD copy protection has been crude. It is either on, or it is off. You can either copy as many times as you like, or not copy at all, and the record companies have been terrified of implementing the “copy protection on” mode in sensitive markets. For sensitive markets read the US, primarily, and some parts of Europe.

In Europe there have been some prominent legal cases in which customers have returned CD disks as “faulty” if they cannot play in the various different CD players, including car stereos, or if personal copies cannot be made.

Last week CNET talked the problem through with both Macrovision and SunnComm which both confessed they were about to launch new versions which allowed a set number of burns, but no more. The record labels haven’t dared jeopardize their strongest market in the US by putting copy protection on music CDs, instead they have been happier to experiment with these types of schemes in less sophisticated markets, until now.

Once they have brought some acceptable form of copy protection to the US, then they will try to bring the same concepts to the online music services of only allowing a set number of CD burns or other copies, for each downloaded track.

Consumers have been getting more and more used to having a track they like cut into multiple playlists on both music players like iPods and on CDs, so this may prove a more difficult market to regulate after its recent freedoms.

Bertelsmann Music Group made history when it became SunnComm’s first customer for copy protection in a market which is virtually a monopoly for Macrovision. This backfired when it was widely publicized on the Web that the protection could be bypassed by holding down the shift key on a protected CD while it was loading. In April last year Macrovision announced that it has taken a license for Microsoft’s Data Session Toolkit which meant that working with Macrovision’s content protection the Toolkit will allow copies of downloaded files to be made on slave, tethered devices but each one needs to be authenticated using the original PC that downloaded it. This would take care of copy protection online once Macrovision is asked for it.

Last week QuietTiger, the worldwide sales and marketing subsidiary of SunnComm International, announced that it had landed a licensing agreement with independent music giant Koch Records. Reseller Sonopress helped on the deal. The New York-based Koch Records will use the MediaMax Music Management System on its releases.

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