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Sony Japan dumps lock-down CDs

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One music label, at least, is turning its back on CD copy-protection. Japan's Sony Music Entertainment yesterday revealed it intends to junk its own copy-control system, Label Gate*.

The technology was introduced in January 2003, but this month will see the last discs issued with the anti-rip system incorporated into their structure. Initially blocking all PC usage, the technology was later updated to allow the playback of compressed audio files on a computer.

But from 17 November, Sony said, all its CDs will ship as nature - and Philips - intended.

The reason? According to Sony, Japanese consumers now have a far better appreciation of the issues surrounding copyright and music piracy, and the law is now tougher on those who flout it.

More to the point, however, buyers have not responded well to the technology and the limitations it places on legitimate music buyers in order to hinder folk from duplicating discs for chums or profit.

Indeed, Sony appeared concerned that a copy-protected CD isn't a Compact Disc in the true, standards-based definition of the term, which its own parent company was jointly responsible for setting. In short, there is consumer resistance - and possible a legal challenge - for something that looks like a CD but either plays nothing or lower quality audio when used in a CD drive.

Sony's move follows a similar decision by fellow Japanese label Avex, but is runs contrary to the trend in the West to increasingly release copy-protected discs in the hope of stemming online piracy and file-sharing.

Sony's move shows that consumers can influence a major label. Well almost: the Japanese wing of Sony Music Entertainment was not part of the deal that saw SME and BMG form Sony BMG Music Entertainment this past summer. ®

*We're aware it may not actually be called 'Label Gate' - this is simply how numerous online Japanese-to-English translation apps have dubbed it.

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