There are times in life when a difference of opinion happens. Maybe you enjoy red wine while your friend prefers white. Or what about a new car? You desire the two door variety while your significant other wishes for a four door (family planning and all). Now what if you both agreed to pay for a nice luxury car but the manufacture of the automobile only allows you to drive it on certain roads? After all, you own the vehicle so what gives a car manufacture the right to forbid you to drive it when you want? If you are wondering what on this Earth this has to do with audio, imagine buying music but not being allowed to play it! Maybe it will play on your home CD player, but not your home computer. Why? Because the manufacture cares more about their own interests over yours. Preposterous you say! Well, this is going on right now under your very nose.
Example: You go to your local Magic Music Merchandiser and buy the new BMG, Sony, or Universal Music Group title. Could be the new Michael Jackson single, Brahms or Brubeck. So you go home and enjoy it on your home music reproduction system... for now. Then you decide to check your e-mail and load the CD in to your computer for more musical pleasures. Nothing. No music at all. What the fudge! You start to wonder if the CD is defective. It is not. Now are you ready for the real problem here.
The problem is that the CD is not made to "Red Book" standards as set by Philips and Sony Corporation back in 1980. The Red Book is a technical manual of specification for what is, and is not, acceptable when making a CD. Guess what. The new CD you just bought is not to Red Book standards and Philips/Sony knows this! So why would Philips/Sony allow this. Easy. They want your money and to also protect their own interests over your enjoyment of their music it seems. Huh? What does me wanting to play a CD on my computer have to do with them wanting my money? Well, maybe i am oversimplifying here, though if you could play the CD in your computer, you just might want to make 100,000 copies for illegal distribution. What?!?! Of course the majority of people who buy CDs are not pirates and i, for one, do not support illegal music downloads (Napster, etc). So i am referring to folks like me and you who simply want to enjoy the music we legally have purchased.
Due to a few people making illegal copies, and online music sharing websites like good ol' Napster, MusicCity, Gnutella and Kazaa, the major labels looking out only for their best interest seem to now want to make CDs as they see fit. Damn the Red Book standard (and allowing CD music playable on your CD/CD-Rom units). There is a company called Cactus Data Shield who makes software to "protect" music CDs. Of course there is something about this entire situation that...
This reminds me of the old skit on Rowan and Martin's TV show Laugh In where Lillie Tomlin playing a telephone operator would say "We're the phone company. We don't care. We don't have to." Let's face it, the record industry (including the Big Bad RIAA too) seem to not feel you have the right to freely use your legally purchased music. At least Philips/Sony and the RIAA's lack of action against this possible illegal activity by the recording labels of releasing non-Red Book standard CDs seem to speak louder than words.
So how do they make illegal CDs? By making the error correction in your CD player work harder than it needs to. Small data errors and correction of them is part of the CD standard. Of course too much error can cause an audio CD to be unplayable. So what is a an CD?
In simple terms, all a CD really has on it is music digitized at 44,100 samples per second (44.1KHz) and in a range of 65,536 possible values (16 bits). The disc itself is divided into three areas: Lead In, Program, and Lead Out. The Lead In section gives the CD player core information such as each track's location. This Lead In section is also referred to as the Table Of Contents (TOC). Audio discs can contain up to 99 audio tracks (that is the Program section). The Lead Out section simply tells the CD player this is the end of the CD. So how do the recording labels "protect" a CD from being used "illegally". Easy, mess around a bit with the CD data. The Cactus Data Shield software, during disc mastering, inserts modifications to original audio CD to purposefully confuse CD-ROM devices during the copying process. Of course if you make the data hard to read and cause the error correction circuitry to become overtaxed, the disc does not play. Are we having fun yet?
So how do you know if the CD in the store you are buying is possibly "illegally protected" as it does not conform to Redbook standards? You don't! After all, what rights do you have to play the music you are about to purchase when and where you want to? Sounds preposterous huh? Well, this is what is happening right now folks. If we do not stop the music labels from releasing "corrupt" CDs then they may go ahead and make all new recordings this way! So are we living in hell or what?
No, i am not talking about Hell Norway with the famous model Mona Grudt who is also Miss Universe 1990. i mean real hell with fire, torture, no beer or Krispy Kreme donuts... You know, the place with a really masochistic guy named Satan. This new Hell would be more along the lines of we the consumer who is rightfully and legally purchasing music being held hostage due to the recording label's whim of fancy at making their CDs not comply with the Red Book standard as they see fit to possibly protect the illegal copying of their music. Do not expect Philips or Sony to enforce this possible illegal activity as they want to protect their music too. Now you know why they do not enforce the Red Book standard on currently produced CDs. And the sad fact is...
Real music pirates will always find a way to beat (hack) any protection scheme. Heck, the protection scheme for DVD-Video was hacked long ago! Furthermore, DVD-Video sales have been experiencing major growth even though they can be hacked. Of course the major labels fought audio cassette, video cassettes, and now we have "protected CDs" to fight about. In each instance the recording industry lost legal battles. When will these labels ever learn? Possibly never, but that will not stop their shortsightedness. So what can we, as consumers, do to fight this new action by the recording labels? Here are some links you might find interesting:
The Home Recording Rights Coalition (HRRC)
Act of 1976, As Amended Chapter 10
Protecting Fair-Use Rights In The Digital World
And because we here at Enjoy the Music.com want to make as many people in the public aware of this situation, we have made available single sheet flyers you can print out and legally distribute or post. Please make as many of these flyers as possible and post them anywhere it is legal to do so. This would be especially helpful if it was near a music store or your voted official's office.
While i could go on about this topic, there are other topics that are just as valid. Namely how i own ten copies of this recording... paid the rights to listen to Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon ten times yet technically can only listen to one copy. Therefore i deserve some type of financial refund due to overpaying for my right to listen to the music. Has anyone reading this article ever received a refund due to owning multiple copies of a recording? Nope! Ok, i will stop here and let one of our astute readers speak out...
Only you have the power to stop the money hungry music corporations who are right now making decisions to "protect" their music, thereby making it impossible for you (the legal CD owner) to enjoy it. Of course in the end what really matters is that you...