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BMG Launches Copy-Protected CD In U.S.

New York – BMG will join Universal in offering commercial copy-protected CDs in the U.S.

On Sept. 23, BMG’s Arista Records label will offer Anthony Hamilton’s Comin’ From Where I’m From disc, which uses SunComm copy-protection technology. Previously, BMG used copy management technology only on promotional CDs.

Universal offered its first commercial copy-protected CD in the U.S. in 2002 and currently offers four U.S. CDs using Macrovision technology, a Universal spokesperson said.

BMG’s copy-protection technology, SunnComm’s MediaMax CD-3, lets users play the CD’s uncompressed PCM tracks ‘on nearly all standard playback devices,’ including CD players, DVD players, car stereos, boomboxes, headset CD players, and game consoles. On a PC, playback of the uncompressed music is blocked, but the PC is allowed to play back a duplicate ‘second session’ of tracks in compressed copy-protected Windows Media Audio (WMA) format. The protected tracks can be transferred to a PC’s hard drive, transferred to a compatible portable music device, and burned to up to three blank CD-R discs.

In addition, the disc features SunnComm’s PromoPlay Technology, enabling consumers to share the music with a friend by providing the recipient with a link to the music, which can be downloaded and listened to for 10 days. Authentication technologies prevent the sharing of usable files through file-sharing programs such as Morpheus.

The $13.98-suggested disc ‘will be appropriately labeled to inform consumers of the technology and the range of uses that can be made of the product,’ BMG said.

‘The consumer experience is BMG’s top priority,’ added BMG’s Chief Strategic Officer Thomas Hess. ‘Consumers who purchase this CD will have broad flexibility, including the ability to listen to it on a whole range of devices and players, and the ability to burn copies for their personal use. At the same time, this CD will not be able to be mass copied.’

Because of improvements in the SunnComm MediaMax technology, Hesse continued, ‘it is now possible to offer consumers the level of flexibility to which they have become accustomed while beginning to better protect our artists’ rights.’

In the U.S., Universal used an earlier generation Macrovision technology, CDS-200, in less than a million commercial releases as a test, allowing for PC playback of a disc’s compressed files but preventing file transfers to hard drives, a Macrovision executive told TWICE in early 2003. The executive said he expected Universal to go to market with more flexible technology.