Consumers attack CD copy protection

Most consumers believe they have the right to copy their own CDs, and want mandatory warning labels for discs that shun CD-ROM drives

Most consumers believe that they have the right to copy CDs for personal or backup use, and are likely to react badly to the music industry's stealthy introduction of unlabelled copy-protected CDs, according to a new survey.

In a series of US interviews with 1,005 adults and 1,009 teenagers, analysts GartnerG2 found that most consumers believed that copy-protected CDs stopped them from carrying out a legal right to make personal-use copies of discs. This suggests, Gartner said, that copy-protected CDs without warning labels could have a negative impact on sales.

"Since it's clear consumers perceive they have the right to make some copies, the lack of labelling will only contribute to declining revenue for the music industry as those who are still buying CDs become frustrated," said P.J. McNealy, research director for GartnerG2, in a statement.

Record companies have begun selling some pop music CDs with copy-protection measures that keep the discs from working properly in a PC's CD-ROM drive, preventing users from making copies of the discs or "ripping" MP3 files of the songs. It is currently optional to place a warning label on discs that use copy-protection. Some groups have argued that since the discs cannot be played on all CD players they should not be allowed to use the "compact disc" logo.

Copyright holders are concerned that digital copies of CDs, distributed freely over the Internet, are harming legitimate music sales.

Gartner's survey found that 82 percent of respondents believe it is legal to make copies of CDs for personal backup purposes, while 77 percent think they should be able to copy the CD for personal use in another device. Sixty percent thought it was legal to make a copy for another member of the household.

Seventy-four percent of respondents said that the music industry should be required to label CDs that include copy protection.

"Consumers will balk if they bring home a CD and find it won't play on every CD player they own," McNealy stated.

Legitimate online music sellers have begun to win licensing concessions from the major labels. Listen.com is now allowing some downloadable music to be burned onto CDs, though for a 99-cent (about 64p) charge, and under controlled conditions. Pressplay and independent Full Audio also have won limited rights to let consumers burn CDs from music acquired through paid subscription services.

CNET News.com's John Borland contributed to this report.


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