The Campaign for Digital Rights is holding a day of action in the UK on Saturday, to raise public awareness about the growing use of copy-protection mechanisms on CDs.
Volunteers will be gathering in various cities around the UK at the weekend, to distribute leaflets entitled "Will this CD really play on my equipment?" It will alert people to the recent move by record companies to modify CDs so that they are not playable on PC CD-ROM drives.
"The companies are in principle seeking to prevent the copying of CDs, which is not a bad thing in itself," said Julian Midgley, who is helping to co-ordinate the campaign. "But if in doing so they make it difficult for people to make use of the CD that they have paid good money for, without bothering to tell them, this arguably becomes a trade descriptions case."
The copy-protection measure is aimed to prevent people from "ripping" digital copies of the single into MP3 format, or "burning" them onto a CD-recordable. The Campaign for Digitial Rights is protesting against the inferior quality of modified CDs, where the audio signal on the CD is often corrupted to ensure that they are only playable on stereos. These errors cause the CD-ROM to reject the disc, but in some cases the corruption is so severe that the reliability and sound quality of the CD is damaged as a result.
Record companies have also created the ironic situation of selling copy-protected CDs, but at the same time marketing MP3 memory sticks that allow people to copy CDs onto MP3 players for their own use. UK copyright law actually prohibits this, but manufacturers are aware that the public is still going to do this.
"We will soon be utterly bound by what record companies dictate to you," said Midgley.
The European Copyright Directive is soon to be enacted within UK law, which will make it illegal for consumers to circumvent planned restrictions on CD and DVD products. "It should be reasonable for people to use CDs that they have paid for -- it should be possible to write a programme to get around copy-protection mechanisms if the record companies are making it difficult for people to listen to their CDs," said Midgley.
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