Michael Jackson rocks the copy-protection world

Sony has used a copy-protection measure on Michael Jackson's CD to prevent people from making digital copies

Digital rights activists are angered by evidence that the new Michael Jackson CD "Rock Your World" will not be playable in PC CD-ROM drives.

Sony's decision to bend the standard CD format has been branded "dubious" and "underhand" by the UK's Campaign for Digital Rights. The record label's decision to modify the CD singles so that they are only playable by stereo systems risks breaching trading standards, as no warnings are included on the packaging.

"One of the most underhand things in this situation is that these new modified CD formats are being introduced secretly, without the public's knowledge," said Jim Peters at the UK's Campaign for Digital Rights.

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. It is thought that Sony has used a variant of the SafeAudio protection form by Macrovision, which corrupts the audio signal stored on the CD. 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.

The UK's Campaign for Digital Rights argues that Sony is not concerned about the affects that this copy protection might have upon the quality of the Michael Jackson single, especially when the consumer isn't being informed. "The most unfortunate thing for hi-fi buffs is that audio quality is no longer a primary motivation for the media distributors," said Peters. "They have already shown that they are quite willing to sacrifice the purity of audio quality, and even the reliability of CD media, in order to install copy-protection mechanisms."

Peters and his campaigners will be issuing leaflets alerting people to the modification of the CDs over the next few weeks. The "Rock my World" single will be released in the UK on 8 October.

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