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Felt-tipped marker mightier than the RIAA?

Cyberbiz Brief

Music message boards in cyberspace are buzzing with word that the latest stabs at copy-protection technology for CDs from several major labels can be disabled with just a few well-placed scribbles from a fine-tipped permanent marker or even well-placed pieces of tape. Would-be pirates are covering the outer rim of the protected music discs with ink, which renders the technology inert and lets them burn new digital copies at will.

Proprietary technology, which Sony spent millions to develop and deploy on many recent releases, adds a track to the copy-protected disc that contains bogus data. Because computer hard drives are programmed to read data files first, the computer will continuously try to play the bogus track first. It never gets to play the music tracks located elsewhere on the compact disc, meaning the disc can’t be played on computers, portable devices or car stereo systems.

Labels have been ramping up their copy-protection efforts over the past six months to combat rampant free music-trading on networks like Kazaa and Morpheus. An earlier industrywide effort, the Secure Digital Music Initiative, failed amid widespread bickering among labels over the types of copyright protection technology to be used. Regarding the latest attempt, one member wrote on the alt.music.prince message board: “I wonder what type of copy protection will come next? Maybe they’ll ban markers.”