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Consumers fight music giants

Belgian org sues companies over antipiracy measures

BRUSSELS — Belgian consumers association Test Achats is launching legal action against the world’s top music companies — Sony, EMI, BMG and Universal — in an attempt to force them to drop antipiracy technology it says is being installed on an ever-increasing number of CDs.

“The problem is that these devices not only make it impossible to make private copies, which are completely legal, but also to play the CD on certain equipment such as PCs and car stereos,” the org says. Test Achats argues that the consumer has been made the innocent victim of a practice that not only fails to achieve its aim of reducing piracy, but also goes against current copyright laws.

Discs such as Shakira’s “Laundry Service” (Sony) and Bjork’s “Greatest Hits” (Universal) have all been the subject of complaints from Belgian consumers. In February this year, Test Achats sent Belgium’s economics minister a letter asking him to outlaw the use of the technology, but nothing has been done.

Org believes that labels should be fighting large-scale pirate operations rather than clamping down on consumer copying. Music firms are desperate for action that will halt the global slump in CD sales — Universal, for example, recently slashed the price of discs in the U.S. in a bid to get them off the shelves.

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