Truth in Labeling
Despite the backlash against copy protection, momentum for the technology is building. Recording companies are using Europe as a test market for systems that will appear in the United States by the end of this year. And as politicians debate the issues of fair use, U.S. record companies will need to adopt a labeling system to notify consumers that the discs have been altered in a way that makes it impossible to copy their music onto a computer.Such labeling is crucial not only for the recording industry, but also for the creators of portable players, says Andy Wolfe, chief technical officer of Santa Clara, CA-based SonicBlue, which makes the popular Rio digital-music players. “Consumers want to buy music and be able to listen to it on a variety of devices,” he says. “It’s not productive for the music industry to put out technology that creates more problems for people. If this doesn’t get fixed, consumers might stop buying CDs.”
With proper labeling and government approval, however, copy protection will likely be here for the long haul. Companies such as Roxio in Santa Clara, CA, a leading developer of CD-burning software, have already pledged their support. “We’re going to work with whoever become leaders in copy protection,” says Vito Salvaggio, Roxio’s vice president of product management.
Ultimately, by employing copy protection approaches in combination with digital rights management technologies, the recording industry just might suppress the music-bootlegging vice. After all, if Eminem fans can buy a single DVD that contains digital-quality music that they can play on their stereos, their computers, and their portable MP3 devices, they’ll be getting all the flexibility they need.
There’s also the potential to extend the copy protection strategies developed for music to other digital media; bits, after all, are bits. This extension is especially possible given the migration from the CD to the DVD format. DVDs can hold up to 25 times as much information as CDs; to take advantage of this extra space, video and computer games, music, and video releases will come bundled with more and more additional media. If, for example, a future Tomb Raider game should come with an Angelina Jolie slide show and an Aerosmith theme song, the extra goods would need to be locked up together.
But even if copy protection technology ultimately fails, the recording industry is unlikely to suffer-at least if history is any guide. Emerging technologies have always induced panic among those ensconced in a world of traditional media. The player piano was supposed to kill the need for musicians. The printing press, writers. The television, movies. Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, presented a notorious example of such panic some 20 years ago when he railed against video recording machines. In a statement to Congress, Valenti said that “the VCR is to the motion picture industry and the American public what the Boston Strangler is to the woman alone.”
Valenti was a wee bit off in his gloomy prognostication: home video sales and rentals now bring in nearly twice as much money for the industry as do box-office sales. The fate of digital music-and the technologies being developed to control it-could well prove just as surprising.
|Arming the Copy Cops|
|Macrovision||Santa Clara, CA||SafeAudio distorts music of copied files. SafeAuthenticate puts a digital signature on a CD, restricting its use. Both are being evaluated by record companies.|
|Midbar Tech||Tel Aviv, Israel||Cactus Data Shield, which “hides” music on a CD to keep computers from copying it, is used on more than 30 million CDs worldwide.|
|Sony DADC||Salzburg, Austria||Key2audio, which disguises an audio CD as a data disc so that a computer cannot find the music, is already on 10 million CDs in Europe.|
|SunnComm||Phoenix, AZ||MediaCloq pioneered copy-protection for CDs released in the United States.|
|Verance||San Diego, CA||Its digital watermarking technology, which interleaves music files with data that verify a disc’s authenticity, is in use on CDs in the United States.|