Universal copy-protected CD shuns players

Universal has chosen to experiment with copy protected CD's with the release of the soundtrack from the teen drag-racing movie "The Fast and the Furious." Although the music is unlikely to make any critics' top 10 lists, the technology is likely to set tongues wagging.

Universal has tapped Midbar Technology's Cactus Data Shield to lock up the ordinary CD audio files. But it has also included a separate audio player that allows digital versions of the songs to be played. These songs, which appear to be MP3s or related to MP3s, cannot be played through common media players such as Windows Media, Winamp or RealOne.

Nor can the digital files be played on anything other than a Windows operating system. Macintosh and Linux aficionados appear, for now, to be out of luck.

The new Universal CD instead relies on a player created by EverAd, a digital advertising company that once ran its own music service. Both companies are located in Israel. The player itself is a scaled-back version of the media players more familiar from Microsoft or RealNetworks, with a little play list, bass and treble controls, and the ability to loop or shuffle playback.

The digital files are contained in a single "CDS" file format, which is not explained. But in the license agreement for the technology, the company does indicate that it has used LAME (which originally, but no longer, stood for Lame Ain't an Mp3 Encoder), an open-source MP3 encoder.

All of the big major record labels are experimenting with ways to block consumers from "ripping" or transforming their CD songs into MP3 files and distributing them widely online though services such as the now-shuttered Napster or MusicCity's Morpheus.

News source: CNet News

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