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Copy-protected CDs spark lawsuit

TalkBack! By Jim Hu
Special to ZDNet News
September 7, 2001 1:50 PM PT
A California woman has filed a lawsuit against an independent record label for embedding technology in CDs that blocks people from listening to songs on a computer.

The suit, filed in California Superior Court in Marin County, alleges that Denver, Colo.-based Fahrenheit Entertainment misled consumers by failing to include an adequate disclaimer on CDs encoded with digital copyright-protection software.

The suit also cites SunnComm, the Phoenix-based software company that created the protection program as a preliminary measure to prevent people from distributing digital copies of the songs over the Internet.


The lawsuit said the protected album, "Charley Pride: A Tribute to Jim Reeves," does not offer a disclaimer that it will not operate on computer CD players. It also requires a consumer to register personal information in a proprietary Web site before downloading the songs onto a computer, raising privacy concerns, the suit says.

"The law requires companies who are selling products to give the consumer material information that is relevant to making decisions about whether to buy the product or not, and Fahrenheit did not do that," Ira Rothken, the attorney who filed the suit, said Friday.

The practice of embedding copyright-protection technology in CDs is gaining popularity, as record labels seek to protect music from file swappers. The recording industry, including Bertelsmann's BMG Entertainment, is suing file-sharing service Napster for copyright infringement. Despite successful measures to cripple Napster having been passed through the courts, other file-trading clones continue to find ways to distribute MP3-encoded songs online.

Up to now, audio on most CDs could be played on a PC. Software allows people to convert those songs into the MP3 format, compressing standard audio tracks into smaller, digital files. The resulting files can be distributed at will via the Internet or copied onto MP3 playback devices.

SunnComm's technology prohibits people from listening to a CD on a computer without registering on a separate Web site first, making it difficult to freely copy the album. The company already has a revenue deal with German media giant Bertelsmann.

Executives from Fahrenheit and SunnComm said they had not seen the complaint filed by Rothken. Nevertheless, Fahrenheit maintains it has adequately provided a disclaimer on its CD case informing buyers of the copyright protection embedded in the disc.

"There's a disclaimer on the outside, and we're not preventing anyone from doing downloads," said Peter Trimarco, the chief executive of Fahrenheit. "But we're saying you have to go to the Web site to do it. It's not being designed to be a distraction."

A photocopy of the CD's packaging faxed by Trimarco to this publication includes a disclaimer that reads: "This audio CD is protected by SunnComm MediaCloQ Ver 1.0. It is designed to play in standard audio CD players only and is not intended for use in DVD players. Licensed copies of all music on this CD are available for downloading. Simply insert CD into your computer to begin."

However, Rothken criticized the disclaimer for what it left out, such as the inability to play the CD on a computer and the inability to transfer songs onto portable MP3 devices.

"Fahrenheit has statements on its CD case which do not address these issues," Rothken said. "The omissions are also unfair business practices."

The lawsuit seeks an injunction against Fahrenheit and SunnComm that would keep them from tracking consumer habits and require them to provide adequate privacy notices on the CD case.


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 Related Links:
> Copy lock shuts out music pirates
> Protesters declare war on copyright law
> CD-maker to sell Macrovision copy protection
> Professor unveils anti-copying flaws
> Copy-protected CD hacked--or is it?


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Sound Off


Talkback:
Good on her! I hope she beats ... - Austin
 
Boy, this sounds good to me. I... - Steve Firestones
 
If they do this far all CDs, ho... - Scott
 
I applaud this woman for taking... - Eric L
 
This sucks...as a college stude... - BV
 
i fell instantly in LOVE with t... - auxMorts
 
The labels want to make their d... - Jim Reeves
 
With all the digital technology... - Charlie Parekh
 
Let them protect them. I'm not... - Ritter
 
The record industry is so arrog... - C.Leith
 
I don't listen to my cd's on my... - Terry Hall
 
They've extended their rights b... - james
 
You CANN'T return a cd after yo... - Dale young
 
If I wasn't married already, I ... - J Brown
 
I have a 1988 vintage CD player... - Joe
 
My main "CD Player" is a Meridi... - Ian
 
There will always be napster ty... - James Portanova
 
Nobody cared when we copied LPs... - Lloyd Sterns
 
heh let's see them try that wit... - zz
 
Things like this, combined with... - B. Morris
 
I doubt seriously she'll win. H... - Kevin C. Redden
 
Warning: "This audio CD is pr... - michael clarke
 
We need to put these ga-zillion... - Don S.
 
If you come upon one of these c... - Susan Aker
 
What are they gonna do with the... - Shane Deal
 
The world just got a few more c... - Shane Deal
 
Ha good for them, I love this w... - Chris Deza
 
And it begins...... This is ... - Jonathan
 
Whats the big deal? I can get ... - Richard Penne
 
The "Californian Lady" was righ... - Patrick W
 
Yo, listen up chumps...first cu... - Chuck Roast
 
Yo Entertainment giants! I as a... - Steve G
 
James, it cannot be repeated to... - Mark Hackett
 
Just run a line from youe cd pl... - Joe Internet
 
You Americans just can't get it... - Ican Read
 
Uncopyable CD's SHOULD be retur... - Joe Westford
 
Good for this woman! I hope she... - Gene Burrell
 
I don't want to have to registe... - David Hanson
 
what we need is a government bo... - Jim Bean
 
Obviously they don't want to te... - Austin Tashis
 
*** OUTRAGEOUS!! - It's one thi... - J. Miller
 
she may not win but it's a step... - Amanda
 
Let's see, cd players are what,... - SoLiveAlready
 
I don't have a problem with med... - Ed Rosier
 
9000 mp3's and PROUD Some po... - 9000mp3's and PROUD
 
Yes I understand you can downlo... - Kevin Tams
 
Just for fun, go to amazon.com ... - Rick S
 
just don't buy their garbage...... - tim phillips
 
Ican Read said: Chris Shepherd
 
I have a old p2 ~400mhz compute... - christopher
 
I'm divorcing my wife to find t... - Joe Herman
 
FTC separate labeling - The fed... - Doug Griffin
 
'Ican Read': Personally, I tak... - P. S. Eudonym
 
Hi!, y hope more people sue tho... - bob bourgeois
 
What happens when your hard dri... - gene walby
 
Think about all the problems th... - Tom Wesson
 
This has got to be one of the m... - Joachim HG
 
This is getting far out of hand... - SnapperTrx
 
Microsft and RIAA think that yo... - Tom Morris
 
Don't be angry at the record co... - Jow Bloe
 
Perhaps an online database shou... - D. W. Xavier
 
Ican Read thinks: "Read: ... - Mark Hackett
 
Jim Bean thinks: "what we ne... - Mark Hackett
 
Did they bitch when this new t... - Woody Brown
 
Well, if the music companies do... - SoLiveAlready
 
This is to Joe Blow>> I agree ... - J Brown
 
Joe Blow: consumers are getting... - Amanda
 
How about privacy from the Unit... - Dan Keele
 
She will win!! For a very simpl... - Tim Keating
 
Music and software are over-pri... - Dave
 
The DMCA is like a Cyst that ea... - Tim
 
Everyone wants our private data... - Dave
 
J Brown, make sure you back up ... - Thomas Earl
 
Does anyone know if this person... - Paul
 
CD Players are built to an indu... - Paul
 
THIS ISN'T CD PROTECTION, it's ... - Paul
 
It looks like I'll be adding CD... - Howard Mitchell
 
Don't bet the recording industr... - Tim
 
Gee, and they wonder why sales ... - Bill
 
So, my DVD carousel will no lon... - Brian Frost
 
It's crap! I don't use my CD p... - Randall
 
Ican Read: The whole point o... - Perry Bruns
 
Music as a service...... May... - Anthony
 
DVD player manufacturers should... - Immanuel Andrew
 
All you need to do is, Copy the... - James
 
Oh no. Step 1: Run cord from... - aphryo
 
All this copy-protection scheme... - Rolly
 
Activation links to registratio... - Tom
 
who does this work for USED CDs... - Danial
 
"Lastly, it's none of thier bui... - Dave
 
If we (the consumer)keep on buy... - Jim Kincaid
 
They'll make you register then ... - Tom D
 
I'm appalled. If this lady can... - Anthony Tower
 
First of all, Charley Pride? T... - Jim B
 
I wonder if the hardware mfr's ... - Pete rhodes
 
TO: J. Miller... Right On!!! ... - Greg B.
 
There have been a lot of commen... - Mike Gilbert
 
Anthony Tower - you have right ... - Thomas Earl
 
Does this mean that Microsoft a... - Steve
 
Hooking up your RCA jacks is fi... - David Rosen
 
The only problem that I see wit... - Michael
 
Copying Still Possible! Rememb... - David Bear
 
I can�t believe the big stink a... - Steve K
 
One thing I am concerned with i... - Drew
 
After the person suggested goin... - Joe
 
As Nancy Reagan said, "JUST SAY... - Ken
 
I will not buy new CDs if I can... - Chuck
 
People are asking, why Charlie ... - EditorGuy
 
ID? password ? for all your CD'... - Carl Jones
 
I guess from no on we are going... - Alessandro Paladini
 
Here we go again. The DMCA was... - M Lurk
 
Excellent! If enough people st... - Joseph Bayer
 
If you can hear it, you can cop... - Travis Zipton
 
I have read that BMG has signed... - Steve K
 
PCs *are* CD-players. The reco... - Julian Abelar
 



 
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