Campaign for Digital Rights
Buying a new CD? Watch out for inferior imitations Wednesday December 05, 2001

Copy-protected CDs

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Known Bad CDs

Here is a list of all the bad CDs that we are aware of in the UK at the moment. Help us find more! See this page for details. Please post new reports to, and also let us know if you have any new information about any of the CDs listed below, or if you can confirm our reports. Thanks!

Note that Macs seem to be more resistant to some types of this so-called "copy-protection" than PCs, so if you find that you can extract the tracks on your Mac, don't be too surprised!

  • "Greatest Hits" by Five: This is corrupt in the UK, with similar Cactus protection to the Natalie Imbruglia CD, including lo-fi 80kbps audio for Windows PCs and laptops, and problems with PlayStation2 machines. There is no warning label, although the Midbar copyright can be seen on the back if no pricing labels cover it. The BMG hotline (0151 225 1159) offers `clean' (uncorrupted) replacement CDs to anyone who takes the trouble to complain. It would be better to get Woolworths, Virgin and HMV to stock the clean uncorrupted CD in the first place, though -- so make sure you ask before buying it for someone for Christmas.
  • "White Lilies Island" by Natalie Imbruglia: This is protected by Cactus in the UK. There is no warning label. See our full report HERE. The latest news (17-Nov-2001) is that both Virgin and HMV are planning to replace their stock of this CD with a clean uncorrupted version, so if you buy it, make sure you get the new version. Other retailers, such as WHSmith and Tower appear to still be selling the corrupt version. For the original corrupt CD, on Mac OS X, some Windows PCs, Playstation 2 machines and some DVD players, track one cannot be played at all. The CD cannot be recorded digitally to MiniDisk. Audio cannot be extracted on many machines and OSs both due to TOC corruption and errors in the audio tracks. On Windows, the machine picks up a data partition that contains a custom MP3-style player and 30Mb data file of poor-quality 80kbps 32kHz encoded audio. Bugs have been found in this player on W2000/SP2. The Australian version is not protected.
  • "Greatest Hits (Chapter One)" by the Backstreet Boys: Reported corrupt in the UK, with a warning in the fine print on the back. However it seems that audio can be extracted on some drives.
  • "World Of Our Own" by Westlife: This is protected by Cactus, but a different variety of Cactus to the Natalie Imbruglia CD. This one typically won't play at all on a computer, and doesn't include the lo-fi MP3 player application. There is no label, just the copyright for Midbar on the back in the fine print. Similar reports have been received from Portugal and Finland. In Finland, corrupt stock has apparently been withdrawn.
  • "The Best of Blondie": Suspected corrupt CD. One person reports that it plays fine in his car CD player, but sounds awful on his 9-year-old Philips player. This may be due to corrupt error-correction codes. Can anyone else add to this report?
  • "Genesis.1" CD single by VNVNation: This protected by Cactus in Germany and the UK, and probably elsewhere as well, as it was done with the approval of the artists (who since have apologised for their mistake - see The UK version of Genesis.1 is certainly protected (2 reports), but it appears that Genesis.2 is not. Success?
  • "Rain on Lens" by Smog: The UK release appears to be protected. A computer completely fails to recognise the disk, and the first two tracks fail to play in a 5-year-old CD player. There is no warning label. Another person however reports no problems with this CD on his equipment.
  • "Superstylin" CD single by Groove Armada: Reported copy-protected. According to one report, the copy-protection is mentioned inside the front cover, so it is not possible to read this before buying the CD. However, a Mac user reports no problems extracting audio from the CD.
  • "Celebrity" by N'Sync: Apparently protected in the UK, with a printed warning on the back of the case. Plays okay on PS2. Not possible to copy to MiniDisk from PS2 output. Not possible to extract audio on Windows ME.
  • "Pieces in a modern style" by William Orbit: Suspected corrupt CD. Problems playing and extracting audio on a PC, but plays fine on hi-fi equipment.
  • "Simple Things" by Zero Seven: Suspected copy-protected CD. When using digital playback on Windows, a lot of noise is introduced, but analogue playback has no problem. Other people report no problems with this CD, however.
  • "The Best of Deacon Blue": Reported to have a "Won't play on Mac or PC" sticker on the front in the UK.
  • "Meddle" by Pink Floyd, "Very Best of ..." by Robert Palmer and "Anthology" (2cds) by Bob Newhart: These have all been found to be uncopyable on a consumer hi-fi CD recorder. However, they can be copied to MiniDisk. Can anyone confirm the status of these CDs on other equipment? (Meddle is confirmed copy-protected in Germany, although a French version appears to be fine.)
  • 4-Hero's new album: Promo copies of the new album are protected with a system that causes a two-second interruption every minute. This appears to be a simple audio muting rather than any more complex technique, however.
  • Michael Jackson promo single "You Rock My World": We have verified reports that promo copies of this CD are uncopyable using a computer. The CD just spins in the drive without any success. The same result was found on several different machines. No audio at all could be extracted from the CD on any of the computers. It was also impossible to play the CD normally on a computer, although the CD played fine on a variety of professional and domestic audio CD equipment. Copying via S/PDIF appears to work without noticeable distortion. It seems that this CD doesn't use audio corruption, but instead another type of session/TOC corruption. This is now known to be protected by Key2Audio. A Sony spokesperson claims that protection will not be used on the public version of the CD.
  • Charley Pride CD "A tribute to Jim Reeves": It turns out that this CD (the subject of a lawsuit in the US) is available in the UK from This uses the SunnComm protection that stops the CD from being played in DVDs and computers. When put into a computer it redirects Windows users to a web-site to download audio files for Windows Media Player (about 3 hours download on a 56K modem). There is a very small label on the package, which fails to fully describe the limitations of the CD, with no mention at all on the Amazon site. See Dan Ackroyd's analysis here. Recent news is that the audio data is corrupted on the CD, and it registers around 7/9 on the corruption scale of a pro-machine.

See also Fat Chuck's site for more information on US releases. Since this is such a big job, with different releases in different countries having different levels of protection, we're trying to concentrate on the UK situation here.

CDs copy-protected elsewhere, and probably protected in the UK, but not confirmed here yet

Please let us know if you've bought any of these CDs in the UK:

  • "Swing when you're winning" by Robbie Williams: Reported corrupt in Switzerland. Massive errors on the last 5 tracks (probably error-correction code corruption). Extraction is possible on a Mac.
  • "Eyes the colour of the sky" by Valeriya: Reported corrupt in Russia. There is a warning that it will not play on a computer on the packaging. Extraction is impossible under both Windows and Linux. The on-line retailer does not include the warning message on their site, although they did agree to exchange the CD for a clean one.
  • "White Ladder" by David Gray: Reported corrupt in Portugal. Plays on a normal CD player, but refuses to play on computer CD-ROM or DVD drives.
  • "Contact!" by Eiffel 65: Reported corrupt in Germany/Switzerland/Austrian, although the Italian version is unprotected.
  • "Jukebox Heroes" by BeigeGT: Reported protected in Germany. Small printed warning on reverse.
  • "Gregorians Master of chant II" from Edel Germany: Reported protected in Germany and Greenland.
  • "Fredhead" by Right Said Fred: Reported protected in Austria.
  • "The Dome 19": Reported copy-protected in Germany. First in the series to be protected (1-18 are unprotected).
  • Latest CD by Dutch group VOLUMIA!: Protected by Cactus in Holland, very similar to Natalie Imbrulia CD, including TOC + track corruption, and lo-fi 80kbps/32kHz encoded version for Windows.
  • "Birthmarks" by Ozark Henry: This CD is protected using Key2Audio in Belgium. Can anyone confirm the status of the UK release of this CD?
  • "STRATEGIES AGAINST ARCHITECTURE III 1991-2001" by EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN: Reported protected, with "this cd is not playable on computers" printed on the back of the packaging in tiny letters. The label claims that this was a joke -- to be confirmed.
  • K's Choice's new 2CD-album "Live": Protected with Key2Audio. Only available in Belgium for the moment.
  • Yessongs by Yes and Greatest Hits by Hall & Oates: Reported proteced in Belgium.

CDs copy-protected elsewhere, but unprotected in the UK

  • "druqks" by Aphex Twin: Reported protected by key2audio in Germany. Can't be played on a computer, nor copied to MiniDisc or a hi-fi CD recorder. UK release appears to be unprotected (although does skip a bit in an old CD player).
  • "All this Time" by Sting: This CD appears to be protected in Denmark and Switzerland. The last 2-4 tracks won't play on a Windows PC, and the tracks can't be extracted either. It plays fine on a CD player and Pioneer DVD. It appears not to be protected in the UK.
  • "Just Hit Play" by Aerosmith: The US release of this CD is reported as copy-protected for Windows, although it can be ripped successfully on a Mac. The UK release is unprotected.
  • Heather Nova CD "South" (Label V2 / ZOMBA): The German and Swiss releases of this CD are protected. The CD won't play on computers or CD/DVD drives. The UK version of the CD is unprotected. The Dutch version is also reported to be unprotected.