13th January 2002
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On November 5th, Natalie Imbruglia, the songstress from Down Under released her White Lilies Island album...

An event long awaited by her many fans. But within days we heard from viewers experiencing problems playing their CDs; so we opened The Watchdog Files.

Julian Francis told Watchdog:
"I bought the Natalie Imbruglia CD on the 5th of November. It wouldn't work on my DVD player. I then tried it on my PC and it forced some software on me which I didn't want to use and it would only let me play it through that."

That�s because Natalie's album is no ordinary CD: it was launched with copy protection. This means that the CD has a data shield embedded into it to stop copies being made. When this CD was released, there were so many complaints about difficulties playing it that the record company announced they would make normal copies available in the shops and that they would set up a helpline.

At the same time they released another CD: Five's Greatest Hits. It too was copy protected, and yes, there were problems.

" It could play a version of the CD which is really low quality or it might even crash the PC altogether. "
Andrew, who works in the music industry and prefers not to be identified, told Watchdog:
"I have been collecting music for about fifteen, twenty years. I've about three, three and a half thousand CDs and I want to catalogue them all on a database on my computer. But when I load the Natalie Imbruglia or Five Greatest Hits into the PC and any number of things can happen. It could play a version of the CD which is really low quality or it might even crash the PC altogether."

To shed some light on the subject Watchdog spoke to technology journalist Barry Fox, he told the programme:
"Sometimes these discs do not play properly on ordinary equipment. And that leaves people at risk of hunting for non-existence faults in their home equipment."

The record company has been aware of the problems since November. But last week (4th Jan) Watchdog went to London�s West End to see how many copy protected CDs were still on sale. For Five's album on average we found one in five had the data shield. As for Natalie, it was more than 8 out of every 10. So how do you know how to spot them? The clue is on the back of the CD - tiny print which refers to a cactus datashield indicates the disc has copy protection. But there is no warning of the potential problems.

Watchdog put shoppers to the test to see if they could spot the difference - none of the people we spoke to were aware of the significance of the label.

It is also likely that people are unaware that it is against the law to make copies of CDs even for home use.

Peter McGaughrin, of Clinton�s Solicitors, told the programme:
"Many people have always thought that they have the legal right once they've bought a CD to make a copy for their car, to make a copy for a friend or to make a copy for a compilation. Unfortunately it's always been against the law." Modern technology means that it is now easier to make high quality copies than ever before. And copying is on the increase and record companies are fighting back. With all of the major labels now looking into copy protection the big question is - will it strike the right note?


BMG apologise to anyone that has had problems with their CD's. They say that as soon as they realised there was a problem they stopped delivery of protected CD's. They couldn't withdraw stocks from stores, but any future deliveries did not carry the protection technology. Anyone who has problems playing their CDs can either get a replacement or their money back by contacting the helpline which is:
0151 225 1159.


Midbar make the CDs copy protection, also responded to the programme:

Midbar cares about the copyrights of those in the music industry; we equally care about the consumer, believing that those who use CDs legally must be able to enjoy their music. Midbar is committed to achieving full playability and therefore devotes significant resources to habitually testing and renewing each new version of the Cactus Data Shield (CDS) system. The version which is currently tested and will be commercially implemented has addressed and resolved the known issues.

CDS was designed as a long-term solution and is based on a renewable technology which is being rigorously tested for both playability and security on an on-going basis. It is our commitment to continue to provide a technology that not only protects the rights of those in the music industry but also the listening interest of the consumer public.

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