Macrovision CDS-300 version 7 beta

A CD lock-in tech that only annoys P2P traders?

The end of CDs as we know them?

No one who's got music without paying for it has any real cause to complain about all this. But it does represent an infringement of the freedoms those who haven't used a P2P network have come to enjoy. Ripping a CD you've bought so you can transfer it to your iPod remains illegal in the UK and other parts of the world, even if you haven't the slightest intention of giving the songs to anyone else.

What worries us is that the labels will choose to enforce the letter of law through such technology, rather than simply using it to prevent activities that are harmful to them. Stopping someone copying their own CD for use in the car or on an MP3 player is not the job of the labels, but they may very easily decide that it is. Certainly history suggests it will try to stamp on such uses, no matter how irrelevant they are in comparison with serious, mass-duplication piracy of the kind that takes place in the Far East.

Macrovision may seem complicit in that, but at least it can't be faulted for attempting to support personal uses: 'rip' to a portable player, make back-ups, make a copies for the car, etc. CDS-300 version 7 is the closest the copy protection business has come to providing discs that are compatible with personal 'fair use' provisions, where such provisions exist.

There's work to do - broader support for non-Microsoft audio formats and DRM schemes, for a start - but it's coming. A question mark remains over how far Macrovision's customers - the music industry pigopolists - will go to allow consumers to make use of functionality the company has built in. Macrovision can portray itself as the music consumer's friend, but that will count for nothing if Warner, EMI, Sony-BMG, Universal and co. - or, it has to be said, the artists and publishers - say they don't want to permit CD burning.

Then there's the issue of Macrovision's 'active protection'. Like the multi-session structure of the copy-protected disc, this has been tested for compatibility as thoroughly as possible, but Macrovision can't guarantee that its 'anti-rip' software will not interfere with every single driver on a user's system. But as with support for alternative codecs and DRM schemes, so better hardware compatibility should come over time. ®

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