|Author (Person)||Frost, Laurence|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.8, No.23, 13.6.02, p17|
THE freedom to make a second copy of a favourite album for your car stereo could be a thing of the past if new anti-piracy technologies go unchecked, consumer groups are warning.
European organisation BEUC is concerned about a rash of new 'digital rights management' (DRM) devices designed to prevent the copying of electronic media.
From July, the European Commission will hold a series of workshops on the new systems being dreamed up by firms to combat both professional pirates and the online 'file swapping' of music, film and software between individuals.
The move comes as music labels including Sony and Universal have begun selling copy-proof CDs, with more firms expected to follow suit.
'We will definitely see an increase in these devices,' said BEUC legal advisor Ursula Pachl. 'This is the future of digital content.'
The latest album by Canadian singer Celine Dion recently became one of the first copy-protected CDs on sale when it was released by Sony with a false data track preventing it from being read by a computer CD-ROM drive.
As both a record label and electronic goods maker, Sony is in the vanguard of the war against piracy, and last month signed a €30 million deal with DRM designer InterTrust Technologies.
But consumer watchdogs say the Celine Dion CD is an example of how ordinary consumers could be caught in the crossfire.
'It makes it impossible to listen to the music on your PC, and there's a risk it will crash your computer if you try to play it,' said Pachl.
BEUC says the technology will prevent individuals from creating their own compilations or private copies for use in a second home or car - allowed under the EU's copyright directive.
'The question is whether you should be forced to buy another CD,' said Pachl. 'We don't think you should.' Artists and other copyright holders already benefit from levies on the sale of blank CDs, videos and cassettes in Europe in compensation for private copying.
But entertainment and media firms believe the development of non-wearing digital formats such as CDs has removed the justification for private copying.
Frances Moore, Europe director for the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), defended the new copy-protection devices as an 'urgent response to an epidemic of mass copying'.
Moore said they still allowed for a 'degree of copying', but were designed to prevent 'CDs being uploaded onto the internet and disseminated to potentially millions of people'.
IFPI this week released new figures showing a 48 increase in CD piracy over the past year, with the black market in illegal music now worth an estimated €4.6 billion - a fraction of the industry's lost sales.
The moves to protect CDs against copying brings them closer to their movie-carrying counterparts, DVDs, which have been copy-protected ever since their introduction.
'The DVD is a robust and portable medium - there's no need to make a copy of it,' said Ted Shapiro, vice-president of the Motion Pictures Association, representing US studios.
'If copying of DVDs was widespread we'd have a hard time selling films through to TV stations or for rental.'
However, that has not prevented a booming market, particularly in the Far East, for DVDs and VCDs created by pirate operators filming movies in cinemas and placing the results on disc.
Next month's first Commission workshop, organised by its industry department, is due to address consumer issues, with later sessions planned on copyright holders' and high-tech manufacturers' concerns.
Industry Commissioner Erkki Liikanen vowed recently to 'promote the development and use of DRM systems', which he said were essential to combat piracy and protect incentives for multimedia companies.
Report on the latest developments in anti-piracy technologies.
|Subject Categories||Business and Industry|