Sony to extend its CD DRM experiment

Sony BMG, the music arm of the consumer electronics giant, is stepping up the introduction new anti-copying software for a range of its music CDs. A total of ten CD titles, covering over a million produced copies, have now been introduced using DRM software from a British company.

In February, the company announced that it would be using the XCP (eXtended Copy Protection) technology from UK based First4Internet. The XCP software is not aimed at preventing serious piracy operations but instead is targeted at preventing large scale ‘casual’ copying. It allows for a limited number of copies to be made either as backups or for personal use. However, it restricts mass burning and the danger of mass piracy.

It does however, allow for consumers to make ‘fair use’ copies of their favourite albums so that, for example, they can keep one copy at home and another for the car. This informal ‘deal’ with the customer means that Sony can keep a lid on the number of bootleg copies being made while giving some flexibility to the buyer.

XCP2 CDs are formatted in such a way that they are recognised in the correct format for the device in which they are being played. However, it does include an encapsulation process that surrounds the audio content controlling device access. When the CD is burned, the DRM goes along too. It then prevents the CD copy from itself being copied. First4Internet says that its technique allows the data on the disc to be fully protected while not affecting sound quality.

Sony’s other partner for DRM is Sunncomm and its MediaMax DRM solution, which is said to have been used on Velvet Revolver’s best selling ‘Contraband’ album. However, it looks as though the First4Internet solution is gaining favour.

Whoever wins, Sony BMG is sufficiently encouraged to roll out other titles with the limited DRM in the coming months. However, the company is not revealing which titles they are likely to be.

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