Fans of major recording artists are unwittingly buying
compact discs that cannot be copied by computer. That
capability, designed to prevent piracy, also prevents
consumers from putting the music on their own portable
listening devices. The CDs give no notice or other visible
indication that they have this limitation.
The technology at work is SafeAudio, a product developed by
Macrovision Corp. A company spokeswoman confirmed that CDs
with SafeAudio embedded are on general sale in several
nations, but all such deals with record labels are covered by
nondisclosure agreements. She added that even she does not
know which artists' products utilize SafeAudio, but she
believes at least one major artist's protected work is on
sale in California.
The CDs can still be played on a computer's CD drive or any
other compact disc player.
SafeAudio works by exploiting the technology behind error
correction codes. All compact disc players have error
correction, but the mechanism works differently in computer
CD drives than in compact disc players -- hence the inability
to duplicate from a computer's CD drive.
Macrovision claims that its technology is inaudible and
undetectable to listeners. The spokeswoman said that to the
best of her knowledge, there have been no reports of
complaints and no increase in return rates on the relevant
SafeAudio does not require changes to the disc manufacturing
process and can be engineered to permit authentication
options for computer or Internet applications. Each title
carries a unique protection code, which further inhibits