Universal Music Group (UMG) unveiled an ambitious plan late last month to incorporate copy protection measures on all of its audio CDs by the first quarter of next year.
The news came initially from a 2001 financial report from Vivendi Universal, UMG's parent company. In its outlook for 2002, the company said the "introduction of anti-piracy CD software" would be one of the measures that "will show the path of future significant revenue streams."
UMG later made a brief official statement acknowledging that it "has been undergoing extensive exploration and technical evaluation of a variety of technologies designed to prevent the growing problem of CD copying and duplication." The company also said it will be "implementing copy protection on a number of releases internationally in the 4th quarter," but gave no details as to the nature of the copy protection, the technology firms it was working with, or the scale of the tests.
A spokeswoman for UMG said that the fourth quarter would not see commercial market tests of copy protection in the U.S. In addition, the source said that the copy protection technology and strategy will vary from territory to territory, or country to country, depending on consumer demographics. Whatever the technology prohibits, "it will not impede the consumer experience," she maintained.
Asked what changes the copy protection would require at the replication plant, Panasonic Disc Services Corp. (PDSC) president Robert Pfannkuch told on Sept. 26, "Obviously we will manufacture whatever discs they (UMG) want us to manufacture. If it requires manufacturing changes, we'll have to be able to do that." PDSC manufactures Universal CDs and DVDs under a joint venture with the label and studio in Pinckneyville, IL; UMG also owns a CD-making plant in Kings Mountain, NC.
UMG is not alone in its copy protection pursuits. EMI Recorded Music has been conducting trials with three of the major copyright technology proponents, and is in discussions with a fourth, according to Richard Green, EMI International's director of digital technology and applications operations. "We've done probably 12 releases with Europe and the rest of the world so far," Green said, noting that these releases all state on their inlay card that the disc is copy protected, and what the technology prevents the consumer from doing. He added that "schoolyard copying" with CD-Rs is less a problem in the U.S. than in Europe, where he believes 15 percent of sales have been taken away as a direct result.
Sony Music also proceeded with its copyright protection explorations with an August experiment in Europe, issuing promotional radio versions of the latest Michael Jackson single, "You Rock My World," as a CD protected with a proprietary technology called key2audio. "There are no plans currently to use similar technology on commercial releases of this record," a Sony Music Entertainment statement read. A spokeswoman for Sony Music added that neither U.S. promotional nor commercial versions of the single would use the technology.