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Tuesday, November 20, 2001
Fans get free replacement of copy-protected CD

The new Natalie Imbruglia CD, White Lilies Island, was launched in Europe furnished with software designed to hinder illegal copying. But listeners complained that it hijacks their PC to play only in low-fi, refuses to play on some Apple Macs and does not play properly on some consumer players. As sold, the CD carries no warning that it is copy-protected, just a small print credit to "Cactus Data Shield 200 by Courtesy of Midbar Tech Ltd, Tel-Aviv, Israel". Unhappy UK consumers can now claim their replacement. The US version, launched on 27 November, will not be protected.

Philips controls the CD standard and their spokesman says: "Any changes that put a disc outside the CD standard result in a disc that should no longer be described or marketed as a CD."

The Natalie Imbruglia disk is a "multisession" mix of twelve ordinary 16 bit CD music tracks, and one data track containing the same music compressed by a proprietory process into a 29.4 megabyte file. When played on a Windows PC, without any attempt at copying, a program on the CD over-rides Windows Media Player, and plays a highly compressed version of the music at 80 kbps - the normal CD standard is 1.4 mbps.

This stops some PC copy software working. But it also means people who legitimately choose to listen to the disk through a PC get poor sound. Other ways of playing the disk have also been affected. Some Macs play no music, while others cannot play Track 1. The disk cannot be listened to when the Philips CD recorder is used as a player. And Track 1 will not play on a Sony PlayStation 2 deck, although Track 2 will.

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