A US record company has issued reviewers with portable CD players that are glued shut to prevent two new albums from being pirated online before their official releases. Epic Records Group has taken the drastic step of sealing CD players shut and gluing headphones onto them to stop digital copies being made from promotional albums. The albums involved are Riot Act by Pearl Jam and Scarlet's Walk by Tori Amos.
A spokeswoman for Epic told New Scientist: "Obviously we have a problem with piracy and this is one of the ways we're trying to address it. We're trying lots of things."
New albums have appeared early on file sharing networks such as KaZaA, Morpheus and Grokster with a frequency which is alarming record companies. Eminem's The Eminem Show suffered this fate prior to release in May 2002.
"Sign of desperation"
Jim Peters, of the UK lobby group Campaign for Digital Rights (CDR), says this latest measure reflects the difficulty of trying to control listeners' use of digital music.
"It's a sign of desperation," Peters told New Scientist. "I think its time for them to start rethinking their business model because it's getting ridiculous."
CDR has been monitoring the music industries efforts to crack down on piracy ever since copy-protected Compact Discs began appearing in record shops. These disks are encoded to play improperly in computer CD drives, which the group argues infringes on fair use.
Some music companies are indeed considering alternative methods to lure listeners away from downloading pirated songs.
Universal, for example, plans to issue a unique code number with each CD copy of Bon Jovi's new album Bounce. This will provide access to a web site with information on priority concert tickets, as well as previously unreleased tracks.