Burning CDs is easy as pie: pop the audio CD into the drive, start the burn program, wait a few minutes and take the "freshly minted" CD out of the burner - or not? More and more often, the PC will abort the copying process or refuse to initiate it to begin with. Copy protection schemes prevents private copying - but people in Germany have a right to private copies - or perhaps they don't? "Copy protection" is a hot topic both in the record industry and among buyers. BMG's recently launched website on the issue obviously meets a customer need for information: each month, www.bmg-copycontrol.info registers roughly 11,000 page impressions.
The site contains a general statement on BMG's copy protection strategy, some sales figures from recent years, and a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on the meaning and purpose of the protective measures.
There is a separate sub-site for each European country that BMG does business in, to reflect country-specific features. So, for example, it is correct that "private copies" are permitted in Germany (§ 53 Copyright Law) - but there is no explicit right to it. Also, there are still problems with playing copy-protected CDs on certain drives for technical reasons - buyers that encounter such problems can use the site to contact BMG customer consultants.
BMG is continually working, not only on effectively protecting CDs, but also on making them compatible for all drives. "Obviously, we want our products to work everywhere," says Martin Schaefer, Legal Counsel BMG Europe. "Of course, record companies would never go against their buyers, so we always use the best possible version of a given copy-protection software to avoid problems wherever possible."
The important thing is to create understanding among customers that problems experienced with copy protection are a problem limited to this transition phase. DVD hardware is already designed in such a way that it can play copy-protected media without a hitch. So in future, says Martin Schaefer, intensified collaboration with hardware manufacturers is necessary for smoothly functioning copy protection in the interplay of hardware and storage media.
For now, it is important to get a handle on problems caused by one-sided CD copy protection, which CD players unfortunately do not "respond" to.
One of BMG's priorities is to keep its customers informed. Thus, the company's copy protection scheme also includes special logos advising buyers that a CD is protected. These are found on the CD sleeves as well as on notices posted in online retail outlets "We encourage the entire retail sector to explain our copy protection logos and to refer to our Copycontrol site," explains Schaefer.
Customers who wish to order a CD online will immediately see that the product is protected and can, if so desired, view information on the meaning and purpose of copy protection. "BMG is ahead of its peers in terms of the accuracy of copy protection advisories. We have just introduced a revised label that informs people in three languages right on the CD sleeve." BMG is obviously aware that a lot of customers will not be thrilled about having their copying practices curtailed.
"This is exactly where consumer education has to begin," says Martin Schaefer. "Once people realize that the music industry has to earn money too, they will surely be more understanding of the fact." One thing is clear: if no money is generated from existing music, none can be invested in new artists. "People who think 'What do we need the music industry for? I get my music off the Net' have got to understand that it just doesn't work that way."