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EMI Considers Abandoning DRM on CDs 166

jOmill writes "EMI Netherlands has announced that it is considering no longer using DRM on CDs, because it isn't worth the cost. According to Reuters the company is still reviewing the decision. From the article: 'Critics have argued that the system has not worked as consumers could be driven to illegal sites to download music to the popular iPod instead. A spokeswoman for EMI said it had not manufactured any new disks with DRM, which restricts consumers from making copies of songs and films they have purchased legally, for the last few months.'"
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EMI Considers Abandoning DRM on CDs

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  • Good... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by daveschroeder ( 516195 ) * on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @11:38AM (#17522850)
    ...because when any "DRM" is used on audio CDs, they're technically no longer even "audio CDs" least, they don't officially conform to the Red Book Audio specification [], and can't even use [] the familiar "Compact Disc Digital Audio" logo. While certainly they're intended to be purchased and used as audio CDs, and everyone would still refer to them as such, they're at most an "audio disc resembling a conventional audio CD," or "audio that is incidentally stored on CD media".

    Intrinsic to a Red Book Audio CD is the ability to extract the audio in its pristine digital form. While content owners may not appreciate that in today's digital marketplace, that's what an audio CD is. If labels want to add DRM or anything else not in the Red Book Audio specification to these discs, they are obligated to make it clear that they're not really audio CDs, and indeed, consumers have found the belated warning that they "may not play in all CD players" only too true, resulting in practical decisions like this one from EMI Netherlands. This is what you get when you screw with established international standards.

    Especially humorous is that, any amount of DRM aside, all of this music will always be widely available on file sharing networks, mostly as lossy MP3s. Who is affected most, then, by not being able to extract audio from discs within one's own physical possession, given that the music is invariably already available any number of file sharing networks many times over? The individual consumer who simply wants to enjoy his purchase on another device, such as a computer or portable music player. While DRM is intended to prevent or reduce casual copyright infringement, it never will stop content from being copied, and DRM on "audio CDs" is just one of those wrongheaded ideas, given that it toys with a standard that has already been established for two and a half decades.

    Until someone figures out how to alter properties of nature in such a way that physical property of audio or video being able to be in an analog state via sound waves or the electromagnetic spectrum can be eliminated, there will always be mechanisms for those who wish to violate copyright to violate it. In the meantime, DRM will mostly affect and inconvenience legitimate, paying consumers of content.
    • Re:Good... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mateo_LeFou ( 859634 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @11:49AM (#17523018) Homepage
      "DRM is intended to prevent or reduce casual copyright infringement"

      I'd like to point out -- though most people here probably know -- that casual copyright infringement very likely improves the bottom line of the music publisher. E.g. my friend casually gives me a mix CD of tunes he thinks I'd like, I'm X% more likely to buy one of those artists' discs later. That X% increase has a monetary value in the aggregate. I'd love a link to a scientific study of that value.
      • Re:Good... (Score:5, Funny)

        by Monkelectric ( 546685 ) <slashdot@mon k e l e c t r i c . com> on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @12:31PM (#17523562)
        Preventing casual infringement also depends on your definition of infringement. I bought the new David Gray CD. It wouldnt play in my computer for some reason, so I bought another copy. Then I found out it was copy protected. I don't *OWN* a cd player and I couldn't rip it.

        I have two copies of the album and to this day I have only heard it via an mp3 downloaded illegally. In this case they just prevented me from legal fair use and its the last sony album I'll every buy.

        • by Storlek ( 860226 )
          Just curious, why didn't you return the first copy to the store? Most places at least allow exchange for the same title if your copy is defective.

          I pulled a stunt with a DRMed disc once by returning it to the store several times, claiming it wouldn't play (which was the case... on my computer, which is the only CD player I have). It took seven returns before anyone at the store even considered it may be a DRM issue and not a manufacturing defect, but they eventually gave me store credit for another title ju
          • I generally buy large orders of cds, 50 or 100 at a time. I spend a lot of time on the road and a lot of time listening to music at work ... so if I buy a cd it might be months before I listen to it, and it is not going to be returnable at that time ;)
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by porpnorber ( 851345 )
          So they got your money twice. Score!

          I have long suspected that the motivation for DRM on 'CDs' was to exploit people in your very situation (even a music exec cannot be so stupid as to imagine that you can prevent copying without preventing playback; even the most conservative recording industry insiders know about concepts like 'cables' and 'tapes'). The cost, to them, of selling coasters in CD boxes is that the third time this happens to you, you stop buying music on silver discs altogether. So why would

      • by Gulthek ( 12570 )
        It doesn't matter if piracy is good for them. Even if casual piracy makes them millions or billions of dollars, it's still within their rights to prevent you from doing it. Which means it's still illegal. Whether or not you think that it's immoral depends on your views on the laws of human society.
      • So, you don't actually have any references to back this up? If I were making the opposite point, everybody would be screaming how "most people here probably know" isn't good enough.
        • There are studies "proving" that downloads hurt sales, and other studies that "prove" the opposite. There are so many variables at work that a short-term study will never suffice. By that I mean a study over filesharing patterns over less than 10 years.

          I don't claim that my experience/anecdotal research constitutes "proof" that filesharing enhances music sales on a global scale. That would be silly -- almost but not quite as silly as the assertions of the "content owners" that this casual infringement cost
      • As a result of casual copyright infringement late last year, I went to a new band's concert and bought two T-shirts off their web site.
    • they're technically no longer even "audio CDs"...

      I hope they start putting on the Compact Disc logo so I can find real CD's again. Hopefully they won't be over compressed to sound loud. How about some SN ratio and Dynamic range?

      Some good music should help too.
      • You know, I've found that the reason most CDs don't sound that great is because the recording itself sucks, the mixing sucks, or the CD player sucks. Unless the label is known for producing decent recordings (Telarc, Chesky, Proteus, etc.), then there's a darn good chance that producing hi-fi grade music isn't their highest priority.

        If you're looking for a good "budget" CD player, might I recommend the AH! Njoe Tjoeb [], as it's made CDs sound.. so.. much.. better. :)
    • Intrinsic to a Red Book Audio CD is the ability to extract the audio in its pristine digital form.

      (Disclaimer: I am not an audio or CD technology expert. Take the following with a pinch of salt.)

      My understanding is that audio CDs can't be copied exactly because the lowest-level information stored on the CD cannot be returned directly by existing recorders.

      Bear in mind that the files which *can* be copied exactly to and from CD-ROMs sit on top of several layers of encoding. Even though you can make
      • by jZnat ( 793348 ) *
        I think the important part here is that you're getting the intended audio (i.e. the PCM data that was originally pressed at the factory from the master copy) rather than the potentially-scratched probably-incorrect-in-some-places PCM-like data from the disc.
        • No. I understand what you meant, and that was the point I made regarding CD/DVD-ROM filesystems.

          With audio CDs one can't guarantee an exact copy of the PCM audio because the lowest-level info we can extract may already have been *transparently interpolated* at a lower level.

          I've ripped audio tracks via the two different DVD drives in my PC, and they came out very slightly differently. (Can't remember if the length was different, but the md5 sum definitely would have been). Clearly, one or both was not
          • Sorry, I should have made clear that this *implies* that we don't know if we're getting "perfect" PCM (i.e. the PCM which was originally encoded/written to the disc) or PCM with error interpolation.

            I also don't know how much hidden information isn't ripped, nor if a "perfect" CD may return different PCM (other than that which was originally written) in any particular drive.

            Even if it were theoretically possible to extract all the relevant, unmodified bits from the CD, another issue is that the pits/land
          • I've ripped audio tracks via the two different DVD drives in my PC, and they came out very slightly differently.

            The CDParanoia FAQ explains this [].

            Basically, you cannot seek accurately on an audio CD - you can ask to seek to a specific frame and the player will land you somewhere in that frame, but not necessarily at the beginning. So 2 rips of the same track may be absolutely identical except for the fact that one starts a few samples earlier than the other. To compare them you would have to align the trac
    • Re:Good... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @12:53PM (#17523872)

      While DRM is intended to prevent or reduce casual copyright infringement...

      I disagree with this. In my opinion DRM is intended to prevent lawful use of copyrighted material and motivate people to buy multiple copies of the same work by intentionally breaking interoperability with other devices. That is to say, content producers would like their customers to buy one copy for their home CD player another copy for the tape player in the car and another copy for their portable player. The industry is used to income from people periodically re-buying their favorite media in the new format or to replace the copy they have broken. They are terrified of the idea that a person could buy one copy and use it forever, handing it down to their children.

      Media companies claim that they are trying to stop illegal copyright infringement, but they also claim accidentally posting a song on a file sharing network costs them hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue, and if not for file sharing networks 90% of the gross national income would be spent on music. Why anyone would believe such obvious liars is beyond my understanding.

    • While DRM is intended to prevent or reduce casual copyright infringement,

      That's just the excuse. DRM is intended to control how, where, and for how long you have access to a piece of data, hopefully generating future sales through such restriction.

      Since reality conflicts with the PR, I'll err on the side of reality.
  • Great Day (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mateo_LeFou ( 859634 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @11:41AM (#17522898) Homepage
    The second-greatest day will be when they report that sales dropped off not the slightest bit b/c of this change DRM only annoys purchasers. Not "pirates"
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by VEGETA_GT ( 255721 )
      Ok seriously I want to look through there collection of Music and see if they have anything I would like. I would love to send a message to the RIAA that people well support non DRM material.
  • Yay! (Score:3, Funny)

    by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <> on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @11:41AM (#17522902) Journal
    Maybe the rest of the damn CD makers will follow suit, and I can go back to using my Sharpies to scribble on the front of my CDs!

    • Quote from Boing Boing article "This means that at the moment, not a single record company releases CDs that are protected against making digital copies, says the international industry-magazine 'Billboard'."

      So apparently they all have. But this is one of the few to be talking about making it "official".
  • Which is it? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Aladrin ( 926209 )
    TFS says they are considering stopping, and then says they stopped months ago. Could we make up our minds please?
  • Critics have argued that the system has not worked as consumers could be driven to illegal sites to download music to the popular iPod instead

    Who needs to illegally download? DRM'd "CDs" have a much more serious flaw, from EMI's perspective - They don't actually stop anyone from ripping them (and as a perk, they don't play in some audio CD players, particularly car CD players), meaning users need to rip and reburn them just to use as intended.

    Good to see them giving up, though, regardless of the reason
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DaveCar ( 189300 )

      I haven't found any CDs that wouldn't happily rip with cdparanoia on Linux. Ergo DRM CDs are pointeless as it only takes on smartarse with a free OS to flood the P2P channels with decent quality rips.

      A colleague had a couple of CDs, one being by the Beatles, which appeared to have a second data session containing compressed versions and some Windows/Mac driver type stuff on it. It wouldn't rip in his Mac, he claimed - I don't know if this was some rootkit type setup. No problem extracting the CDDA which I g
    • Very true. I haven't encountered any DRMed "CDs" that I couldn't extract on my Linux box, but they would not rip on any of my Windows boxes. However, I've encountered some that refuse to play on truck's in-dash CD player.

      BTW--I noticed in your TFA quote that it references "illegal sites". I'd just like to point out, that, AFAIK, the P2P technology itself is still not illegal in any jurisdiction that I'm aware of, it's only the use of them for distributing copyrighted material that is illegal.
    • by mangu ( 126918 )
      they don't play in some audio CD players, particularly car CD players), meaning users need to rip and reburn them just to use as intended

      And, since they now have a working copy, they can return the defective original to the store and get a refund...

  • by symbolic ( 11752 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @11:43AM (#17522936)
    But did hell freeze over?

    Finally, they're starting to get a clue. I do not advocate pirating music in any way. However, I think it's equally, if not more insidious, that commercial interests are making it very difficult for consumers to *want* to do the right thing. This is a step in the right direction. *AA....are you listening?
    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @12:11PM (#17523294) Homepage Journal
      Well they got a clue but not the one your thinking of.
      1. DRM costs money.
      2. Current DRM didn't stop the music from showing up on file shareing networks.
      3. Current DRM is a waste of money.
      4. Stop paying for DRM that doesn't work.
      5. More Profit.

      Now if they ever get effective DRM it will be back.
      • Which will come first?

        Effective DRM
        An end to Spam
        or the release of Duke Nukem Forever?
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by paeanblack ( 191171 )
          Which will come first?

          Effective DRM
          or the release of Duke Nukem Forever?

          The current problem with Duke Nukem Forever is the DRM they implemented on the master disc. The actual game has been finished for quite some time now. The reason you can't find it in stores is because the cd manufacturers haven't figured out how copy the master without Duke showing up and putting his boot up their ass. It truly is the world's first kickass DRM.

          DRM...the only way to win is not to play.
      • by jZnat ( 793348 ) *

        Now if they ever get effective DRM it will be back.

        Which is effectively impossible to do with CDs. [Audio] CDs follow what is known as the Red Book [] Compact Disc Digital Audio standard. This is where the CDDA [] trademark we all know and love from CDs comes from. Said standard does not allow anything but PCM audio data, thus it is impossible to create a CD that both contains "effective" DRM as well as follows the Red Book standard (which is required in order to use the CDDA trademark on your CDs).

        I've notic

      • Sounds points, but I think the most important one missing from your list is simply:

        6. Dealing with more product returns which often cost more than the original distribution cost of the CD in the first place.

        All because these whackajob DRM controls prevent real customers from playing the disc in a number of 'normal' players.

      • 5. More Profit.
        Now if they ever get effective DRM it will be back.

        No, they have just realised that getting favourable laws passed and enforced is cheaper and effective.


      • That is the kind of clue that most people expect from them.

        And there is no such thing as effective DRM.

        • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )
          "And there is no such thing as effective DRM."
          Still not not keep them from trying. I haven't seen any ISOs for the 360 yet so Microsoft's for the 360 is effective for now.
  • Duh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by _PimpDaddy7_ ( 415866 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @11:43AM (#17522942)
    "EMI Netherlands has announced that it is considering no longer using DRM on CDs, because it isn't worth the cost.

    We could have told you that, but since when did you guys ever listen to your customers?

    From the article: 'Critics have argued that the system has not worked as consumers could be driven to illegal sites to download music to the popular iPod instead. A spokeswoman for EMI said it had not manufactured any new disks with DRM, which restricts consumers from making copies of songs and films they have purchased legally, for the last few months.'"

    Did you ever think we, as consumers, when buying a CD, want to make backups, import the CD to our Ipod or other MP3 player?

    It's amazing how management runs these companies. How can you deliver a product your customer wants when you don't even listen to what they WANT?
    • I'd just have loved to be a fly on the wall when Senior Exec #1 and Senior Exec #2 had a chat along the lines of 'you know that DRM thing which all our customers said was a dumb idea but we did anyway?'
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by GigsVT ( 208848 )

      Managment listens to these stupid sales pitches for products like this, and buys into the promises.

      Salesmen (especially software salesmen) are more dangerous to a company than any competitor.
  • ...and the poor software pirates who are quickly being putting out of business. How are they going to put food on the table if they don't have anything to crack? Let's do the right thing and think of their needs, people!
  • by e4g4 ( 533831 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @12:03PM (#17523202)
    ...EMI has announced they are discontinuing the release of new albums on standard Audio CDs and will now be selling Audio HD-DVDs complete with fingerprint scanners and GPS transmitters and facial recognition software. Any AHD-DVD found to be played by a user other than it's owner (or within hearing range of a non-owner) will self-destruct, and any AHD-DVD found outside it's allocated region will explode.

    In other, other news, numerous airlines worldwide have banned the usage of all media disks during flight.
  • by blueZhift ( 652272 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @12:08PM (#17523260) Homepage Journal
    In the article, it says that the DRM'd CDs were sold primarily outside of the U.S.. I suspect this was because of the headaches and lawsuits they knew would likely plague them in the United States. But now with the globalization fueled by the internet, I can imagine that more and more U.S. consumers were importing these DRM'd CDs perhaps after discovering a foreign artist via their music downloaded from the internet. If that's even partially true, then it would be more proof in support of the notion that "sharing" music over the internet is actually growing the market. Making music easier to get legitimately will be a win for the music industry in the long run, if they can get over their CD and DRM fixations.
  • EMI Artist list (Score:4, Informative)

    by jimstapleton ( 999106 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @12:10PM (#17523292) Journal
    List by sub label. Taken from []

    *NOTE: The site is flash so I can't copy and paste, these are hand copied, sorry for misspellings* ::EMI::
    Auf Der Maur
    Badly Drawn Boy
    Beth Orton
    Corinne Bailey Ray
    David Gilmore
    Faith Evans
    Hot Chip
    Iron Maiden
    John Cale
    Kate Bush
    Keren Ann
    Pink Floyd
    Radio 4
    Robbie Williams
    Shawn Emanuel
    Sigur Ros
    The Aliens
    The Concrete
    Vincent Van and the Villans ::Heavenly Records::
    Ed Hardcourt
    The Little Ones
    The Magic Numbers
    The Vines ::DFA Records::
    Black Dice
    Delia Gonzalz & Gavin Russom
    The Juan Maclean ::Positiva:: ::Positiva::
    Deep Dish
    Ferry Corsten
    Paul Van Dyk
    Soul Avengerz
    Soul Seekers
    The Shapeshifters ::Positiva:: ::Additive::

    • This list is missing:
      Frank Sinatra (all of his classic 50's output was for Capitol, an American label owned by EMI)
      The Beach Boys
      and the group that many think was the best of all time:
      The Beatles
      • I think "was" is the operative word here.

        The Beatles formed Apple records and broke away from EMI, and later that freak Michael Jackson bought their whole catalog at one point. I remember being sickened by the thought. I think Jacko had to sell the collection to pay for his legal troubles, if and to whom I don't know.

        I'm pretty sure the list given is just current (living) EMI artists.

        I believe the Rolling Stones used to be one of theirs, also.
      • This was the list on their website, as the other reply said, not a full historical list of everything they've done.
    • I own every Concretes album ever released, and I've never had the remotest issue ripping them. I'm curious as to what the DRM on those CDs was to begin with.
  • Logical (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jugalator ( 259273 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @12:14PM (#17523352) Journal
    So they're making a definity imnprovement of the product availability to their customers, making a definite cost reduction, with only a theoretical risk of noticeably increased piracy? Yeah, that sounds logical here too, and I wonder what took them so long. Pirates aren't those crying out at DRM, they use BitTorrent or other P2P nets. That's the biggest design hole of DRM, IMHO. Maybe the point was to not have a single pirate be able to rip (one is enough) that protection or gain it from other sources where it's not protected (or before it is), but all I can say about that idea is "dream on".
  • do please find sanity elsewhere as well, industry.
  • I posted about this earlier on []

    Ithink that the last major UK EMI release with DRM was Coldplay's X&Y back in 2005, any other releases I noticed on EMI was on the budget/reissue EMI Gold label, which was usually sold at about £2.99 in the bargain bin's at Sainsburys (a posher version of Walmart for our American chums ;) )

    Why they kept it on the cheap stuff and not the latest releases I don't know, I suspect they were trying to see how many returns as "faulty" they would get on the budget range, maybe it was too high a percentage and they decided the cost of the returns on a big selling CD was too high.

    They used to have a pro-drm site at [] printed on the DRM'd CD's but they seem to have pulled it.

    Funny to see how cocky the record companies were back in 2002 compared to now - ll_be_protected/ []

  • EMI, in a recent press release, has declared that water is wet and the Earth is very likely in orbit around the sun.

    "We're as surprised as anyone," said one EMI representative.
  • Lets remember Tommi Kyyräs comments on playing cd's: .html []
  • by beezly ( 197427 ) <beezly.beezly@org@uk> on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @12:59PM (#17523946) Homepage
    Maybe they realised it was a waste of time because it doesn't work.

    This may just be my experience, but I haven't come across a single CD (including some which are explicitly marked as having some sort of "Copy Protection" on them) which didn't rip first time in my PC. There's nothing special about my drive (I've used an old Matsushita DVD drive and a Plextor DVD Re-writer). Maybe it's because I am running Linux, but as far as I can tell, CD-Ex on Windows would work equally well as anything I am using under Linux.
  • by apodyopsis ( 1048476 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @01:06PM (#17524066)
    as pointed out before the Red Book specification describes audio CD's.

    but data DVD has sectors and format information in the data on top of the red book specification.

    and the Orange Book specification give details of multisession formats.

    most of the "copy protection" systems used worked by wrapping the session information to impossible combinations that were impossible to read. or degrading the galois based CRC information that was used to recover bad data. neither of these methods were fatal to a Red Book player that only played audio disks as it ignored all other formats happily.

    but these days most CD players can play MP3's also, and hence are data players not audio players - this means they are exactly the systems that the copy protection was designed to disrupt.

    so the CD manufacturers found themselves in a situation where the new hifi's being built were being disrupted by they copy protection and hence unable to play any of the CDs. its a question of the physiscal data path built into the decoder IC on most MP3/Audio CD players.

    in short, I'm not suprised they stopped including it - I'm just suprised they waited so long.

  • Some record companies claimed that allowing radio stations to play records would damage their profits.

    As it turned out they were talking rubbish.

  • by thrill12 ( 711899 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @02:07PM (#17525042) Journal least in some of the newsreports I saw, in which they stated that "it was not feasible to use a DRM system as the system was hacked every time", rather than (the truth) "the consumer and CD license holders (!) have fully rejected the protection systems we have devised, because they hamper fair use - especially in the area of simply playing out the CD (not even copying it) on normal consumer-grade playback systems and even outright violate consumer rights (sony rootkit)".

  • Considering. Hmm. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Ed Black ( 973540 )
    Well talk is cheap - speaking as someone who stopped my 3 CDs a month habit when CD copy protection became widespread, It's going to take more than "considering" to get me near their coasters again. To be honest, the idea of giving money to them at all doesn't sit well with me with the way record companies have behaved over the last few year - it just feels more like paying a ransom to suited mobsters than buying music. Ah well, there's no good way to pay the artists and not the record companies I suppose
  • Non-Dutch music shoppers still up a creek!

    (or, alternatively...)

    Continues to fund RIAA lawsuits!
  • I bought a classic music set (2 sets, 6 cds per set, best classics vol 1 and 2, spectacular) and when my 6 cd changer part of the music set that dates 1991 have (understandably) broken down from continuous playing and changing, i was able to rip them to mp3s without any problems, and with quality. now i connected a stereo line out cable to the music set's amp, and it is playing via winamp perfectly.

    this is the way to make a happy customer.
  • Most other businesses, large and small, realize the essential fickleness of the customer. That means that any barriers you place in his way will result in his finding another way. Now, that doesn't matter when the customer has no other way to get what he wants: that's how it was in the music industry for a long time. All that changed with Napster and the succession of sharing protocols and applications that have come along since. Yes, they tried (are still trying) to use the courts to suppress that "other w

May all your PUSHes be POPped.