While Napster was thriving a few short months ago, the music business was noisily seething and quietly plotting. How could they put the digital audio genie back into the content-control bottle? Although Napster has since been gutted, the labels have identified the unprotected CD as the source of their woes, and now it's payback time.
Like the proverbial camel who took over the tent after getting just his nose in, it appears that once copy protection is given an inch, it will inevitably try to get in all the way. At least that's how it appears with an increasing variety of CD copy protection systems now currently being tested en masse by the major record labels. Latest to announce a new "evaluation agreement" is BMG Entertainment, which will use and evaluate SunnComm's MediaCloQ "digital content cloaking technology", first put to the test earlier in the year on a Charley Pride CD (see previous).
Although the deal was announced by both companies only weeks ago, it appears that Audio Advisor will in fact not be distributing Musical Fidelity products in the US after September 1. In AA's place, Musical Fidelity has chosen Kevro International as the exclusive US distributor for its complete line of electronic products. According to Kevro International spokesperson Kathy Ginn, "Musical Fidelity [has] chosen to market [its] products through independent specialists rather than [continue] their previous approach [of distributing the line] through mail order and the Internet. And, unfortunately, AA will no longer be a dealer."
If you haven't seen much in the mainstream press about the new satellite radio services from XM and Sirius, both poised to launch before the end of the year, you soon will. First out of the chute with the big media bucks, XM Satellite Radio unveiled last week its national advertising campaign called "Radio to the Power of X."
News last week about SafeAudio CD copy protection indicates that while fighting pirates, the major record labels are also attempting to seal off the ability of users to place their own music from CDs onto computers. If they succeed, the only alternative for consumers who want non-pirated music on their desktops will be to buy content directly from the labels themselves, or companies set up to legally supply digital audio.
There appears to be nothing more important to the music business today than controlling the distribution and use of digital content on the web and in the home. Proprietary schemes to prevent or control the use of audio files have become hot commodities and valuable assets for many companies. Liquid Audio recently announced that the US Patent Office has awarded the company a patent (#6,219,634) for its watermark technique used for distributing secure digital music files.
In what is intended to have the biggest impact yet on the thriving "rip, mix, burn" lifestyle, Macrovision has revealed that several record labels have been secretly putting its copy protection system onto new CD releases since around March of this year (see previous report). The process, called SafeAudio, is a Macrovision registered trademark and is intended to prevent the copying of CDs, or tracks from CDs, onto CD-R discs and computer hard drives. The technology was developed jointly by Macrovision and TTR Technologies.
If you work in the consumer electronics industry and would like to see your personal CE hero rewarded, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) would like to hear from you. The CEA announced last week that it is seeking nominations from its members, the press and other industry professionals for the 2002 class of inductees into the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame.
Music fans who use their computers to organize their CD or MP3 music libraries have found the CDDB music database, now owned and operated by Gracenote (see previous story), to be an essential part of their audio world. If you use CDDB-enabled hardware or software, the artist, album title, genre, and track titles will automatically display when you put a CD or load an MP3 file into your computer or compliant player.