One Million Protected CDs

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.

As reported in recent weeks, Macrovision has secretly inserted copy-protection distortion onto thousands of CDs, while BMG is privately testing SunnComm's MediaCloQ approach. Latest to publicly announce copy-protection exploits is Midbar Tech, which specializes in developing copy control technologies for music CDs.

Last week, Midbar announced that it considers itself "the official front runner in the copy protection industry." The company claims that, to date, one million Midbar-protected CDs have been released into the European market and says that plans are under discussion for entry into the US market.

Midbar's protection technology, called Cactus Data Shield, is said to be similar to that of the SafeAudio system, which adds digital distortion to the data during mastering. The Register is reporting that, unlike SafeAudio, Midbar uses a technique that flags the noise as control information, which is ignored during playback but derails the recorder's error correction during an attempt at copying the disc. The Register has also reported that both Cactus Data Shield and SafeAudio can be circumvented using CloneCD software, from German developer Elaborate Bytes.

Regardless, Midbar claims that its system is a success, stating that "industry associations IFPI and RIAA gave the Cactus Data Shield (CDS) solution the highest score possible for protection effectiveness. CDS-protected CDs play on all types of machines without making any change to the quality of the recording or the abilities of the playback machinery itself. The only thing CDS prevents is the illegal and/or unauthorized reproduction of content."