A Prickly Arrangement

Forget the SACD/DVD-Audio format wars, a more interesting (and potentially more devastating to consumers) battle is brewing among companies racing to add copy protection technology and other restrictions to compact discs.

Macrovision revealed in July that its SafeAudio process was being secretly deployed in tests in California (see previous), and in August, SunnComm announced that it had reached an agreement with Sonopress of Germany for implementation of its MediaCloQ technology in Sonopress' manufacturing facilities located all over Europe.

Now the developer of the Cactus Data Shield (CDS) CD restriction system, Midbar Tech, has announced that it too has entered into a commercial arrangement with Sonopress.

Since last month, Midbar has been declaring itself the official industry frontrunner in the CD restriction business, with more than one million commercially released CDs in the European market protected by its CDS technology (see previous). Sonopress, a member of Bertelsmann Arvato AG, is a media manufacturer catering mainly to the music, video, computer hardware/software, and entertainment industries.

Under the terms of the agreement, Midbar says it is to protect "select" Sonopress commercial releases in major markets with either the CDS-100, CDS-200 and/or CDS-300 version of its technology. The company's Ran Alcalay adds, "Our purpose is to help combat unauthorized reproduction of content, return the power and the control back to the artists, the producer, and the legitimate recording companies, and last but not least, meet consumer expectations for high quality audio."

Midbar has endured a checkered past with its initial CDS deployments. In February, BMG Germany issued approximately 100,000 CDS-restricted discs and had to take a substantial portion of them back because consumers said the discs wouldn't perform in car players and in some home audio systems.