More Restricted CDs

Yet another variation on restricted-use compact discs appeared last week, when Phoenix-based SunnComm announced an agreement with Nashville's Sunbird Records that also includes revenue sharing. Sunbird says it is preparing to release country music singer Len Doolin's Once in a Lifetime on November 1 using SunnComm's new "Expanded Experience CD" (CD3) technology in an effort to restrict use of the disc on computers.

SunnComm's John D. Aquilino says, "This new release will feature security measures via on-board digital rights management (DRM) included as a second session. These new features will enable CD owners to play the tunes on their computers while keeping the digital songs from being uploaded to file-sharing services or emailed to others."

The companies hope that the SunnComm security measures will produce a "leading-edge, expanded experience CD product that helps protect the artist from unauthorized duplication and raises the performance bar of value to the music buyer." SunnComm has found itself in hot water in recent months after its MediaCloQ CD restriction system was used on the Music City Records' Charley Pride—A Tribute to Jim Reeves. The disc drew a lawsuit after becoming the first "cloaked" audio CD in the US.

Other recent experiments conducted by record labels include the simultaneous release of NSync's Celebrity CD on the Zomba label in at least three different versions. The label has reportedly released a heavily protected version of the disc in Germany, a slightly weaker version in the US, and a disc with no protection in the UK. The German release warns "this CD is not playable on computers" on its cover.

The UK Campaign for Digital Rights' Julian Midgely is clearly exasperated with the myriad attempts by labels to find a way to restrict CDs. "The record companies are using customers' money to fund their own experiments, by throwing different systems onto the market to see who notices, who cares, and what they can run with."

For those interested, the UK organization maintains an extensive list of links on its website covering all aspects of record label attempts at CD restriction. Another web page, intended to keep track of the various CDs that are either known to be restricted or suspected to contain restriction systems, can be found at Fat Chuck's.