Insert At Your Own Risk

The escalating "anti-piracy" technology battle being fought by record labels has caught the attention and provoked the ire of consumers, who are finding their fair use rights quickly eroding away. But computer manufacturers are also feeling the effects of recent music-company attempts to restrict the activities of music fans, since many computers fail to play the altered discs.

It's no secret that music sales are plummeting month by month, for which the labels blame piracy. But what many CD buyers may not know is that, as a result, more and more of the discs they do purchase are being encoded with various technologies designed to restrict their use in computers. Unfortunately, these discs (not technically or legally able to carry the "CD" imprint any more) are causing headaches for consumers who inadvertently insert them into their Macs or PCs, prompting returns at retail and irate calls to the computer manufacturers.

In response, Apple Computer recently issued a "Knowledge Base" article explaining possible solutions for customers who insert one of the restricted-use discs only to find they can't get it out again. The company adds that forcing the computer to restart may not solve the problem, and sometimes puts the machine into an endless "gray screen" loop.

The article warns, "The following discs are known to use the [incompatible] copy protection: Shakira: Laundry Service, Jennifer Lopez: J To Tha L-O! and Celine Dion: A New Day Has Come." The company goes on to note, "Other discs may be affected as well. Apple is aware of record companies, including but not limited to Sony, that use such copy protection in new CD audio releases."

Apple then explains the various methods necessary to extract the disc, adding that the restricted-use products "do not adhere to published Compact Disc standards. Apple computers are not designed to support copyright protected media that do not conform to such standards. Therefore, any attempt to use non-standard discs with Apple CD drives will be considered a misapplication of the product."

As a result, Apple states that problems arising from the insertion of restricted-use discs are specifically excluded from their repair coverage. "Because the Apple product is functioning correctly according to its design specifications, any fee assessed by an Apple Authorized Service Provider or Apple for repair service will not be Apple's responsibility."