Truth In Labeling

There's no question that restricted-use or copy-protected CDs are finding their way onto retailer shelves and into unsuspecting consumer hands—often with frustrating results. What is in doubt in many consumers' minds is how to recognize a restricted-use disc before purchase.

The National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) and the Global Entertainment Retail Alliance (GERA) have now announced their support for guidelines for labeling of copy-controlled discs as released by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). NARM has been outspoken in the past, stating that restricting the fair-use rights of customers may harm retailers.

In a statement, NARM says, "We agree that the use of these guidelines is a necessary first step in formulating a marketplace that benefits everyone in the digital entertainment industry. Further, we welcome IFPI's call for dialogue with retailers regarding other issues that may be raised by the introduction of discs that feature copy-control technology, and we pledge NARM's support of such a dialogue."

At its meeting last November, the main board of the IFPI recommended to its members that any CDs they release featuring copy-control technologies (CCTs) should be clearly labeled. The IFPI has since developed a set of general guidelines to "help member companies determine what information should be included on the packaging of a copy-control CD." The IFPI points out that compliance with these guidelines (which are not necessarily intended to reflect any legal obligations that may apply) is voluntary.

The IFPI recommendations are:

A. Outside of Packaging
Record producers are encouraged to display on the outside of the disc packaging (whether on the artwork or on a sticker) the following information, in a size and position that is sufficiently prominent to be easily noticeable by consumers prior to purchase:

Compatibility information: sufficient information as to the types of devices or platforms on which the disc is intended to play (such as standard CD audio players) and/or as to those devices or platforms on which the disc is not intended to play. In this regard, the expectations of the consumer as to playability on various platforms should be taken into account.

Computer use: if computer use (via a second session or Internet download option) is dependent upon compatibility with certain hardware or software requirements, it is recommended that this be drawn to the consumer's attention. For practical reasons, it is recognized that full details of relevant hardware or software specifications may need to be provided inside the packaging. If computer copying is allowed within a secure environment (such as a digital rights management system), IFPI members may also wish to indicate this functionality.

B. Inside Packaging
IFPI members may wish to include additional information, which does not relate to the essential characteristics of the product, inside the inlay packaging. Examples of this information might include: details as to how to operate the second session or download player/digital rights management system; or resources for compatibility information (eg Website address of CCT provider, help-line telephone number).

C. Language & Symbols
For local releases, it is recommended that IFPI members set out the above information in the appropriate local language(s). For international or multi-territory releases, however, IFPI members are encouraged to label in such a manner that the consumer is properly informed prior to purchase in all of the territories of the release. This may involve using multiple languages, either on the artwork or on stickers, and/or using symbols. If symbols are used, it is essential that their meaning be clear and unambiguous and that, where necessary, the symbols be complemented by appropriate information campaigns.

D. Liaison with Retailers
IFPI members and/or their IFPI national groups are encouraged to make contact with retailers or their representative associations at national level to discuss general issues that may be raised by the introduction of discs featuring CCTs. These might include the implementation of in-store consumer or other direct-to-consumer information, or other measures that may be considered useful to complement information already set out on the discs themselves. Individual IFPI members are also encouraged to make contact with their retail customers in regard to the characteristics of their CCT releases.

E. Other
IFPI members are requested to supply samples to IFPI of the labels applied to CDs featuring CCTs in different territories, so that IFPI can monitor the level of consumer information being provided and, if necessary, propose any further guidelines that may be considered necessary. Members are also asked to notify IFPI in advance of any releases that will not feature such labels.