The Walkerville Weekly Reader

National Desk: Hard-hitting journalism from your completely un-biased (pinky swear!) reporters in Walkerville, VA.

Walkerville, VA
Monday, June 10, 2024
Carolyn Purcell, Editor

Macrovision and RIAA hissy fit over pirates

Music protection schemes rely on low product quality from major labels for success.

Macrovision recently announced a new method of blocking pirates from copying CDs to their computers. According to Macrovision, the new process works by degrading the quality of their product so that it doesn’t play in all CD players--especially computer-based CD players and combo units. Patent documents say that the process works by adding “bursts of hiss” to the music. But according to Macrovision managing director David Simmons, “the degradation introduced does not affect the quality of the music. Let’s face it, most of what the music industry produces is already crap. Degrading it a little bit more doesn’t make much of a difference.”

Universal Music Group agreed, adding that they would also be degrading their CDs so that they won’t play in computers, combination DVD/CD players, or combination video game unit/CD players. “Our goal is to make it so that music CDs are unplayable in any CD player,” said Universal spokesperson Tipper Gore, “and this is our first step in that direction.”

Currently tested in a single CD, Macrovision’s process will soon be rolled out to most CDs produced within the United States. According to the RIAA, the identity of the test CD has been kept secret, but “we chose a CD that fit the Macrovision process’s requirements of low quality music.” According to the RIAA, over 100,000 copies have been sold, “and no one’s complained yet. We suspect no one is actually listening to this CD. Why would they? It’s crap. All music is crap.”

When asked if this technology would also keep CD owners from listening to CDs that they buy on computers, or making mix tapes via their MP3 player software, the RIAA said that “the industry is trying hard to make this impossible,” even though such uses “are currently legal.” An RIAA spokesperson added that “they won’t be soon. What we’re doing here is proactively protecting consumers from retroactively breaking the law. Besides, we’re pretty sure no one listens to that album anyway. It’s pretty bad. Our long-term goal is to keep people from listening to any bad music.”

Asked what music might be considered “good” music, RIAA technology expert Darcy Farrow said that “there is no good music. No one here at the RIAA listens to music. No one here likes music. And we think that most consumers agree with us. That’s why they’re not buying our CDs. We’re working to offer alternative uses to our music CDs.” Farrow added that CDs make good wallpaper or pet toys.

Farrow told the Reader that there are plans to extend the technology even further. “Most consumers do not purchase CDs to listen to them,” said Farrow. “They purchase them because of peer pressure or because they have an empty CD rack. Only hackers and scofflaws actually place CDs into digital/analog copy-protection bypass mechanisms and listen to them.” When asked what a digital/analog copy-protection bypass mechanism was, Farrow responded “You might know them as CD players. Working with Macrovision, we’ve come up with an innovative means of encoding CDs that makes them unplayable on CD players. This will prevent hackers from surreptitiously listening to protected CDs.” Where the current system simply degrades the quality of the music playback, according to Farrow, the new system will “block playback altogether. Consumers need to understand that purchasing a CD does not bring with it the right to listen to the music on that CD.”

According to Farrow, the new system will not affect law-abiding consumers because law-abiding consumers never listen to their music. “It’s a definition,” said Farrow. “Listening to a CD is making an aural copy, and making copies is not something that law-abiding people do.” Farrow added that law-abiding consumers will, on purchasing a music CD, “put it in their CD rack so that their friends know they own it; put it on the wall to look at the tiny album cover, but consumers only play into the hands of hackers by actually listening to a CD.”

In related news, the Painting Industry Association of America has announced a new visual copy protection scheme that prevents museum visitors from memorizing paintings on display. “Remembering a painting is an illegal copy,” said the PIAA representative. “If you want to see a painting a second time, you must purchase a postcard from the museum shop, or visit the museum again.” According to a PIAA press release, the new visual protection scheme uses proven burlap technology for short-term protection, and well-tested phosphorus/sulfur technology for permanent protection of visual works. The press release states that “once our permanent visual copy protection scheme is applied to visual works, they will never be seen again.”

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