Copy Protection? Boo.

I’ve just purchased The Darkness new album, Permission to Land — it’s a great one, conjuring up rock’s past masters of the late 70s and early 80s. We’re talking Journey, Boston, Foreigner and Loverboy here.
Anyhow, the band is beside the point — this was the first CD I’ve purchased that has some sort of bogus copy protection built into it. Crap. Now I can’t play it on my Mac and I can’t rip it to live on my iPod. Ridiculous. There was no warning on the packaging about it being copy protected. Now I’m not sure of what to do with it. Return it? Then I have no way of listening to the 100% pure rock of the Darkness.
Has anyone else run into this dilemma?


  1. Stephane says:

    Can’t copy it on your own computer, can you at least play it on the Mac ?
    I hasn’t happen to me yet but I would return it. My Mac is the main place from where I listen to music, so not being able to copy the music would mean, no CD for me.

  2. Conan says:

    Rather strange that your CD did not have a copy-protection label on it. Mine certainly did.
    As for the protection itself, the two CD-drives in my PC have a difference of opinion on it. My DVD-ROM drive refuses to play the disk without the supplied software, so obviously the copy-protection works on this. However, my Sony CD-RW looks past the protection and gladly recognises the disk as an audio CD, which I was able to successfully rip just like any other.
    My advice would be to either try another machine, or lift the tracks using your favorite P2P software.

  3. Chris says:

    I read one option was to mark the underside slightly on the edge with a marker pen. This piece I read followed up with why you had to do this etc but I can’t remember what it said.
    However, I suggest you do some research on this method before you try such things. :)

  4. Anonymous says:

    >I read one option was to mark the underside slightly on the edge with a marker pen. This piece I read followed up with why you had to do this etc but I can’t remember what it said.
    This works for only one of meny copy protection methods.. I can’t remember which one, but after the data there’s a gap and then another ring, so its very obvious if you have that one (Although I think they released another version making this trick impossible)..
    The only thing to do, really, is to return the disk.

  5. MikeyC says:

    I’ve started to notice the copy-protected discs showing up in shops where I live (downtown Toronto). Usually on the back there’s a compatibility chart that has checkmarks next to “CD Player” “DVD Player” and an “X” next to other. If some discs are now being released without this information clearly labelled then that is truly a scummy practice as the sole purpose you may have bought the disc is to rip the tracks to a device like an iPod.
    On a side note, it’s often funny seeing that the discs they choose to copy-protect are the ones that inevitably wind-up on an alt.binary newsgroup/IRC/Kazaa months prior to release. For example the new Radiohead record was widely available prior to release, so the only people who end-up getting hurt by copy-protected discs are the legitimate music purchasers who shell out the $20. They are the ones who can’t rip the disc to their portable mp3 player, while the guy who downloaded it for free several weeks/months earlier has no trouble playing it whatsoever. The new Dandy Warhols record (which is great by the way) was leaked in May many months prior to release and as expected…copy-protected!

  6. rick says:

    That sucks big time. You could keep the CD and download the album (knowing the fact that you did, indeed, buy the album). Other than that, I really don’t know what else you can do…

  7. Jeremy Keith says:

    What you purchased was not a CD.
    A Compact Disc must conform to the Red Book standard. If it is deliberately crippled so as not to play on computers, it’s not CD-audio.
    I suggest you go back to the shop where you brought the album, and explain to the people there that you thought you were buying a CD (seeing as how it was stocked amongst lots of genuine CDs). If they tell you it is a CD, ask them to point out the Compact Disc logo to you.

  8. Aaron Schaap says:

    If you want to play it on your Mac/iPod – Why not just buy the track(s) from iTunes Music Store? Sounds like it would probably be a lot easier.

  9. MikeyC says:

    “If you want to play it on your Mac/iPod – Why not just buy the track(s) from iTunes Music Store? Sounds like it would probably be a lot easier.”
    iTunes sells low-bitrate audio files that don’t compare to actual CDs. Anyone who tells you differently (“they sound as good as CD!”) obviously isn’t to discriminating when it comes to sound fidelity.

  10. Max says:

    I had a similar problem with my copy of Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief. I got a pop-up asking me to install a special player, otherwise the CD wouldn’t play … so I ignored it (leaving the pop-up open) and immediately ripped it using Musicmatch Jukebox. The rip worked fine, so I now when I’m using the comp I just play the mp3′s, but I can’t play the CD without installing the special player.
    I use a PC though, so it’s little different.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I would return the CD if possible. By buying the disc, you are supporting copy protection that interferes with the way you like to listen to music.

  12. Jon Hicks says:

    That does indeed suck, but my copy plays and imported fine on my G4. I was able to put it on my iPod as well – I wonder if the US version differs in some way to the UK?

  13. andy says:

    As Jeremy Keith said, this is _not_ a cd, I remember when they first started to talk about copy protection and Philips went berzerk.
    And The Darkness kicks ass!

  14. I would destroy the CD is some particularly interesting way and devote a site to photographs of it in various states of decay. You can point out that the CD is just as useful to you after having been hit with a hammer, microwaved, sprinkled with paint and glass etching acids, and covered with agar and dog saliva to promote bacterial growth as it was whole. Possibly more if you can generate ad revenue. =-)

  15. Anonymous says:

    I would rippe it and then return it. :->

  16. alex lauzon says:

    I had the same problem with the last album of Radiohead and Ben Harper. I was able to convert to AAC with iTunes most of the songs and convert the «copy protected» ones with QuickTime Player… It’s not always working but most of the time it does.
    Launch QT Player and open the song directly from the CD. Select all, Copy, Create a new QT File, Paste, Save as «Movie Self-contained». You must have QT Pro to do all of this. Next drag the AIFF File on iTunes, select it and choose Advanced –> Convert Selection to AAC.
    Et voilà!
    This copy protected thing is really stupid IMHO. I have bought these CDs and i want to listen to it via iTunes. Plain stupid.

  17. alex, you do realise that you’re now liable to go to jail under the DMCA for disseminating your “circumvention method” ? not to mention what could happen if terrorists get their hands on this…they may finance their actions by selling ripped mp3s. the horror…

  18. My advice, try the disc in different CD drives and DVD drives. My built in CD drive wouldn’t play a protected disc and my DVD drive would. Other options connect a CD player to your Mac and record that sucker the conventional way. Then I would return the disc, simply for not displaying any information on it that it might be protected. As an avid iPod user, I feel your pain. This is why people hat the RIAA, they treat us like criminals and we’re buying the music. These CD’s should come with a website address that allows you to download digital (AAC or MP3) files to listen on your computer or iPod.

  19. supercrisis says:

    I’d find a way to rip the tracks then return the CD and file a complaint. I had no trouble copying the new Radiohead disc to my iPod, for which I used a Titanium Powerbook. I mostly use PC to rip my CD’s tho. Yeah, I’m one of those weirdos who uses a PC and an iPod.
    But it’s definately bogus that the rights you buy when you purchase a CD are to copy and utilize it by any means so long as it is privately enjoyed (not broadcast) and not distributed. So you are legally allowed to copy it to mp3 once you have purchased it. The record companies want their cake and to eat it too. But I guess they’ve always been this stupid.

  20. dukdukgoos says:

    You should definitely return it. Copy protection does nothing to stop pirates, it only hurts legitimate users. Companies who use copy protection should be punished with lower sales and higher return rates.

  21. John says:

    MikeyC, the new AAC format has the best mp3 quality I’ve heard… not quite sure what you mean when you say the quality isn’t comparable to a CD, when I think its just as good, if not better.
    iTunes Music Store is also cheaper I believe.

  22. Luke Redpath says:

    Despite the legalities of it all, I don’t see why you shouldn’t just download the MP3s for your PC use. You have bought the CD, have every right to expect it to play on your PC, and therefore cannot see how you could morally disagree. The only person losing out here is you.

  23. Yatil! says:

    I had that problem too (with another disc) and I updated my cd-rw firmware. Suddenly my cd-rw didn’t see the copy-protection and I could rip it like any other cd. I would try this method first before returning the cd.

  24. Dan says:

    Thanks for the tips. The way I figure it, I’ve spent money on the disc so the last thing I want to do is go hunting for illegal copies of it.
    But I agree that in the future, record companies should have some sort of “unlock” feature, enabling me to download AAC or MP3 files after I’ve proven to them that I’ve purchased the CD. Someday…

  25. d says:

    AAC and MP3 are lossy compression. There’s simply no way to state they are ‘as good or better’ than the CD. They certainly may be very good…even sound the same to your ears, but the reality is that they simply contain less sound data than the original CDs.
    As for iTunes, my biggest complaint is that the last 3 CDs I wanted to buy aren’t on there. Ugh.

  26. Steve says:

    You should return it. If people buy copy-protected CDs, the industry will just make more and more of them. Definitely don’t download it on iTunes, you don’t want to burn a CD from compressed audio.

  27. Guy says:

    This article tells you exactly what you need to know.
    “Music disc copyright protection schemes such a Cactus Data Shield 100/200 and KeyAudio can be circumvented using tools as basic as marker pens and electrical tape, crackers have discovered.”
    I’ve used the pen technique on CDs that I’ve bought with copy protection so that i can mp3 them for my own use. If that’s illegal then the law is an ass.

  28. Tim says:

    “AAC and MP3 are lossy compression. There’s simply no way to state they are ‘as good or better’ than the CD. They certainly may be very good…even sound the same to your ears, but the reality is that they simply contain less sound data than the original CDs.”
    So buy vinyl instead. No DRM there…oh, and vinyl records contain more information than CDs ;)

  29. supercrisis says:

    The sound quality will largely depend on what you’re listening to the music thru. If you have a really delux set of headphones, a decked out car stereo or a solid home unit then you should use the CD as a base for ripping the highest quality mp3s possible. If you’re using $15 multimedia speakers on your PC or a little CD/Clock/Radio then you can just use lower quality mp3s off the net.
    But I agree with Luke Redpath. The only one getting ripped at this point is you. The record company got their money for that disc a long time ago, when the record store bought it. And they will get return sales from the record store because you have bought the disc. You however get a CD that won’t work on your computer which makes no sense at all.

  30. Karla says:

    Hmmm that’s strange. I live in the U.K. and I have that CD and ripped it with no problems. I too loaded it to myIpod with no probs.
    Glad to see the U.S.A embracing The Darkness :)

  31. 2nd Tim says:

    “The very best of the Eagles” and “The Music” are two that I have which crash my iBook. They did not have any warning stickers but looking at them now I can’t find any of the CD logos. Thanks to Jeremy for that tip.
    But can you do if you buy them online? You have no way of checking then, do you? Can I force Amazon to take back my CDs?
    Damn record companies.

  32. Dan says:

    Update: I was able to play and rip the CD on my PowerBook. I’m guessing DVD drives get around this particular version of copy protection. Whew, it’s now on the iPod. Still a giant annoyance.
    Karla – Just curious — is the Darkness huge in the UK? I imagine they are, judging from the live area photos in the CD booklet.

  33. MikeyC says:

    “I live in the U.K. and I have that CD and ripped it with no problems.”
    Copy-protected discs usually get released in different markets so that the labels can study the impact it has on sales. They are still testing the waters at this point which is why it’s imperative that people show their disatisfaction. If enough people return these discs right now the likelihood is greater that they will scrap their plans to copy-protect all CDs.

  34. When CP CD’s first came out, they labeled the discs, and as soon as people figured out that it would limit what they could do with the disk, would attempt to install bogus CD player software on thier Windows system every time, wouldn’t play in a lot of CD players and other CD-playing devices like computers, game consoles and DVD players, the sales would have dropped dramatically.
    I’d Certainly return the CD to the store, and write the record label a letter telling then why you returned it (because it wouldn’t play in your primary music device, a Mac), and why they’ve just lost another sale.
    And then yes, to stick it to them, I’d probably rip the CD down to hard disk/CD/MD via an analogue route before sending it back to them. These CP CD’s aren’t protecting the music — they’re just pissing people off and acting as a minor deterent to copying — no doubt crushing any hopes of sales for struggling artists too. I’d also send the retail price of the CD direct to the artist if possible (or to their fan club, or a charity they support) to make you feel warm and fuzzy on the inside.
    You went to a CD shop to buy an Audio CD, not a friggin’ piece of non-standard software.

  35. Karla says:

    ‘Just curious — is the Darkness huge in the UK?’
    They are pretty big over here. The album has been No1 in the charts for a while now. I think they are excellent. I have to admit though that it was my 14 year old nephew that introduced me (along with ‘Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster (’ and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club ( to them though :) I still am trying to decide whether they are serious or tounge-in-cheek. Either way they write brilliant songs and are from a county near to mine in Cambridgeshire!

  36. MikeyC says:

    Something else to be aware of: Copy-protected discs exploit a CD player’s built-in error correction pushing it right to the limit so if you do get a few scratches on the disc it’s more likely to make the disc unplayable as the player’s error-correction won’t be able to cope.
    Another consequence is that they are more likely to skip in a CD walkman as anti-shock technology works by spinning-up discs faster than normal in order to read ahead. The laser has a more difficult time reading these discs at faster speeds because of how much they deviate from the red-book standard.

  37. Justin says:

    I am also a recent convert to the ‘Dark’ side, haha, ^v^. They remind me a bit of Queen (Freddy Mercury and all that), does anyone else remember those guys?

  38. jens persson says:

    I think the way Thomas Tydal (in swedish) used is briliant, he wanted to by the music on a copyprotected CD but would be unable to play it. So he downloded the music and sent the money to the record company complaining about how inconvinient this method of getting music is.

  39. Zach Harkey says:

    So I don’t get it, is the Radiohead Hail to the Thief copy protected or not? Because I bought it, ripped it and shelved it—as usual—without any problems. I would be abslolutely foaming at the mouth pissed if I bought a copy protected CD. I haven’t even been worried about it because I figured I’d hear about it first—is this it? Is this me hearing about it? Is it here now?
    This is awful news. I buy all my music on CDs, then rip it to my Mac/iPod—I don’t even have a CD player anymore because it doesn’t fit my lifestyle. Isn’t it ironic that I was willing to pay, but might now be forced into pirating so I can actually use the crap.

  40. Thomas Tydal says:

    These so called copy protected discs have been around for almost two years. I keep track of which albums are protected, and currently there are 335 of them! The first time I encountered one was little over a year ago, and my actions resulted in some TV coverage. Since it would be impossible for me to listen to the album according to the warning label (“This product features copy control technology. It is intended for standard cd audio players only and may not be used in other devices.”) I saw no point in buying it. Instead I downloaded the songs and sent a letter (English translation) to the record company to explain why. I also included $10 to pay for the music (and to show that I was serious and really would have bought the album).

  41. Bill says:

    I know this isn’t contributing in a positive way to the discussion, but I have to throw the first anti-Darkness comment in here… the 70′s were bad enough the first time around! Now I have to endure a bunch of 20-somethings growing their hair out and singing/dressing like Freddie Mercury? Bah! These guys make the 90′s grunge movement look good.
    I worked at a “One Stop” (CD/Tape/LP Middleman) in the 90′s, and I know that if enough people return product, the majors will stop using the copy-protection software. Returns are the thing they hate most!

  42. uneek says:

    Just wanted to rip a new CD on my iPod – sucks! As a DJ I like to put together some songs on 1 CD, so I don’t have to carry tons of CDs, on each just one track to play…
    Some old PC drives are able to play copyprotected CDs, but I hate spending too much time in bothering friends ripping CDs for me!
    The iTunes Music store doesn’t have the special CDs I want to play at the club, and in Switzerland the Music Store isn’t available yet… :(
    Copyprotection really sucks when a Computer is your Music Studio… (I bought at least 1500 CDs, so nobody can say I’d want to make money with music…). In the future I’ll try to download my music.

  43. GBMS says:

    It is very annoying that some CDs are copy protected when you happen to play them mainly on the computer, and you also want to listen to them on the go through an ipod.
    But I have Burning Nero software on my computer, which allowed me to read the disc and copy the audio files only onto another CD – which I then loaded into ITunes – and my ipod.
    So the protection appears to be quite easy to bypass with some simple CD burning software.
    (Using Windows XP on a laptop)

  44. Jan says:

    As far as downloading the songs from Itunes is concerned: I have just discovered that my “Permission to Land” CD is copy-protected, although in a less obvious way, i.e. I can rip it, but there are audible pops and clicks all over the place (which I don’t hear when playing the CD back through my audio CD-player). Out of curiosity, I checked out the 30-second samples of these tracks on the I-Tunes website and, behold, they’re full of clicks and pops, too! Apparently they ripped the tracks from the CD like I did and didn’t check them before putting them up for sale – ridiculous!

  45. TestaRossa56 says:

    I would never recommend that anyone break a law, but, living in
    Europe, I’m not subject to DMCA, so I can say that if one
    hypothetically were interested in copying the CD, one could get an
    external CD player with optical-out, connect this to one’s Mac with
    optical-in (do all Macs have that now? my G5 does), and record
    *perfect*, completely digital, completely un-”protected” music that
    one could encode as AAC or MP3 or OGG or AIFF or WAV or anything else

  46. I just bought a CD from Eleanor McEvoy, “Early Hours”. I like the artist, which was the incentive to buy this rather expensive CD for € 20 (usually, I don’t buy CD’s priced more than €10).
    So when I came home from her great concert in Bruges (Belgium), I put the CD in the computer and… nothing. Blank. I literally bought an empty CD from my perspective.
    Like many of you, I copy all my music on PC to make playlists etceteras. In fact, I don’t have a CD-player other than my computer in the living room.
    But I won’t be spending any Early Hours with Eleanor McEvoy. What upsets me that if I had downloaded the songs, I wouldn’t have this problem. Apparently, it is stupid to buy your music legitimately.
    Regarding the copyright issue, under Belgian law, it is illegal for labels to prohibit personal copying. So with every single track that I cannot copy to my computer, the selling record label is breaking the law in Belgium. But it seems sad that I would have to sue against an artist I like (since I don’t have music from artists I don’t like). I guess the easiest thing to do is just not buy CD’s without assurances from the seller that it will rip properly on my computer, and that I will be able to make my own CD compilations using this music.

  47. After digger deeper into the copyright issue, it turns out that the law that ensures you can copy CDs for personal use is still in parliament. That leaves some political “negotiation” room for the labels, so I can only hope policians vote the proposal into a law.
    As for Eleanor McEvoy, I eventually found another CD-ROM that could read and rip the CD. I have no idea what is different about this CD player.
    Either way, I’m not buying any copy protected or otherwise “advanced” CDs. If everyone does that, I believe it will make a difference.
    In fact, if the labels want to sell CDs, let them put a “Not copy protected” label on CDs that rip just fine. Such labeling is also a way how small labels can create trust and clearly distinguish themselves from the big brands, and sell CDs despite the industry-killing actions of the big labels.