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Sony felt the pain: Hackers crack music CD copy protection with marker

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Some music fans are trying to fake out CD copy protection technology with the stroke of a felt-tip pen.

The tactic is being used in Europe, where Sony is trying out a copy protection method. That model won't be coming to America, the company says.

The crack in the copy protection is the talk of the town on Internet message boards, though Digital Audio Disc Corporation, Sony Corp.'s CD manufacturing unit, is not amused.

``Consumers should be aware that attempting to circumvent copy control by writing or attaching anything to the disc can result in permanent damage to the disc, and possible damage to the playback device,'' Sony DADC said in a statement last week.

All five major recording labels are in trials with various copy protection schemes, mostly in the European market.

Word of cracks in Sony's copy protection first surfaced on a German Web site, The new technology is contained on all of Sony's CD latest releases in Europe from performers including Celine Dion, Shakira and Jennifer Lopez.

The protection is supposed to thwart users from ripping CD tracks to MP3 files by placing a small bit of computer data on the disc. A computer reads the data track and ignores the audio tracks, preventing a computer playback of the music. Home stereos and portable CD players can still recognize and play the audio tracks.

But a felt-tip marker easily broke the protection on a CD of Dion's ``A New Day Has Come'' bought in Berlin. An ink line drawn across the copy-protection data portion of the CD allowed the disc to be copied digitally. The original CD, however, no longer worked in a standard CD player.

Some CD customers also reported breaking the protection by attaching a small piece of paper to the protected data portion.

Sony Music Entertainment labels have yet to unleash copy-protected CDs in the U.S. market. To sate U.S. consumer's appetite for digital-format music, Sony plans to release music CDs containing a second digital format. A computer will be able to read the so-called second session on the disc, but won't be able to copy the music on the hard drive or share it over the Internet.
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