New copy-protected CDs are Apple iPod incompatible

“Recent CDs by Foo Fighters and Dave Matthews Band containing new anti-piracy technology are selling well despite a backlash among some fans angry that the discs are incompatible with iPods, experts said on Thursday,” Sue Zeidler reports for Reuters. “Aiming to curb piracy, labels like Sony BMG, which released both records, are rolling out copy-protected albums in the United States, which let users make three exact duplicates of a CD, and store files on a PC in Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Media format. But the copy-protection bars users from importing music onto iPods since Apple’s Fairplay software is incompatible with Windows.”

Zeidler reports, “Record executives said they were continuing talks with Apple Computer Inc. to make these CDs compatible with iPods. ‘It’s up to Apple to flip the switch,’ said one record label executive. Apple declined to comment on such talks. ‘We have not announced any plans to license Fairplay technology,’ said Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris… Sony BMG, a joint venture between Japan’s Sony Corp. and Germany’s Bertelsmann, said users can get the music onto iPods by transferring files to a PC, burning them to a CD, ripping those and transferring them into iTunes.”

Full article here.
The copy-protection bars users from importing music onto iPods since Apple’s Fairplay software is incompatible with Windows? Doesn’t iTunes come in a Windows version?

This is an attempt to force Apple to license FairPlay or incorporate WMA, more than anything else. For those who say that Apple’s “closed” iTunes Music Store (iTMS) + iPod system is to blame: Apple doesn’t force people to buy their music from the iTunes Music Store to get access to their music. What does Sony BMG offer? Discs that are useless for iPod users. The best option that Sony BMG offers iPod users are lower quality versions of the albums via iTMS. What if you want the CD-quality version of these albums? Will this tactic work to force Apple to license FairPlay to others or license WMA from Microsoft?

[UPDATE: 8:04pm, EDT: Added first sentence to “take” to highlight incorrect statement in quoted article. Also added “or incorporate WMA” as per reader comment(s) below along with various other fixes.]

Related article:
Sony BMG and EMI try to force Apple to ‘open’ iPod with iPod-incompatible CDs – June 20, 2005


  1. funny, I bought the Dave Matthews Band album off of iTunes and I didn’t even have to get off the couch to do it… works fine on my iPod. They keep doing this they’ll just drive even more people to buy this stuff online.

  2. or just buy them from iTunes in the first place.
    after working all day the last thing I want to do is go to a music store anyway. I haven’t bought an actual CD since iTunes was launched.
    All my music was obtained legally but down loaded or ripped from over 20yrs of buying CD’s : )

  3. Come on MDN, you usually rip into mistakes like “since Apple’s Fairplay software is incompatible with Windows”. Fairplay IS compatible with Windows because iTunes/iTMS/iPod work perfectly well under Windows. Windows Media is not compatible with iTunes/iPod.

    It would also be interesting to see if the copy protection works on Macs, or whether iTunes ignores it and rips it anyway. I’ve got CDs that refuse to mount in a CD-ROM player, but happily mount in a combo drive and are rippable. The label says they won’t work in a Mac, but that’ just to discourage people from buying it because they know the copy protection sucks.

    It seems more likely that Sony don’t want these on iPods not for protection against piracy, but in order to promote their own media players. It’ll just lose them sales and rather than admit they were wrong, they’ll blame pirates and try ever more elaborate ruses to treat their customers like criminals.

  4. It’s not about licensing Fairplay, it’s MS trying to get Apple to license WMA on an all iPods. They are trying to make it look like, Hey, don’t complain to us, have Apple “flip the switch” and allow WMA format files to play on their iPods.

    True that it would be just a software flick, but there is no way the Apple would let MS set foot on an iPod unless iTMS and iPod start to slip significantly.

    It is also just as true that the CD companies could stop with the protection scheme that doesn’t work for all the consumers.

  5. Someone already mentioned (Mattshu) but the DRM restrictions only work on Windows machines NOT Macs, so. If you want to totally bypass the 3 copy limit. Get a copy on CD, cut to MP3 on a Mac. Use on your iPod per usual.

    Of course, I should mention, both these albums are available thru iTunes Music Store as well.

  6. OK, this may get me flamed, but what the heck is wrong with the idea that Apple would license FairPlay for the SOLE PURPOSE of such CDs? I get why Apple wouldn’t want to permit iTunes competitors like Napster to use FairPlay, or why it would let other mp3 players to be able to use FairPlay. Apple is obviously not concerned with the principle of DRM protection, since they do it themselves. And according to this article, the record industry execs seem to have no problem with including FairPlay.
    SO WHAT IS APPLE’S PROBLEM? What am I missing?

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