Every now and then, I get sufficiently annoyed about something to write a letter. Not all that often mind you - but every now and then, I'll be peeved enough to make the effort.

In this case, it was music. Specifically, the Copy Control Protection that has been popping up on new music I purchase. I buy a fair bit of new music - well, as much as my budget will allow. I love walking into a record store, browsing around, and walking out with something new - one of my simple pleasures. So it gets me pretty annoyed when I go to listen to a new cd in my work computer, after picking it up at lunchtime, and it won't play properly. I take it home, fully intending to listen to it while browsing around E2, or noding, and it takes a good five minutes before I can even get the computer to recognise it.

So I decided this was worthy of a letter. I didn't really know what type of response I'd get - the album was Placebo's latest, Sleeping With Ghosts, and their management company had thoughtfully included a contact e-mail address on the back. I figured they'd be the best people to contact, and sat down to put something together.

The very next morning, not half a day later, I received a reply, and it actually surprised me, and encouraged me. I'll definitely be writing similar e-mails to other bands, letting them know that I didn't buy their new album because it included Copy Control Technology. I've included my e-mail here, and the reply I received from Placebo's management company, in the hopes that others will see that this is not a futile effort - enough people putting pressure on band management, will translate into pressure on the distributors - not just from disgruntled fans, but the bands and their management themselves.

It will be interesting to see what happens when the management company concerns are relayed to EMI - I hope they let me know.

From: Orpheum
To: info@riverman.co.uk
Sent: Tuesday, April 01, 2003 9:19 AM
Subject: New album by Placebo - Copy Control Technology

A few days ago, I purchased the new album by Placebo, Sleeping With Ghosts.

Firstly let me say that it’s a great album, that I’m enjoying greatly. Unfortunately, my enjoyment has been tempered somewhat by the difficulties that the Copy Control Technology on this CD are causing me. The Australian distributors, EMI Australia, have implemented this technology on the CD, and it has caused nothing but frustration.

I have already written to EMI, outlining my frustration – in summary, I listen to much of my music while on my computer. Apart from the annoyance of not being able to store the songs on my computer’s hard drive, it is proving extremely difficult to simply play the CD from the computer. At home, it can take me at least 5 attempts to get my computer to simply play the album. At work, I can’t listen to it without suffering through crackling and pops in the background. Technology to foil pirates I can live with – technology that penalises the people who have actually done the right thing, and paid for the music is simply unacceptable.

The reason I write to you, is to say that I will not be spending money on another Placebo album while this technology is used on their CD’s. Which is a shame – I like the band, I own all of their albums to date – but I’m not going to spend good money on something that barely works.

I truly hate being forced to take action that will cause artists and bands to lose money, however that is the irony of this situation – measures which are supposed to put money back in artist’s pockets are surely going to end up working in reverse.

I believe it is up to those with true influence – the bands themselves, and their management – to take a stand on this issue. I can’t imagine that any band would be overly pleased to learn that people are trying to listen to the music that they have worked so hard on, yet are facing frustration such as mine. I’m sure Placebo don’t imagine that people are taking their new album home, and rather than concentrating on the music, are angered because they can’t enjoy it properly.

To put the icing on the cake, the technology doesn’t even work properly... Browsing through Internet forums on this issue, I’ve seen several methods of defeating the technology. So nothing changes as far as pirate copies of music being downloaded goes, while those who like to support bands they like suffer. It doesn’t sound like the solution to a problem to me...


From: mailto:info@riverman.co.uk
Sent: Tuesday, 1 April 200310:22 PM
To: Orpheum
Subject: Re: New album by Placebo - Copy Control Technology

Hi Orpheum

Thanks for your e-mail, probably not surprising to you that you are not the first person this week to air your concerns to us about the anti-copy technology problems on the new Placebo album.

It is very disconcerting to receive e-mails like this from true fans who are going out and buying the album legally and not abusing file sharing sites to access their music. But as you pointed out it doesn't discourage this behaviour when you have such problems in playing a genuine album.

We will be bringing this issue up with EMI and pointing out the flaws in this technology and concerns from the bands supporters. It is good to have feedback from the record buying public and no doubt there are quite a lot of people who have the same problem who will not air their views therefore going unnoticed, so therefore appreciate you taking time to write.

Thanks for continuing support on Placebo and if I have any updates i will keep you posted.

Best regards

(Riverman management)

I'm still waiting on a reply to the first letter I wrote, to EMI...

Update - EMI Replied! (yes, I was surprised to get anything back..)

In their reply, they made some interesting points:

  • We understand that some people might find a reduced audio quality when played through the CD, but this is continually being enhanced and implemented as we obtain updated to the technology itself.
  • (So, if I've already bought a cd with the unimproved technology, I'm stuck with it? Even though you freely acknowledge that your technology is - in essence - broken, you've still released cd's using this technology? Then not cared when people have paid good money for it, and had trouble playing it legally?)

  • You are correct in that the CD was created to be played through it's own embedded player located on the CD itself and not any other player that is currently available to the PC.
  • (So, when on the back of the cd, you said that this cd was compatiable with Windows operating systems, what you actually meant was kinda compatiable with the specified OS's. As long as you use the useless bundled player. And don't care that the sound is terrible. Then everything will be ok.)

  • Sincerely EMI
  • (I think if you were sincere, you'd actually give a fuck that your customers are screaming at you 'this doesn't work'. EMI closed down their Copy Control forum, because people were posting ways of defeating the technology, and using the forum to "propagate untruths about the playability of EMI's copy protected cd's". If you were sincere, you would be using the forum - which, incidentally is moderated, so people posting ways to circumvent the technology should not be a problem - to talk to your customers, and provide your side of the story. It would seem to me, that the only feedback EMI are really interested in goes something along the lines of fuck you.)