EMI plans downloads 'shop' to prevent CD piracy

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The Independent Online

The music company EMI announced a deal yesterday that will allow music lovers to download their favourite artists and record them on to CDs.

In partnership with the digital media group Roxio, the leading maker of "CD- burning" software, it has developed a system to allow customers to buy music online and "burn" selected tracks on to a blank disc.

However, the same technology could also prevent consumers from making copies of their downloaded CDs and trading them with other users.

The move is another part of the music industry's plan to stem the torrent of free music available online through services such as Napster and Gnutella.

Roxio, an American company making the very popular "Easy CD Creator" and "Toast" programs for writing music or data on to CDs, said that within the next 12 months it would develop a version of its program to take encrypted music downloaded from an online EMI "shop", and write it on to a blank CD that can then be played in standard players.

But Harm Meyer, European chief of Roxio, said: "There will be encrypted data between the tracks on the CD which, while not preventing it playing perfectly on a CD player, will prevent people making a copy of that CD."

The intention is to prevent consumers from swapping CDs and "ripping" the soundtracks there into MP3 files, which are traded for free by the million over the internet.

Roxio and EMI are taking a cautious approach, but Mr Meyer was confident yesterday that the technology would prevent people from indiscriminately making digital copies of songs they had bought online.

He said: "It would all be transparent to the user ­ they would go to the EMI site and buy songs on a pay-as-you- go basis, download those to their computer, listen to them there and, if they wanted, they could then burn it on to a recordable CD and listen to it wherever.

"However, in between the tracks we would encode a scrambled digital signal that would prevent it being copied."

Roxio, which has about 70 per cent of the market for CD-burning software, stands to benefit if the record companies take up its idea, though financial terms of the deal with EMI are still under wraps.