Sony moves to keep Jackson's single off Net

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Compact discs of Michael Jackson's forthcoming single "You Rock My World" will not play if inserted into a computer's CD-Rom drive, as part of a music industry war on people swapping music over the Net.

The single will play normally on standard hi-fi CD players, but it is understood that Sony, the record label which publishes Jackson's music, has used asystem developed to stop people "ripping" CD songs into the MP3 format used to swap music files over the internet.

The move could be dangerous for the record label, because many younger music fans use their CD-Rom drives to play music. Albums that do not play could limit sales, especially if artists are viewed as mistrusting their fans.

Jackson is a high-profile singerwho sells millions of copies of albums. For the music industry, preventing his work being spread over the internet is essential. A music industry executive told The Independent: "We only really make money once we start selling into the hundreds of thousands, so we need a way to protect that investment."

Trials of anti-copying systems began this year, when a number of big labels, including EMI, started selling "copy-proof" CDs on the West Coastof America. These used technology devised by Macrovision, which also makes a system to prevent copying between VCRs and from DVDs to VCRs.

Record companies refused to say which artists or CDs had been produced using the system. Instead, they watched to see whether the rate of returns of the CDs was higher than normal. A music industry executive said: "We sold a few hundred thousand, and the complaints level was no higher than usual."

Although a spokeswoman for Sony in London refused to comment on whether promotion copies of Jackson's single used anti-copying technology, listeners suggested that they did. One said: "When you put it in a PC's CD-Rom drive, it just spins around and around but never begins playing."

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