Music industry piracy warning over new CD recorder

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First there was the gramophone record which produced scratchy renditions of grandma's favour-ite tunes; then came a generation of teenagers who spent their formative years locked away in their bedrooms cataloguing their collections of vinyl - only to find that everyone was listening to cassettes.

The arrival of cassette tapes in the 1970s meant that songs could be recorded for the first time directly from the radio - and home pirating began.

When CDs were launched in the 1980s they were hailed as the perfect sound, but unfortunately they could only be obtained ready-recorded and the bootleggers faded away.

Now everything has changed yet again, with the launch of a revolutionary mass-market CD recorder which allows music- lovers to record songs on their own compact discs as easily as on cassette tapes.

The new pounds 600 machine from Philips Electronics, which goes on sale in Britain later this year, plugs into any existing home audio system and can be used to copy sound from the radio, records and voices, as well as other compact discs.

The recording quality is said to be "even better" than the original.

"The ability to make your own audio CDs has been something of a Holy Grail among consumers," said Doug Dunn, chairman of Philips Sound & Vision.

"Now consumers can easily create their own recordings with the quality and convenience of a compact disc."

The recordings can be played back on any CD equipment both at home and in a car, he added. Another spokesman said that the recorded version is of a higher standard than the original for technical reasons based on the elimination of jitter from the hard copy.

Another key feature of the recorder is its compatibility with both recordable discs, which can only be recorded on once, and CD-rewritable discs, which can be used time and again.

Blank, once-only discs cost about pounds 3, while rewritable discs will retail for pounds 12 initially, although Philips said they expected the price to drop.

Hi-Fi experts greeted the development enthusiastically. Andy Clough, deputy editor of What Hi-Fi? magazine, said: "We'd all like to have one of these. We all buy CDs and we want to make copies to give to friends and if this means we can do that then it's very attractive indeed."

But the record industry was less enthusiastic, warning that the development would do nothing to curb the rise in CD piracy.

Catrin Hughes, of the International Federation of Phonographic Industries, said: "We lose about $2bn (pounds 1.2bn) a year through piracy and the problem is getting worse. The problem of Joe Bloggs recording a CD for his friends will always be dwarfed by organised piracy which is being carried out by professional criminals. But it is a whole new ball game."

Philips said that anti-piracy measures incorporated into the new machines mean that copied discs will be digitally coded to stop them being copied in turn, although there is nothing to stop a consumer making multiple copies of the original disc.

It is also possible for codes to pass on information about which machine a disc was recorded on so the source of batches of pirate CDs could be traced.

So it looks like another generation of teenagers will return to their bedrooms to spend hours recording and mixing their own CDs. Although they do say that vinyl is about to make a comeback...