Copy protected CDs less durable?

by Glenn Vanderburg

In an article yesterday, Gerry Wirtz, a spokesman for Philips, made a very interesting comment:

We fear some of these so-called copy-protected CDs will play at first, but will eventually show problems and break down.

The copy protection schemes work by playing fast and loose with the CD technical specs, especially the error correction codes. Wirtz says that the compromised error correction may not be able to compensate for just a few years worth of normal wear on the surface of the disc. Philips is to be commended for speaking out about this, and for refusing to allow such discs to bear the "Compact Disc" trademark.

Remember vinyl LPs? I still have a lot of them. Most of them are 20 years old now, but they still sound OK. Sure,
they hiss, tick, and pop a little, but they degrade gracefully. I have an original 45 of Glenn Miller's In the Mood that my Dad bought in 1940, and I can still play it and enjoy it.

When CDs came out, one of the big selling points was durability. No needles! Minor scratches make no difference at all! Of course, big scratches will hurt, but since nothing touches the surface during play, you just have to be a little careful and your CDs will still sound pristine after many years. If copy protection is accepted, that will no longer be true. And since digital technology tends to fail more catastrophically than my old LPs do, copy protected CDs may not play at all after a few years.

This form of copy protection not only restricts legitimate fair-use rights, it also sneaks in a de facto "expiration" policy. Does that sound familiar?

Remember DIVX?