Campaign for Digital Rights
Buying a new CD? Watch out for inferior imitations Thursday June 29, 2017

Please note that these CD campaign pages have been frozen as of 14-1-2005, and will not be updated for the time being. However, they will still remain here as an information resource for people still encountering problems with their CDs.

corrupt disc, inferior audiocorrupt disc, inferior audio

Corrupt audio discs, aka "Copy-Protected CDs"

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Summary of Sony's new set of non-"Red Book" audio CD releases

There have been a number of UK releases recently from Sony-owned companies (including Epic and Columbia) that have followed the same pattern. The CDs are in a non-"Red Book" format (i.e. they are not fully standard-conforming audio CDs), and they have problems playing on computers and some other devices. The CDs also include brief warning messages printed on the packaging to the effect of "Will not play on Mac / PC". We believe that the corruption format is Key2Audio.

CDs in this category include:

  • "A New Day Has Come" by Celine Dion
  • "Star Wars Episode 2" soundtrack
  • "Spiderman" soundtrack
  • "Laundry Service" by Shakira
  • "Green Eyed Soul" by Sarah Connor
  • "J To Tha L-O: The Remixes!" by Jennifer Lopez
  • "This is the Remix" by Destiny's Child
  • "MTV Unplugged 2.0" by Lauryn Hill
  • "Heart To Yours" by Michelle Williams
  • "Flickering Flame" by Roger Waters
  • "Celtica" by various artists
  • "Masquerade" by Wyclef Jean
  • "The Osbourne Family Album" by various artists
  • "Live at Budokan" by Ozzy Osbourne
  • "Incredible" by Mary Mary
  • "Oh yeah! Ultimate Hits" by AeroSmith
  • "Dance X-plosion" by various artists
  • "Northern Light" by Covenant
  • "Justified" by Justin Timberlake

There are likely to be many more in the category coming soon, as it is starting to look like this is Sony's policy for new releases. For that reason, it is worth checking any new Sony release before buying, especially if you are accustomed to using a computer to listen to music, because on-line suppliers especially often do not make it clear that these CDs are only partially compatible with the audio CD standard.

This variant/corrupt CD format has lead to several news reports already:

  BBC report about computer crashes caused by these CDs.
  New Scientist report warning that the CDs are being sold as normal CDs.
  The Independent gives a good overview of the situation
  ZDNet notes that Sony are not describing these as 'CDs'

In general, this variant CD format appears to play on most 'average' CD players, however, more advanced CD players may be affected, for example car CD players or audio CD recorders. Attempting to play the CD on computers gets varied results. On some CD drives, it plays and can be extracted without problem. On others, even simple playback seems impossible. We have heard about several CD drives and computer systems that are so confused by the CD that a complete system reboot is necessary -- so you'd better make sure you've saved everything and have a bent paper clip handy before inserting one of these CDs! (iMac users need to be even more careful -- see below).

For those people determined to listen to these CDs on their computers, we heard of one work-around used to get the Shakira album to play properly by using sticky labels to obscure the outer TOC on the CD. Since then, these kind of techniques have been covered extensively in the media:

  The Register cover the news
  The chip.de article (translated from German)
  An early mention of this kind of technique -- as part of a much more tricky procedure.

It appears that US and Canadian releases of these same CDs are not protected in the same way (for the moment, at least) -- the printed warnings on the cover are absent, and this appears to be a reliable indication that this disk is unprotected for this particular kind of corrupt CD. Also, CDs purchased through CD-WOW have been reported unprotected by many people -- these are apparently sourced in the Far East. One person reported that PLAY.COM also sells unprotected US-release CDs via Jersey. We have also heard that in some parts of Europe (e.g. the Netherlands, Finland and Ireland) some of the CDs are sold unprotected but not others.

We have received many reports about these CDs since they were released, and what follows is a cross-section of the most interesting reports so far.

Failures:

Platform Result
iMac (Flat panel version) Celine Dion album seriously confuses the drive in some of the new iMacs -- the iMac refuses to eject the CD and also refuses to boot! Dealers have found that they have to strip down the Mac and remove the disc to restore the machine to normal operation. Apple have a page on this issue HERE.
PowerMac G4 933 Celine Dion album locks up the machine, requiring repair by Apple dealer
Mac (8600), OS 9.1 Celine Dion CD caused complete Finder failure and repeating attempts at a restart. Fortunately the machine could be recovered by holding the Eject button whilst manually restarting.
Mac, iTunes Justin Timberlake CD completely fails to play. However, the disc was successfully persuaded to work normally using a marker pen.
Mac (Quicksilver G4 867, OS9.2.1) Justin Timberlake CD refused to play.
Car CD player (Renault standard player) Refuses to play Celine Dion album. It seems that very recent Renault models have CD players that can play the CD, but models even only 10 months old are known to refuse to play this disc.
Car CD player (Mercedes-Benz C-Class standard player) Refuses to play Shakira album.
Car CD player (New Vauxhall Corsa standard player) Playback of Spiderman album is extremely problematic.
Car CD player (Audi A4 standard player) Refuses to play Shakira and Celine Dion albums
Car CD player (Citroen Picasso standard player) Refuses to play Celine Dion album
Car CD player (Kenwood KDC-6090R) Problematic playback of Destiny's Child album
Audio CD player (Philips Aristona TK 699) Problems playing Star Wars Episode 2 (Dutch release) -- CD skips, quality is poor.
Audio CD recorder (Philips CDR950) Refuses to play Celine Dion album.
Sony CD Walkman (Model number D-EJ815) Refuses to play Aerosmith album.
Philips Expanium MP3/CD player Refuses to play Shakira album.
IRiver SlimX portable MP3/CD player Has problems with Shakira album
LivingControl Synergy MusicBox The Shakira album freezes the unit, which refuses to eject the disc, requiring the unit to be returned to the dealer for repair.
MicroSoft X-BOX Refuses to play Celine Dion album, and also refuses to extract the CD to disk. Using the MS-provided MP3 tools on this CD crashes the X-BOX. Also refuses to play the Spiderman soundtrack.
DVD player (Denon AV-F100 system) Refuses to play Shakira album -- after some delay displays 2 or 3 tracks but then pressing play does nothing.
DVD player (Aiwa DV90 system) Refuses to play Jennifer Lopez remix album.
DVD player (Arcam FMJ DV27 system (expensive!)) Refuses to play Jennifer Lopez remix album. Steps through all 17 tracks and then stops.
DVD player (Pioneer 626D with THX amp+speakers) Plays the Star Wars CD, but audio sounds very thin, and "like AM radio". CDs normally play without problem on this DVD player.
DVD player (Scan 2000) Refuses to play Spiderman soundtrack.
DVD player (Sony DVP-NS305) Refuses to play the Star Wars soundtrack. The player suggests that you "clean the disc", which is a very good suggestion, except that the 'dirt' is actually part of the disc format!
IBM ThinkPad 600 DVD drive Both playback and audio extraction of Shakira album failed. Crashed the hardware, forcing a hard reboot with associated risk of data loss.
Pioneer PC DVD drive / Linux Sometimes allowed playback and extraction of audio from Shakira album, other times completely failed to play or extract, generating many error messages.
Toshiba PC DVD drive / Linux Both playback and audio extraction failed for Shakira album.
Hewlett Packard PA-RISC box / Linux Both playback and audio extraction is impossible for Shakira album.
Pioneer DVD-305F PC DVD ROM drive Fails to play or extract Celine Dion and Shakira albums
Hewlett Packard 9310 PC CD-RW drive Fails to play or extract Celine Dion album -- searches for 30 secs and then shows a red light.
Creative 12x PC DVD drive model 1243E / Windows Fails to play or extract Aerosmith album
Yamaha 2100e PC CDRW drive / Windows Fails to play or extract Aerosmith album. However making three marker pen marks around the edge persuaded the disc to work in this particular drive.
Toshiba 1604 PC DVD drive Fails to play or extract Sarah Connor album.
HP SureStore 9100 CD-RW drive / Win2000-Pro Fails to play or extract Star Wars disc
Toshiba PC DVD-ROM drive / WinXP Failed to recognise the Shakira CD (German release).
Panasonic SR-8584A DVD drive / Win2000-Pro Fails to play or extract Star Wars disc
Ricoh MP7163A PC CDR drive Fails to play or extract Sarah Connor album.
Creative 8432 CDRW drive Drive locks if the Shakira album is inserted (Finnish release)
Apple PowerMac G3, Matshita CR-585 CD-ROM, Yamaha 2100 E CDRW Fails to play or extract the Star Wars CD (German release)

Successes:

Platform Result
Marantz CD-67mkIISE standalone CD player Shakira album works fine
Toshiba SD-2109 standalone DVD player Shakira album works fine
Sony DVP-S715 DVD/VCD/CD player Star Wars album works fine
Sony's DVP-NS300 DVD player Star Wars album works fine (but see NS305 above)
Volvo S60 standard player Shakira album plays fine (German release)
Peugeot 306 (year 2000) CD auto-changer Shakira album plays fine
Original PlayStation Shakira album works fine
PlayStation 2 Shakira and Star Wars albums work fine
Rio Volt Plays Spiderman album without problem
Goodmans CDMP350 personal CD/MP3 player Plays both Spiderman and Star Wars soundtracks fine, but takes 90 seconds to recognise the disc.
Toshiba Satellite 3000-100 laptop DVD drive Star Wars album plays and extracts without problem
Sony Vaio C1XD with PCGA-CD51 PCMCIA CD drive Lauren Hill double album could be extracted with some persistence and experimentation.
Creative Labs CD362IE ZC100 CD-ROM (50x, IR) Star Wars extracts without problem
LaCie Firewire CD-RW (48x,24x,12x) / Mac Shakira album extracts without problem
NEC-5800A DVD/CD-ROM drive, firmware 1.92 Celine Dion and Shakira albums extract without problem
Plextor PlexWriter 16/10/40A / Windows 2000 Celine Dion album plays and extracts without problem using RealOne player.
Pioneer ATAPI DVR-A03 DVD-RW/CD-RW drive / WinXP Star Wars plays and extracts without problem
Samsung SD608 DVD-ROM / Win98 / Xing AudioGrabber Star Wars can be extracted without problem
AOpen 16x DVD player / Win98SE / MusicMatch 6.0 Celine Dion extracts without problem
Mirai CD-R/RW/Rom Burn-proof SCSI Star Wars extracts without problem
Hewlett Packard PC CD-R drive Shakira album plays and extracts without problem.
Yamaha CRW5260 SCSI CDRW PC drive Both Celine Dion and Shakira albums can be played and extracted without problem.
Ricoh MP7060A CD-RW (firmware 1.80) Star Wars plays without problem
TDK 24/10/40x IDE CD-ROM drive Shakira album plays and extracts without problem
Windows PC, various drives + AKRip Spiderman album can be extracted without problem
Lite-On LTR-0841 8/4/32 CD-RW drive / ExactAudioCopy Sarah Connor and Shakira albums extract fine, with only minor errors
Lite-On 12101b CD-RW drive / DbPowerAmp 8 or Nero Ozzy Osbourne album extracts without problem
Teac CD-540E 40x CD-ROM drive / ExactAudioCopy Shakira album extracts without problem
Creative PC-DVD Dxr2 drive Shakira album plays and extracts without problem
Plextor 24/10/40 IDE and 12/4/32 SCSI PC CD-RW drives Both drives will recognise the Celine Dion album and allow it to be extracted to the hard disk on Windows without problem.
Sony CRX140E CD drive + Goldstar GDR8160B DVD drive / Linux Shakira album fails to play or extract with cdparanoia and xfreeCD. However cdda2wav was persuaded to extract the CD using the Sony drive (but the Goldstar still refused).
Sun Solaris machine Both Star Wars and Shakira albums can be extracted without problem.
Apple iBook, dual-USB, DVD/CDRW drive Star Wars CD (German release) plays and extracts without problem.
Apple iBook, OS X Spiderman CD plays and extracts without problem.
Apple G4 iMac with Pioneer DVR-104 Superdrive (updated firmware) Shakira CD plays without problem.
Apple iBook 800, Toshiba combo-drive (DVD/CD-RW), OSX10.2.3, iTunes 4.0.1 Justin Timberlake CD plays and extracts for all tracks except track 1, which failed with a message that it was "probably copy-protected".
Apple Beige G3 desktop, 533Mhz, OS8.6, Plextor 12/10/32 CDRW, Toast Audio Extractor 1.0 Justin Timberlake CD can be copied with Toast when Toast is already running before inserting the disc.

That's all the information that we have at the moment. If you have any new information that you think may be of interest, please E-mail us at this address.

webmaster@ukcdr.org