Campaign for Digital Rights
Buying a new CD? Watch out for inferior imitations Thursday May 23, 2024

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"

Home | Quick Summary | Web Buttons | Retailer Policies | Action Reports | Our Research | Links + Background Reading | Help us find Bad CDs | Known Bad CDs | Warning Labels | For Leafletting Volunteers | Contact

Online CD Retailer Policies

Many people have a genuine legitimate requirement to purchase guaranteed uncorrupted audio CDs (for example, those using a PC or Mac as their CD/DVD entertainment system (note), or those with car CD players or other players that corrupt CDs are known to be incompatible with). For this reason, we have decided to look into the policies of a selection of online CD retailers on this issue. Also see our article HERE which gives some more background to this campaign. The following table shows which retailers have responded, and a summary of their policies. Click on the date of the response to see the response in full.

At the moment this is primarily UK-based with a few international suppliers. If there is interest, the list may be expanded later to include high-street retailers. Please let us know if there is a major supplier you feel we should add to the list.

Retailer Last update Sells 100% non-corrupt CDs? Clear warning on site for all corrupt discs? Full refund given for any corrupt disc? Quotes / additional notes
Amazon UK Replied 2-Apr-2003
Customer report 21-Jun-2003
no no no Amazon appear to be taking a very unfriendly and unhelpful stance on this issue. For many corrupt discs, they do not show warnings on the site. When put under pressure from customers, they will include a warning, but not consistently. With effort it appears possible to get a refund, but when one customer contacted them on the issue of warnings, they answered with misinformation. Another customer had a ludicrously long exchange with their "customer support", who demonstrate a stunning level of incompetance. Their reply to my own enquiry was no better. I suggest using some other more responsive and customer-friendly retailer. (However, I will update this section if Amazon decide to take this consumer issue more seriously and make some clear policy commitments to improve the situation.)
Update Oct-2003: One customer reports Amazon to have been responsive to his complaint, accepting a corrupt disc for return on the first attempt.
CD-WOW Replied 27-Feb-2003 no no YES CD-WOW originally stated that they would mark the corrupt releases on their site, but this policy was apparently soon dropped. They have stated several times since that they have been under pressure from the record companies not to show any warnings about which releases are corrupt: see here and here. However, they will give you a full and prompt refund and send you a freepost return envelope if you complain about a corrupt disc you have bought. Also, it seems that they will accept enquiries about titles by E-mail, and tell you whether the disc they sell is corrupt or not (although unfortunately not always with 100% accuracy -- see here). Replied 3-Jun-2003 no no YES have now (3-Jun-2003) clarified their policy on corrupt disc returns: "We always offer a full refund on any of our products if they do not work for the customer ..." (see the full response). However, unlike CD-WOW, they will not reply to customers by E-mail to tell them whether the titles they supply are corrupted or not. Update Oct-2003: We have heard from one customer that they will now check the corruption status of titles by E-mail: see here. Update Dec-2004: We've heard that PLAY are now back to their old policy again, refusing to tell customers whether a disc is corrupt before the order is made. 7-Jun-2003 no where known YES "... we are happy to refund the customer their costs ... where we do find out about copy protected CDs we try to ensure we note this on our site." (see the full response)
HMV UK E-mailed 26-Feb-2003 + 31-Mar-2003 - - - HMV are selling corrupt discs without warnings on the site, but they have not responded to our enquiries. Their returns policy is unknown at present. However, one person received this positive response regarding a corrupt disc bought in an HMV shop, which is hopeful. However, another person (Apr-2004) was refused a refund in an HMV shop after two corrupt EMI discs refused to play in his car, which isn't acceptable. It appears that official HMV policy is to give a refund, but most of the shops will tell you that you are only entitled to an exchange. Insist on a refund, even if, as one person found (Sep-2004, Guildford), it takes 20 minutes of insistence!
Tower Records UK E-mailed 26-Feb-2003 + 31-Mar-2003 - - - -
Tesco Replied 03-Apr-2003
Customer complaint 20-May-2003
- - - "... we are currently investigating this issue on your behalf ..." (April). Well, they haven't come back to us, but one Tesco customer sent us this account of the problems he had trying to return a corrupt Blur CD he purchased from Tesco's, which isn't promising. Another customer (Nov-2004) has added to that with an account of his troubles returning a faulty DVD. Know your legal rights!
Compact Disc Services Customer reply 15-Aug-2003
E-mailed 18-Aug-2003
no no - In reply to a customer's enquiry, they wrote: "It is true that a lot of the majors are employing this technology on their CD's, and you can't blame them really." I can certainly blame them, and so can all those people who have sent reports of problems to this site. I'm waiting to hear an official response from them now.
CD999 Replied 27-Feb-2003 no no YES "our sales team would be happy to check any title in stock to make sure it plays in a PC before you place an order"
Disky Replied 26-Feb-2003 no no - "as retailers, we can only supply the goods that we are, in turn supplied"
Audio Street E-mailed 26-Feb-2003 - - - -
Cheap or What Replied 27-Feb-2003 no no YES "... we will always offer a full refund on any CD purchased from us that does not match the customer's needs and obviously copy-protected CDs fall into this category."
Dholia E-mailed 26-Feb-2003 - - - -
Timeless Tracks Replied 26-Feb-2003 no no YES "... we offer a full refund ... we want happy customers, and if copy protection means audio cd's can't be played on the vehicle of choice, then that seems wrong."

Retailers -- have we misrepresented you? If so, please E-mail us at this address.

Customers -- does your experience with one of the above retailers disagree with what the retailer has told us? If so, please let us know. Has your favourite supplier failed to respond to us? Write and ask them to make their position clear on this issue. Also, please tell us if there is an online retailer you think we should add to our list.


Some record companies appear to think that the solution to the requirement of PC users to play their CDs is simply to bundle a player app and a bunch of encrypted low quality MP3 files with the disc. This is not in any way an acceptable solution. The whole point of buying a CD is to get CD-quality audio -- not MP3-quality audio. In addition, these discs are designed to be incompatible with all the standard PC and Mac playback software, which means that it is not possible to apply the user's chosen EQ settings or audio enhancements or whatever. If a customer buys a CD, they expect to get CD-quality audio (44.1kHz 16-bit stereo) and full compatibility with all the CD playback devices that they have purchased, not some dodgy incompatible disc containing substandard audio like this.