A new class action lawsuit filed by Milberg, Weiss, Bershad, Hynes & Lerach targets record companies who use new copy-protection schemes on their audio discs.
Filed last week in Los Angeles Superior Court, the suit targets the five major publishers of music in the United states: Bertelsmann, EMI, Universal Music Group, Warner Music and Sony Music Entertainment. The suit names two plaintiffs, though as a class action it has broader ramifications.
Such copy-protected audio discs have been specifically designed to prevent computer users from “ripping,” or recording the contents of the CD to their computer hard drives in MP3 format. The way this is done varies from scheme to scheme, but one method that’s received publicity of late involves implanting a bad data track on the outer edge of the disc. When such a disc is inserted in the computer, the computer recognizes the bad track and spits the disc back out without recording the music.
Apple has noted that under some circumstances the discs can actually get stuck in certain Mac model optical drives, and can ultimately require a technician to remove. Apple is careful to note that such discs are technically not audio CDs since they do not conform to the standards employed for audio CD manufacturing — a fact not lost on audio CD creator Philips, which has criticized the copy protection scheme.
The class-action suit alleges that the copy-protected discs are “defective” and aren’t being distinguished effectively enough from their regular audio CD counterparts. The suit also contends that the copy protection employed prevents buyers from exercising their “legal rights to back up, play or transfer” the music for other non-commercial use. The suit asks for record companies to better label the products or take them off the market all together; damages are also sought.