Sony adds download function to music CDs

Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) (SME) will add a new function to music CDs early next year that allows users to store purchased CDs on PCs, while still preventing illegal music-copying, the company announced Wednesday.

SME's new Label Gate CD consists of two kinds of music data -- one is data for audio devices to replay and the other is encoded compressed data for PCs to replay.

Users need to connect to the Internet to decode the music data copied to their PCs from the disc. Using a product identifier (PID), which is similar to a serial number, the CD is authenticated and an electronic key to decode the data is sent across the Internet to users, said Yasushi Ide, a SME spokesman.

Once the music data is decoded, it can be replayed through SME's Magiqlip software, a music player for Windows PCs. Using Magiqlip, the music data can also be copied for backup purposes along with the key, which must be uploaded for verification to SME when the music backup is restored, SME said.

Copied music on a hard disk drive can be transferred to audio devices that comply with SME's OpenMG digital rights management (DRM) technology for a number of times set by the music company.

The first download of the electronic key that goes with a CD is free. SME plans to charge about ¥200 (US$1.64) per song for the second time onwards, Ide said. Users cannot opt to just decode one song from a CD, but have to purchase the key for the entire CD, he said.

The conventional music data on the CD used by audio devices is protected by SME's current anticopying technology that prevents the data from being replayed on a PC. Therefore, the new discs will not carry the CD logo, said Kiyono Yasunaga, an SME spokeswoman.

All 12-centimetre CD singles by Japanese artists rolling out from SME's group record companies are expected to be Label Gate CDs from Jan. 22. With between 2 and 4 songs per disc, this puts the price of copying the music to a second PC at between ¥400 and ¥800, which is cheaper than the typical ¥1,000 charged for a CD single in Japan.

Several other record companies are interested in the Label Gate CD technology, Ide said.

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