New Microsoft tools to copy-protect CDs and DVDs

Microsoft on Monday announced new copyright protection tools that let recording companies restrict the use of CDs and DVDs on personal computers.

Two major recording companies, Universal Music Group, a unit of Vivendi Universal SA, and EMI Group PLC, as well as MPO International Group, a large independent CD maker, have adopted the new software, Microsoft said in a statement released at the Midem music conference in Cannes, France.

Microsoft's new Windows Media Data Session Toolkit allows media companies to add a protected "second session" to CDs and DVS for use on PCs. This second session includes the audio and video content in Microsoft's Windows Media format, plus rules for the use of that content, Microsoft said.

For example, content owners can limit the number of times a user can play the content on a PC and restrict copying of audio and video or transferring of songs to a portable device, Microsoft said. The protection is handled through Microsoft's Windows Media DRM (Digital Rights Management) technology, Microsoft said.

Entire second session offerings could also be made available by recording companies for downloading via the Web, according to Microsoft.

Some audio CDs on the market already contain copy protection. However, this has led to opposition among users because some protection technologies cause PCs to freeze or make CDs unplayable in car stereos.

The Windows Media Data Session Toolkit is part of Microsoft's Windows Media 9 Series and rivals products from RealNetworks as well as technologies developed in-house by some recording companies and smaller companies.

Microsoft's product announcement comes a week after representatives of the recording and technology industries, including Microsoft and the Recording Industry Association of America, urged the U.S. government to keep its hands off of the digital copyright protection issue.

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Joris Evers

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