It’s one thing for record companies to file suit against people who share music files illegally on the Internet, or to pursue criminal charges against those who make pirated copies of CDs and sell them on street corners. But this is different. Generations have grown up with the notion that if you buy an album at the store, the songs are yours to show off to your friends.
In the 1970s and ’80s, people made mix tapes without thinking twice. The tapes were an expression of personality. “A good compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do,” Nick Hornby wrote in “High Fidelity,” a novel in which mix tapes served as the very definition of identity and the currency of relationships.
With the death of the cassette tape, that same mentality transferred to the mix CD. It became a birthday gift, a wedding compilation, a way to say “sorry” or “I love you.” In college dorms, students started exchanging CD albums so that a hardcore Nirvana fan could try a little Garth Brooks without having to pay for the whole CD.
[...] So in a move that risks alienating a dwindling customer base, the major record labels are tightening up restrictions on CDs.
A growing number of newly released CDs are equipped with software that limits users from burning copies more than three times. On CDs released by record company Sony BMG Music Entertainment, individual songs can be used in compilations only three times.
Rival EMI Music will test CDs with a similar technology this summer, releasing three to six titles with a three-time burn limit on each album. (No, you can’t make copies of burned CDs — the content protection won’t allow it.) In addition, consumers can copy an individual song up to seven times. Both EMI Music and Sony BMG use technology that prevents the songs from working on peer-to-peer networks such as Kazaa, which contain songs in MP3 format.
This juncture in technology is a tricky proposition for music lovers, who often say they support artists’ rights to combat piracy. Yet, when it comes to individual use, they assert ownership of their CDs with an almost parental pride.
[...] The CDs that have content protection say so in a label on the disc. If consumers try to get around it, they should know that their actions are illegal, said Thomas Hesse, president of global digital business for Sony BMG.
[...] As technological advances empower consumers, the free flow of music continues to spill over the boundaries set by the recording industry. Last week, Freedland, the Duke University student, downloaded free tracks from the new Dave Matthews Band CD from a peer-to-peer network. They are now on his iPod, ready for listening.
“It seemed like an entitlement,” Freedland said. “I purchased the music, and I should be able to do what I want with it. Now I can.”