WASHINGTON – If you're looking for a CD called "More Music from The Fast and the Furious" on any of the post-Napster Internet sharing services, you're out of luck. This is the album the music industry has decided to make sure is copy-proof.
Music publishers are taking away the ability to make personal copies of a CD for car stereos or portable MP3 music players, because they're tired of seeing their titles shared for free on the Internet.
But the road thus far has been pocked with problems. Far from the latest Britney Spears release, the obscurity of the Fast and the Furious soundtrack shows how careful music publishers are in introducing technology that may eventually be on all major-label music CDs.
Krista Gariano, a spokeswoman for Universal Music Group, which published the soundtrack, wouldn't say how the copy protection works. Specifically, she refused to divulge whether the CD can be played on a computer's CD-ROM drive -- some copy protection technologies work by making CD-ROM play impossible -- or would just deter copying.
Gariano said the CD case would carry a copy protection sticker and an insert explaining the technology. Record stores will accept returns, even if the CD case is opened, if buyers are unhappy with it.
The major labels' first protected music CD will be on the market in December.
Many consumers who have tried copy-protected CDs, usually unwittingly, have been angered by the results. Bertlesmann Music Group set up a hot line in Britain two weeks ago because Natalie Imbruglia's new release, White Lilies Island, wouldn't play on many computer CD-ROM and DVD players.
"These devices were never designed for copy protection, and retrofitting it is causing all sorts of problems," said Julian Midgley of the U.K. Campaign for Digital Rights, which opposes the technology.
The major music labels have been testing the technology in Europe, where the sale of pirated CDs is rampant. Most releases have been secret, with no disclosure to buyers.
In the United States, representatives of Warner Music Group, Sony and Bertlesmann said they have released a handful of copy-protected CDs in Europe and used the technology on promotional CDs sent to radio stations and record stores.
An independent label this year released the first copy-protected CD in the United States, from country artist Charley Pride.
Several companies make competing copy-protection technologies, which are being tested by the recording companies. Marjie Hadad of Midbar Tech, an Israeli firm, said her company has signed deals with three of the five major recording labels and has had discussions with the other two.
Midbar's Noam Zur called copy-protection critics a fringe group that probably are pirates themselves.
"Mainly those people have a large number of compilations on their PCs," Zur said. Midbar's technology protected the Imbruglia CD. Zur dismissed customer complaints and said the CD works on most players.
The labels are also trying out SafeAudio, from TTR Technologies, also of Israel. A CD with SafeAudio can be played on a computer, but if a user tries to copy them, popping and clicking sounds occur on the copy.
TTR executive Emanuel Kronitz defended the technology to protect copyrighted music. "When the labels and musicians are losing so much money, they have to do something," he said.
Fred von Lohmann, senior staff attorney for the Internet civil liberties group Electronic Freedom Foundation, disagreed.
"This is not about piracy; this is about controlling consumer behavior," Von Lohmann said.
No one knows whether consumers will care when they see a newly bought CD can't be copied. Digital music market analyst Lee Black of the research firm Webnoize said most people who listen to music on their computers, usually as MP3 files, aren't buying CDs anyway.
"The majority of people who buy CDs aren't these highly technical people," Black said. "If you want to get MP3s, you'd probably just download them somewhere else."
Black suggested that the record labels hope the technology will force digital music lovers to buy tracks online.
The companies are prepared to launch two competing online music Web sites, MusicNet and pressplay. Music from those services can't be copied on a computer or to a portable music player.
Von Lohmann, who said he makes copies of CDs for his own use, said he hopes customers will vote with their pocketbooks.
"I own upwards of 800 CDs, but it seems like they're on a crusade against me," he said. "It's a strange development when you seem to be hellbent on alienating your best customers."