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Weekly AUDIO NEWS for November 20, 2002

Hi-Def DVD Format War - A major mistake made in early development of the DVD was the failure to plan for an enhanced version that could accommodate the HDTV programming that was already being readied for broadcast in the mid-90s. Now we have a mad scramble and industry in- fighting over which entirely new hi-def DVD format will be used. The key element in two of them is the new blue laser or Blu-ray format which enables a great deal more data to be crammed onto a DVD to provide the required HDTV images. Philips, Sony and seven other firms support one approach. NEC and some others support a second blue laser approach with less data capacity on a disc.

Then there is the competing approach from Toshiba, Warner and Microsoft which stays with the current red laser but uses heavy data-reduction to cram more onto a DVD. Opponents claim that compression artifacts result from this approach. One bright note for SSfM fans is that the specs for the Sony/Philips Blu-ray format feature multichannel SACD sound rather than either DTS or Dolby. So we’ll finally have true hi-def images accompanied by true hi-res surround sound! Don’t hold your hi-def breath on these developments, however: even if peace is waged in the format war, the new DVD format (entirely incompatible with the present one of course) won’t be here for two or three years. In the meantime we have D-VHS, but that’s a high-ticket item with obsolescence built into it (going back to old fashioned videotape) and probably won’t be a general consumer format.

BMG & EMI to Copy-Protect All CDs - There have been isolated cases in the past of problems with the first commercial CDs to be copy-protected using the Cactus Data Shield technology. Often they refuse to play on car units, portables and computers, as well as on certain home DVD and CD players. As reported earlier, some stuck in the CD drives of Macintoshes, requiring servicing. Now the big music companies are totally intent on copy-proofing everything just as movie DVDs are protected. Never mind that the process doesn’t work as well, compromises fidelity, prevents a user from copying the CD to his iPod for portable listening or making a compilation CD or MiniDisc for personal use, and makes the discs in many cases unplayable - such as in his car player.

So far many European pressings are the primary ones issued with copy protection. When a customer purchases one, finds it unplayable and goes to the BMG site to express their frustration, they find a contact form to fill in. Doing so produces a fractured-English response blaming the player manufacturers for the problem and stating definitely that there will be no more music CDs sold without 100% copy protection. EMI’s German customer service responded to a similar user’s calm expression of his frustration with a response accusing the customer of piracy and stating that within a matter of months all audio media worldwide will be copy protected...”whether you like it or not.” Halt Copying Uber Alles...



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