EMI’s Anti-Piracy Tech for CDs Boomerangs

Ed Palomar
PARIS — An attempt to protect music from copyright infringement online has backfired on the British recording label EMI Group. The digital rights management technology that EMI used to prevent CD piracy and the uploading of music onto the Internet has landed the British company in a French court.

The French consumer association UFC-Que Choisir has filed a lawsuit on behalf of French consumers against EMI and Fnac, a French record store. The plaintiff is seeking damages, alleging that the copy protection system EMI uses on some of its CDs renders it impossible to play the discs on many car stereos, CD players and computers.

UFC-Que Choisir is contending that EMI’s copy protection prevents customers from making personal copies of their CDs for private, noncommercial use. The consumer group states that this has been a legal right in France since 1985.

EMI is a longtime record label based in London. In 1961, EMI signed the Beatles, and released their hit “Love Me Do.” The French record store Fnac is a unit of the luxury and retail giant Pinault-Printemps-Redoute SA.

Fnac said it informed consumers of potential problems with protected CDs and offered full refunds. EMI did not comment on the lawsuit, which accuses the co-defendants of “deception over the material qualities of a product.”

If the co-defendants lose in court, EMI and Fnac face a maximum fine of $227,000, plus damages. The judge could also order that all of the relevant CDs are removed from stores and barred from being sold in France.

UFC-Que Choisir is also suing the American record label Warner Music Group. The consumer group alleges that its copy protection system stops CDs from being transferred to portable MP3 players by way of a computer hard disk.