By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

We shall overcome Sony’s DRM

Media Nation’s loving family got me the new Bruce Springsteen CD, “We Shall Overcome,” for Father’s Day — and delivered me into the not-so-loving arms of Sony.

My iBook refused to recognize the CD. I read the fine print on the jacket and saw this: “The audio side of this disc does not conform to CD specifications and therefore will not play on some CD and DVD players.” I flipped it over, and the video side loaded perfectly.

Hmmm. I tried a cheap old CD player in the kitchen — no problem. Next I loaded it, CD-side up, into Mrs. Media Nation’s PowerBook, and got it to play. I ripped it to iTunes, burned a new CD, and then stuck that into my iBook. Problem solved.

So what’s going on here? This Wikipedia post suggests that it’s simply a matter of DualDiscs (CD on one side, DVD on the other) being too thick for some CD players. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, though, because both my iBook and my wife’s PowerBook have the same slot-loading mechanism. Springsteen’s last album, “Devils & Dust,” is also a DualDisc, and it loads just fine; it’s the music that isn’t much good.

This and this, on the other hand, place the blame squarely on Sony, claiming that its notorious digital-rights-management (DRM) scheme has been installed on “We Shall Overcome.” It seems that on Windows machines, loading the CD might even damage your files.

Now, a question for Apple: The PowerBook that plays “We Shall Overcome” is running OS X 10.2.8, which is several years old. The iBook that won’t is running 10.4.6. Has Apple deliberately messed with its operating system in order to give Sony something to sink its fangs into?

And to think I bought a few shares of Apple this morning.

Update: It doesn’t seem to be a Mac OS issue. That’s good news. But I don’t think it’s just a simple matter of disc thickness, either.

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  1. Porridge

    I would be wary of any CD from Sony with DRM. In Nov. 2005 I put a new CD (Trey Anastasio) on my computer and it installed a vicious rootkit on my PC. I’m still fighting with Sony 230 days later. Better to just avoid Sony albums and buy through iTunes. You can read more here:

  2. Dan

    I don’t know about the Powerbook, but We Shall Overcome didn’t play in my iBook (running 10.4.6) either. In fact, I had to restart the computer while holding down the eject key to get it out of the disc drive. I seriously thought I wouldn’t be able to get the disc out, which was making me very unhappy. I’m afraid to play the disc in my car for this reason.The disc did play and rip on my iMac G4 with a tray loading DVD-R drive. This iMac was running 10.4.6, which makes me think that it is a disc thickness issue, not a software issue. Perhaps your iBook has a combo drive (can watch DVDs, but nut burn them, but can burn CDR) and your wife’s powerbook has a superdrive (can watch and burn DVDs), and they have different tolerances for disc thickness.

  3. Dan Kennedy

    Dan — I think you might have cracked the code, except for two things: (1) the DVD side works just fine on my iBook, and (2) I’ve had no problems with “Devils and Dust,” also a DualDisc. On the other hand, you do seem to have proved that it’s not a Mac OS issue. Interesting.

  4. Anonymous

    Weirdly enough, this is how it went for me:1) Devils and Dust didn’t work on my iBook G42) We Shall Overcome DID work on my iBook G4 but not on my brand-new Sony component CD player.Thanks, technology!David

  5. metallicaMobes

    Wow am I the only conservative who also is addicted to Apple and loathes PCs?I am glad to hear it’s not a MacOS problem, though.I’m looking forward to getting the latest version of OSX on a new MacBook (fingers crossed)

  6. Anonymous

    My audio engineer son ells me that lots of audio CDs violate the “red book” standards that the industry is supposed to adhere to. In our household the Springsteen CD refused to play on some devices and not on others — a mix of desktop Macs, two iBooks and a pair of CD players. Sorry to say I didn’t’ really keep track and just ripped a fresh copy once I found a willing player [grin]. If I had to guess I’d say it played on Macs running 10.3.9 and not on the newer Tiger iBook.So while Sony’s DRM is indeed Draconian, this may not be an example of anything but sloppy lack of adherence to the standard.-dh

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