Major Record Labels Developing Copy-Proof Music CDs

SAN FRANCISCO — Hoping to crack down on music piracy, five major record labels have quietly begun selling compact discs containing technology that foils attempts by customers to copy the songs onto blank discs or computer hard drives.

The new strategy isn’t widespread yet and most of the CDs out so far are being sold in Europe. The labels will not say which artists’ works have been digitally padlocked.

The so-called stealth CDs play fine in stereos. But if someone tries to turn the music into MP3 files or copy it onto a blank CD, the copied version will not work or the result will sound so bad it’s not worth sharing.

Most movie DVDS and videocassettes already use anti-copying technology.

Warner, EMI, Universal Music Group, BMG and Sony are the labels believed to be involved. Only BMG and Sony said copy-protected CDs have actually been put on shelves — in Europe. Other details weren’t released.

The new CDs aim to provide an impervious barrier against the Internet music free-for-all that Napster and CD burners made so popular.

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