I knew where to stick it where no-one would nick it – right back in the bin!

Continental European Deep Purple fans: Do not buy the Tour Edition of Rapture of the Deep by Deep Purple until the harmfulness of its "copy protection" is established.

Even though I already own a copy on vinyl, I’d been eagerly awaiting the Tour Edition of Deep Purple’s Rapture of the Deep, because there’s a whole CD full of bonus material including several live tracks. (BTW, I’ve warmed a lot to the record since my initial review.) Today, I finally saw it in the shops, but as I was waiting in line at the checkout, I noticed a "Copy Protected – Not Playable On PC" on the back, with a logo that I hadn’t seen before, so I put it back.

80% of all my music listening is done on either the iBook or the home PC, which means that the "Copy Protection" (assuming it works at all) reduces the value of that bonus CD from € 19.90 (the price at which I was willing to buy it before noticing the logo) to € 4. And that assumes that the "Copy Protection" doesn’t affect playback on my DVD player or Diskman (which "Copy Protection" on CDs invariably does in my experience), and that it isn’t some sort of rootkit-based crap that would try to compromise my computers (they’re likely to be immune but who knows), which would give the disc a negative value. So back into the bins it goes, and I’m warning Deep Purple fans in continental Europe to be very cautious with this disc, and, when in doubt, not to buy it. Does anyone know if the UK edition is clean?

A Proposal

If music magazines want to be useful to the listeners, they should incorporate the playability of the sound containers into their reviews, and cap the final star rating of CDs that have software compromising playback on them. I suggest that CDs claiming to have "Copy Protection" on them should never get more than three stars out of five; that CDs which are proven to have playback problems should never get more than two out of five; that CDs that are actually unplayable on a computer should never get more than one out of five, and that rootkit CDs and similarly dangerous items should get a big red zero and a warning under the review. That is about the degree by which the listener’s enjoyment of the product is capped as well.

Update (March 20, 2006): Responses from the Highway Star Blog indicate that the "Copy Protection" doesn’t prevent much of anything, so Edel records merely wasted their money. I’ve also noticed that the regular CD edition had the same "Copy Protection", at least in the Netherlands. Good thing I got the vinyl version instead. Meanwhile, both the regular and the Tour edition are available on BitTorrent, as are several bootlegged concerts.
Actually, the economics of record manufacture suggest that bootlegs are much more likely to suffer from file sharing than legitimate records. After all, bootleg CDs are more expensive and harder to find than regular CDs, and most of them don’t offer the added benefits of good or even coherent artwork and that warm fuzzy feeling of giving 3% of what you just spent to the recording artists. Also, most of them are already of low quality even on CD so the quality loss inherent in converting the songs to MP3 won’t make much of a difference. As Bittorrent offers nearly cost-free distribution, much-bootlegged bands like Deep Purple could finally put the bootleggers out of business by converting soundboard recordings from their concerts to MP3s and sharing them. There would, I am sure, still be a market for properly-mixed DVDs with good video quality even among those who have already downloaded the concerts in MP3 form.