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BMG tinkers with CD copy controls

The record label licenses SunnComm Technologies' CD protection software to let listeners move music from CD to computer but keep them from sharing it illegally.

Music label BMG has licensed from SunnComm Technologies new technology designed to prevent music buyers from making unlimited digital copies of songs from its CDs.

The Bertelesmann AG division, which produces contemporary artists, including Avril Lavigne, said Monday it has begun testing CDs in the United States protected with SunnComm's MediaMax CD-3 product. However, it hasn't said when the protected CDs will go on sale.

The software lets listeners transfer music from a CD to a computer, but prevents them from then distributing that music to file-sharing services. It also allows music companies to include on the disc extras such as artist information, song lyrics, bonus tracks, video clips and special offers.

Songs on a MediaMax CD-3 can be uploaded only three times, and software built into the disc prevents listeners from copying or sharing the music.

BMG has been one of the more aggressive music labels in trying to block the copying of its CDs. The Monday announcement suggests that the company, like other labels, is looking for ways to give listeners freedom in how they listen to music while keeping them from distributing it illegally.

"We're seeing music labels and technology providers search for a middle ground in appeasing consumers while protecting their content," IDC analyst Susan Kevorkian said.

Other labels have worked to prevent the distribution of digital music with limited success. Hackers have found ways to get around high-tech blocking systems, sometimes through such low-tech means as black markers and sticky note paper.

The agreement is a multiyear deal, but the companies did not give further details.