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Label releases copy-protected CD with Pride

Veteran country music singer Charley Pride is trying to sell a new method of thwarting file traders: copy-protected CDs.

As teenagers slip through Napster's increasingly dense filters for the latest pop craze, veteran country music singer Charley Pride is trying to sell a new method of thwarting file traders: copy-protected CDs.

Nashville, Tenn.-based Music City Records is betting that the technology protecting "A Tribute to Jim Reeves," to be released Tuesday, will keep the songs from appearing on Napster and alternative free file-swapping services.

In March, a federal court order required Napster to block access to certain files identified by the record industry as copyrighted works. The company has been covering its service with complex filters, but record labels, musicians and publishers are still wary of the Net and its ability to open doors to free music.

As a result, the music, publishing and film industries are working with digital rights management companies to thwart would-be pirates. Although record labels and film studios have had some success in courts, the technological side has proven more difficult. Last year, BMG Germany's push to secure CDs using technology from Israeli security company Midbar failed. BMG abandoned its project after complaints piled up from customers who said their players could not read the discs.

On Pride's new album, encryption technology by Phoenix-based SunnComm prevents people from copying the CD's music on a burner or downloading it onto Napster in a digital form, according to Music City Records. The recordings can be downloaded into MP3 or other music file formats, but only after an individual purchases the CD, which has a list price of $16.98, and registers that copy.

Bob Heatherly, chief executive of Music City Records is confident that the CD will prevent people from breaking the encryption code. The label, which was founded in January, decided to release copy-protected CDs in response to Napster's controversial service, which does not compensate artists. Heatherly added that when he negotiated with Pride to sign him on his label, the singer wanted to ensure that his music was protected.

"It's the first release on Music City Records, so it's kind of a landmark for me and Charley," Heatherly said. "It looked like the labels were laying back to see what the courts do, and I can't believe the courts are continuing to let Napster run the service...(so) it was a perfect time to do it."