Record labels are taking extreme measures to prevent digital piracy | EW.com

Music

Record labels are taking extreme measures to prevent digital piracy

Plus, the back story of Al Gore's campaign song

Godsmack

(Godsmack: Anthony Saint James/Retna)

LOW-WATER MARK? In quainter times, when labels didn’t want advance promo copies showing up in used CD shops, they might write a number or the recipient’s name on the disc. But the Napster era calls for extreme measures. So when Universal Records sent journalists the upcoming Godsmack album, they not only inscribed names, they also sent a letter stating that the CDs bear individual digital watermarks that, while inaudible, can be used to trace any unauthorized Internet uploading back to the source.

Tech experts at other labels profess surprise at the antipiracy tactic, some wondering about potential privacy issues if someday all CDs are thus embedded. ”It’s like tagging sharks and finding out where they go,” says Grand Royal’s Ian Rogers. A Universal rep claims they aren’t the first to watermark promo copies – just the first to warn they’re doing it. Indeed, the new Green Day promo is said to be going out watermarked, though Warner Bros. wouldn’t confirm it.

CALL FORWARD Presidential contender Al Gore is doing his part for the rock economy. The song that followed his tide turning speech at the Democratic convention last month wasn’t a familiar oldie, à la Clinton era fave ”Don’t Stop,” but the fairly obscure ”Let the Day Begin,” a 1989 rocker from the Call. Thanks to that and subsequent exposure along the Gore/ Lieberman campaign trail, MCA – which cut two Call albums from its catalog not long after dropping the band in the early ’90s – will be rush releasing a best-of tied to repromoting ”Day.”

It’ll be part of their ”Millennium Collection” series, though marketing VP Jayne Simon jokes they thought about calling it ”Al Gore’s Greatest Hits.” Band leader Michael Been is particularly happy it was the Democrats picking his uncharacteristically jubilant anthem, because ”the Republicans seem to clap on the one and the three.” A campaign spokesperson couldn’t say whose idea it was to heed the Call but admits it probably wasn’t Gore himself: ”It’s not like he sits around the stereo, picking out tunes,” says the rep.