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Hit CD With Copy Protection May Signal Fan Acceptance

LOS ANGELES (AP) – A music CD wrapped in copy-protection technology has become a best seller, fueling speculation that U.S. music fans might be ready to accept such restrictions on a wider scale.

Velvet Revolver's “Contraband” has sold 380,000 copies since its release last week, when it grabbed the top sales spot with 256,000 units sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

It's one of a few CDs issued in the United States equipped with such copy-protection measures, which the recording industry has been cautious to implement.

“Obviously, this is our highest-profile release to date with copy-management technology, so there's a sense that the technology has matured and our research shows us that consumers are receptive,” said Nathaniel Brown, a spokesman for Bertelsmann Music Group.

Fans bought the CD despite clear warnings on the case about the copy restrictions, suggesting many anticipated the release of “Contraband,” the first record by the group formed by ex-members of Guns N' Roses and the frontman of Stone Temple Pilots.

The technology on the CD is supposed to help reduce music piracy by preventing buyers from burning more than three copies, among other restrictions.

But it remains a work in progress — songs ripped from the CD don't play on Apple Computer Inc.'s popular iPod digital music player. And users loading the CD on a PC running Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system can easily bypass the protection features by pressing the “shift” key.

Phoenix-based SunnComm Technologies Inc., the company behind the copy protection features on “Contraband,” says its technology is not supposed to be hacker-proof, just effective enough to reduce overall piracy.

Record companies “wouldn't pay a penny for this technology if it didn't work,” CEO Peter Jacobs said, adding that the shift key issue is not a flaw in SunnComm's technology but a feature in the Windows program.

“It's not a bug,” he said.

Jacobs said SunnComm is waiting for Apple to assist in adapting the next generation of SunnComm CD protection so song files can be ripped from its CDs and played on the iPod. Currently, SunnComm's technology converts files into the Windows Media Player format.