Corrupt audio discs, aka “Copy-Protected CDs”

Quick Summary

What’s all this about?

Corrupt audio discs (also known as “copy-protected CDs” or “copy-controlled CDs”):

look just like normal audio CDs
are sold in the record shops alongside normal CDs
might be labelled something like: “Will not play on PC/Mac”
or might have no label at all.

These audio discs have been intentionally corrupted by the record companies to make it harder for people to get them to play correctly on computers. The record companies are doing this to try to cut down on MP3 file-sharing and CD counterfeiting.

However, these corrupt CDs can have problems playing on:

car CD players
game consoles (PlayStation 2, X-BOX, etc)
DVD players
portable CD players
digital home cinema systems
even some ‘normal’ CD players

On computers, they can:

simply refuse to play
lock up your machine, forcing a reboot
or in extreme cases: refuse to eject, stop your machine from working entirely, and require you to take your machine to a dealer to get it working again (details)

Some forms of CD corruption:

reduce the scratch-resistance of the disc, making its average life-span shorter (details)
make the quality of the sound degrade quicker as the disc gets older (details)
can cause early failure for older CD players (details)
As you can see, the cost and inconvenience for the consumer is huge. But is the “copy-protection” doing its job? Actually, it isn’t:

Even with the most complex corruptions devised, there are always some computer CD-ROM makes and models that have been found to read the disc perfectly.
All a professional counterfeiter would have to do is to try a disc in a number of different PCs until one of them worked.
Even if that fails, a “copy-protected” CD could still be copied using normal phono leads from the back of a CD player.
Actually, home users have already started to find other ways to get these CDs to play normally in computers — by covering up the corrupted areas of the disc using sticky labels or lines from a marker pen.