November 8, 2020 | Just as desktop publishing systems
and photocopiers have changed the face of the printing industry,
so also is CD-R duplication equipment revolutionizing CD production.
By replacing the need for traditional replication, CD-R duplication
is used for increasingly large runs of discs. Custom disc creation
is building on this success and is opening new application frontiers.
However, for the commercial use of CD-R to reach its full business
potential, production systems must continue to evolve by incorporating
new capabilities required by the marketplace. Nowhere is this
more apparent than in the need for copy protection.
For many years, the software industry has been content with
the level of copying security afforded by virtue of distribution
on compact disc. This comfort-level vanished with the runaway
popularity of inexpensive CD-R/RW recorders with worldwide sales
estimated at over 40 million units this year alone. As a defensive
strategy, publishers of an ever-growing number of software titles
are now employing some method of copy protection.
Some commercial software copy protection schemes in use today
include SafeDisc (Macrovision), SecuROM (Sony DADC), DiscGuard
(TTR Technologies), and LaserLock (MLS LaserLock International).
These employ security features such as digital signatures, encryption,
electronic fingerprints, and watermarks which either prevent the
act of copying or render useless any copies made.
While such systems may be effective against duplication attempts
by consumer software recording products such as Easy CD Creator
and Toast (Roxio), Nero (Ahead), PrimoCD (Prassi Europe), DiscDupe
(Plextor) and others, most copy protection technology is really
only a deterrent to amateurs. At least a half-dozen specialized
utilities capable of RAW reading and writing are now available
to reproduce most protected discs. And unlike the good old days
when hobbyists had to decipher the latest crack from HardCore
Computist magazine or borrow a "Pirate's Harbor" utility disk
from the local users group's software library, now anyone with
access to the Internet can download everything needed to copy
most protected products.
It's obvious that a growing number of software publishers are
embracing copy protection to safeguard their products. From a
business perspective, the CD-R duplication and custom disc production
communities simply cannot ignore it. But today, commercial-grade
copy protection remains the sole domain of replication, so if
duplicators want to enter into that market, they need the right
tools to compete.
Currently, the only company providing any type of copy protection
capability within their CD-R duplication systems is MediaFORM.
By optionally inserting and writing invalid blocks at the beginning
of Mode 1 data CD-ROMs, MediaFORM's standalone systems furnish
an elementary level of copy protection designed to frustrate commercial
duplication equipment and consumer software products which duplicate
discs at the block level. MediaFORM's network-based systems offer
a little stronger deterrent by allowing the invalid blocks to
be placed anywhere within the disc's data area and give programmers
the option of checking the discs for the presence of the blocks
in their software. However, while these capabilities are credible
and more than sufficient for corporate and institutional applications,
they are not intended as an answer for the commercial software
Indeed, what the market requires is for CD-R production equipment
manufacturers to work in concert with commercial software copy
protection providers, to license their technologies and incorporate
them into professional-level systems. Not only will this allow
CD-R duplication to compete with replicators to create products
that require embedded copy protection, it will allow publishers
to protect pre-release and prototype copies of their software
distributed for testing purposes. It will even increase the acceptance
of disc-on-demand systems, such as vending kiosks, since they
could produce discs with the same security as their replicated
Looking slightly into the future, copy protection is not just
an issue that concerns duplication of CD-R. While most commercial
video titles distributed on DVD incorporate the Content Scrambling
System (CSS) to prevent unauthorized digital copying, companies
such as TTR Technologies are also developing schemes for protecting
software distributed on DVD-ROM. In the CSS system, numerous data
blocks are scrambled such that the video information can only
be deciphered using a decryption "title key" contained in a reserved
area of the disc. Older DVD-R recorders automatically wrote null
data in the key area to deter copying and now the DVD-R specification
mandates that all blank discs have their key area prewritten or
molded at the factory with similar dummy information.
There's no denying that this approach should be helpful in deterring
copying at the consumer level, but it creates a significant barrier
for commercial DVD-R production systems since they can't record
CSS-encrypted discs. How many Hollywood studios would allow Web-based
disc-on-demand companies to offer movies without encryption? And
how many record labels would allow DVD-Audio titles to be duplicated
Incorporating commercial copy protection into CD-R production
devices involves more than simply adding a few lines of programming
code to a recorder's firmware. In addition to dealing with the
problem of using mass-market recorders that change every eight
months, there are the always significant licensing and business
obstacles. Where will the copy protection technology holders make
their money? Will the production hardware involved prove too expensive,
or will it incorporate limited use-license systems where renewals
must be purchased? The problems for DVD-R are even tougher. For
example, what incentive do Hollywood and the DVD Forum have to
upset the apple cart?
Love it or hate it, copy protection is here to stay. How the
CD-R and DVD-R production communities choose to deal with it will
invariably influence the long-term health and expansion of the
commercial duplication market.