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The next generation copy protections


Article posted 22 Aug 02 21:06



Nowadays almost everyone that owns a computer has a CD-RW drive. Making copies of CDs and backing up software is populair and still not hard enough to stop people making pirated copies. At the start of the CD-RW technology you had only software that could copy a CD. It was designed to drag and drop the files and burn them. In those days you could pick a CD, and copy it without any hassle. The populairty of this has however caused that software developers have started to find methods to make it as difficult as possible to stop people from copying Cds.

A little history:

The first protection that was used were oversized Cds of 700 MB. These were CDs that exceeded the data capicaty of 650 MB which was the only size of CD-Rs available on the market in those days. It didn’t take long before the CD-R industry was releasing 700 MB CD-Rs. After that, a new protection hit the scene, the fake TOC. The table of contents that describes the files that are on the CD was modified in such a way that Windows and the burning software reported that the CD contained several GBs of data. The burning software refused to write it because it could only write a maximum of 700 MB to the CD-R.

Also this was solved pretty easily and most software was updated with a ‘fix TOC’ option. After that the next generation protections appeared, they are the protections as we currently know them, altough they have been evolving in the past years. Most of these protections are based on errors that are pressed in the CD. These errors are made intentional in the fabrication process and were at the time the protections appeared not reproducable by the software. People needed cracks if they wanted backup.

Till now our hero:

Then someone in Germany named Oliver Kastl found out that the instruction set of some writers could retrieve the errors and write them. What is now called RAW reading and writing is based on retrieving the data ,how it is put on the CD, and not correct all errors (what a CD(-ROM) player normally does ‘“ against fingerprints and scratches). As he once told me, he owned a Plextor drive and was comitted to backup a CD and could not find a way with the software that was at that time available. He also found out that not every CD-RW drive was able to read and write these errors as they were on the disc and this is unfortunately still the case.

But the software he developed, CloneCD, became a hit and is currently one of the most used burning software. Because the developers of the protection also kept an eye on what was going on and noticed that their protections were beaten they still updated their protections and that is why we now have protections that check the ATIP code to determine if you are playing from the original CD or from a backup. Also protections based on subchannels are populair. CloneCD was always able to beat it. Also other software appeared on the market, Blindwrite and CD-Mate are currently the best known competitors of CloneCD.

As it is currently possible to copy any CD, if you have the right combination of hardware and software the software developers had to find another way to protect their properties, as they believe making copies/backups hurts their industry. And of course the developers of copy protections are smart enough to find other ways to prevent the user from making backups. The next generation copy protections are not based on simple error correction, faking data or reading ATIP code. They found something different, what ? Read on to the next page.

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