Copy Protection: A Bad
Won't Go Away
By Stephen M. Lawton
not this fortress. Defend this smear in time." Robert B. Mitchell,
a Tarzana, CA-based jazz pianist, actor and recreational writer penned
those epic words in an unpublished 1971 short story. But they could easily
be the mantra of the music industry today,which is once again trying to
add copy protection to stop the flow of music, digital and analog.
Can it be that
some people just don't get it? Copy protection doesn't work. Users hate
it and will do anything they can to get around it. And, by the way, this
doesn't necessarily mean they want to steal the intellectual property
they simply don't like copy protection.
Just ask the folks over at Lotus Development
Corp., who tried as hard as they could to stop the duplication of their
beloved Lotus 1-2-3 in the 1980s. Rather than hurting the sales of the
venerable spreadsheet, the bootleg copies turned newbies into true believers
and sent sales of 1-2-3 through the roof, concurrently turning it into
the first real PC software superstar.
Lotus, like other companies of the
early '80s, was unsuccessful in its attempts to stop the illegal copying
of its software. Copy protection created a cottage business in building
applications to break these schemes and indeed copy protection
on software is dead sort of. Microsoft's approach is to limit the
number of times you can install the program, while Novell's strategy is
to count the number of users connected to the NetWare server, then limit
access to new users. And Quark Inc.'s QuarkXpress looks for duplicate
serial numbers on the network. But traditional copy protection is indeed
The music industry tried, and failed,
to be even more devious. Instead of just copy-protecting a song the way
some videotape makers copy-protect a movie, a music industry group called
the 4C Entity tried to copy-protect an entire disk drive.
This latest attempt was shut down
by the National Committee on Information Technology Standards (NCITS),
a standards body that voted recently to reject the industry's plan to
put its Content Protection for Recordable Media (CPRM) technology onto
hard drives. (For more on this, check out Jim Carr's Standards Watch column
this month right here in the Outlook section.)
The folks that want to share content
are becoming even more insidious. Just days before music legend Charlie
Pride was about to release his latest CD which, incidentally includes
a copy-protection scheme tracks from the album appeared on the
Net. Let's face it folks: Copy protection simply does not work.
Even with all the hot-shot attorneys
trying to sink content-sharing sites, these folks seem to have found a
way to survive. The next step, it appears, is to try to lock out the technology.
It's "kill the messenger" time again.