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Getting to the Root of Copy Protection
Posted Aug 12, 2003 Print Version     Page 1of 1

While much of the anti-piracy news has focused on the recording industry's efforts to stop peer-to-peer file sharing, either through shutting down P2P networks or experimenting with CD copy protection, software piracy might be an even bigger concern. According to the Business Software Alliance, illegally copied software resulted in almost $10.97 billion in lost revenue worldwide in 2001; video game piracy adds another $2 billion to that total. A new copy-prevention technology won't help the record labels, but it just might help software developers—and eventually DVD content creators—put the kibosh on illegal copying.

The new strategy locks up content and throws away the key—the decryption key, that is. The "Root" technology announced in August by JVC and Japanese video game maker Hudson Soft allows disc manufacturers to put encryption keys on data CDs, but those keys can't be duplicated and rewritten if copies are made of the discs, rendering the duplicates unplayable. The big news is that, while JVC says Root won't work on audio CDs, it can be applied to DVDs.

When CD-ROMs are recorded with Root technology, so named because the companies say it prevents illegal copying "from the roots up," the contents are encrypted so they can only be read with an encryption key. The key is different and placed in a different place on each disc, but it can be read by any CD-ROM drive. It just can't be written by a CD-R/RW drive, meaning you could make a copy of the disc, but the copy would be unreadable.

Most software comes with number and letter "keys" that users must key in to install the product, but those text keys are almost as widely available on filesharing networks like KaZaA and LimeWire as are the software files themselves. Anyone with the text string then can make copies. Root technology hides the encryption key on each disc, making it more difficult to decrypt; the length and number of codes can be customized as well.

Unlike audio CD encryption, which often makes discs incompatible with PCs and some home and car audio players, Root has presented no compatibility issues thus far. The technology went into use at Japanese JVC CD-ROM pressing plants earlier this year, and became available at JVC Disc America in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in October. JVC plans to charge between 20 cents and $1 per disc for application of the technology, depending on the complexity of the encryption key codes.

While JVC promises Root is compatible with DVD replication, a spokesperson for the company said that verification tests still haven't been performed on DVD drives.
—Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen

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