Mossberg Takes On Copy Protection

from the some-things-right,-some-things-wrong dept

While the arguments over copy protection technology usually hit on the same old points, one interesting thing over the last year or so is that, as the technology has become much more common with copy protected CDs everywhere, the debate itself is becoming more mainstream. Take, for example, Walt Mossberg joining the debate over copy protection. It’s a good read, and there’s some stuff for everyone in there… and that’s part of the problem. While those opposed to copy protection will be happy to see him suggest that everyone boycott copy protected content, his column swings and misses on a few big issues. First off, he pulls out the old “theft” issue. Sharing unauthorized content often is illegal — no doubt about that — but, that doesn’t mean it’s the same thing as “theft.” Even the Supreme Court has made it clear that referring to unauthorized copies as stolen is misleading. It can be illegal, but so many factors are different (the big one being that nothing is “missing”) that calling it theft is not just incorrect, but biases the discussion heavily. Mossberg also tries to suggest that copy protection should only be used to stop the “serious pirates,” while average users should be given quite a bit of leeway for fair use copying. Of course, Mossberg doesn’t actually seem to suggest how that might be done — perhaps because it’s impossible. The “serious pirates” will always figure out a way around copy protection — because if something can be played or viewed there’s always going to be a way to copy it. And, how do you limit one group but not another? Still, the biggest fault of the piece is that it misses the real point of the debate: that embracing what consumers want usually is good for business and quite often will grow a market tremendously. Just look at every single technology that the entertainment industry has tried to stop in the past century or so — and see how, time and again, the technology they thought would kill them ended up saving them, instead. The reason this happens is because those new technologies offer people more: more choice, more flexibility, more opportunities, more enjoyment, more value. Any business that actively opposes giving its own customers more value is going in the wrong direction.

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Comments on “Mossberg Takes On Copy Protection”

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Bret McDanel (user link) says:

Copy Protection

To weigh in on this issue, recently 2 friends bought software titles from major game manufacturers. They both had a similar copy protection method employed, one that adds a bunch of invalid data to part of the CD. This invalid data made the CD unreadable in one of their drives and uninstallable on the other (caused errors while installing).

I was asked to review the game and see if I could get it to install, after all they paid for the title but could not play it. I discovered a way in under 1 hour on how to not only allow the game to be installed by totally defeat the copy protection system that was used. Without defeating the copy protection system (a violation of the DMCA I am sure) they would not have been able to use the title they paid for.

Companies are going too far trying to protect their titles, and actually making it so that some percentage either has to make the game ‘pirate ready’ or never be able to play it. If they really dont want people to pirate their games they shouldnt make it so much fun to break their protection 🙂

crystal_tech says:

Re: Copy Protection

True, also look at how many millions of dollars it takes to create a cd protection and put it on the discs. May if the game manufacturers would spend less on protection they could increase game play by hiring better coders with the extra money. Besides Copy protection only keeps out the people who don’t know a lot about there systems. I mean I can take a simple debugger to find calls and jmps in asm and then use a hex editor to nop the calls and shut down the s/n and/or the cd checks. Its all a matter of time.

Rick C. says:

New Business Models needed

The article is dead-on about technology that was supposed to “kill” the industry saving it instead. That’s what has to happen here, only the problem is harder. With LPs, tape, and to a lesser extent CDs, the music industry has always been able to control the distribution side of the product. Each of these formats was not easy for the average consumer to duplicate–thus people would pay the industry to do it for them. That was a big component of the “value added” that the industry imparted to the content. Now, the content is extremely easy to duplicate by the average person, so it’s no wonder that people no longer want to pay for the “duplication” service. Instead, the industry needs to find other ways to “add value” to the content–ways that are not inherently easy or inexpensive for average people to do themselves. Why else do we “buy” things, anyway, as opposed to making them ourselves (clothes, housing, food, transportation…)? Because someone else can make it easier/better and it’s therefore of more value to us to pay someone else to do it. The music industry has to redefine their business and look at the problem in this way.

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