A couple more notes on

A couple more notes on copy protection:

Dan Bricklin argues that Copy Protection Robs the Future.

In my copyright essay/rant earlier today I referred to SCMS, which is the copy protection built into DAT recorders and other consumer digital recorders, including minidisc and home CD recorders. After writing that piece I wanted to explain SCMS a little better, but not make it any longer, so I’ll add it here.

SCMS stands for Serial Copyright Management System, and as a copy protection system it’s more of an annoyance than a real hindrance. What it stops you from doing is making a digital copy of a digital copy. So, if you digitally record a CD to a DAT you cannot make another digital copy of that DAT. You can make a copy from the analog output of the DAT copy, which means you sacrifice a little bit of quality — it’s pretty unnoticeable, but after a bunch of generations it starts to show. The part that’s a pain is that this protection is in effect even for your original recordings. This means that if you make a live recording of your own piano playing, for instance, you can make one digital copy but you can’t digitally copy that copy again. However, you can make as many copies of your original tape as you want. It’s a pain, especially if your original DAT gets destroyed, but not horrible. It’s actually a little worse with minidisc because when you copy in the analog domain there’s a bunch of compression and decompression along with digital to analog conversion that mucks up the sound in fewer generations than DAT.

Unfortunately, it looks like SCMS will only be the tip of the iceburg, since with computers the ability exists to not only control the copying of copies, but to control how many copies you can make of a master. Thus a copy protection circuit might only let you make one copy of that CD you just bought — ever. If you lose that copy, tough luck. That’s far worse than just annoying.






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