A Comment on Copy Protected CDs - Other Anti-Piracy Tools

This web page comments on the trend to add copy protection to CDs containing software. The point of view is that of the consumer.


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Other Anti-Piracy Tools

Anti-piracy tools are not limited to copy protection of the media.

The most common anti-piracy tool in use today is an activation key. This is a long string of letters and numbers that must be entered for the software to install properly. Usually, these activation keys are cryptographically generated.

On-line registration is an anti-piracy tool whose use is growing. This has the potential to place very tight restrictions on the ability of pirates to copy software. There are, however, several potential technical issues with implementing an on-line registration system. In addition, on-line registration increases the cost of the product, due to the added infrastructure.

Some software is released on CDs that have a serial number on the disk. Creating these CDs is a more complex process than creating a normal CD, increasing the cost of producing the media to be distributed. On the other hand, placing the serial number on the disk provides another data element that can be checked by an on-line registration system.

Many of the games that have come out in recent years won't run unless one of the distribution CDs is in the CDROM drive. This increases the amount of handling that the CDs receive, and causes earlier failure of the media. It also increases the problems with using the software in a laptop computer.

USB hardware dongles are appearing for some of the more costly software. The advantage of a USB dongle is that the number of USB ports that can be supported by a computer is quite high, and can be easily increased. Also, these dongles are significantly more reliable than the dongles that were used earlier.

License managers, of which the FlexLM license manager is the most common, have come into use for enterprise-wide licensing. They allow any number of copies of the software to be installed, but they monitor and limit the number of running copies of that software. This is usually only used on very complex software products that are used in a large corporation or university.

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