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A History of Copy Protection

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the you-can-never-have-too-many-secret-decoder-rings dept.

Software 536

GamerGirll1138 writes to tell us Next-gen has an amusing walk down memory lane with their history of copy protection. There have been some crazy schemes over the years to ensure that you paid for your software, everything from super-secret decoder rings to ridiculous document checks. "With bandwidth expanding and more and more games publishers exploring digital distribution, there's little doubt that we're entering a new phase in the history of copy protection and those who would defeat it. What's more, the demand for games as a chosen form of entertainment has never been higher. All this considered, it's impossible to believe that the cat-and-mouse game of piracy and copy protection will not reach new levels of intensity, with new technologies deployed on each side, and that some of them will surely create new hurdles for even those who simply wish to purchase and play the newest games. Ah, for the heady days of the code wheel."

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536 comments

I have no issues with copy protection if... (5, Insightful)

Kneo24 (688412) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716023)

it doesn't treat me like some criminal. I don't want my software to stop working because I had no internet access, and I now have to go out of my way and call technical support. I don't want my software to install root-kits on my PC because it thinks I might be a pirate. I don't want copy protection to be less useful than the pirated version. And so on and so forth.

Re:I have no issues with copy protection if... (4, Insightful)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716381)

So you have problems with any copy protection, as long as it exclusively relies on "trust". Because of course copy-protection must raise hassels. There is some method of verifying you can run the software, and such methods can never be 100% accurate (there are lemons/shorts/ruination/reformats/internet outages/etc).

The only other alternative would be a locked down OS (far moreso than Vista) with some sort of anti-modding hardware and a hypervisor. Even that would only mostly work, but it would work well enough to eliminate any other inconviences.

Re:I have no issues with copy protection if... (3, Interesting)

Kneo24 (688412) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716459)

I thought some of the examples I gave would explain my position more clearly. It appears that I'm wrong.

I realize all copy protection in some manner treats you like a criminal. I start having issues when it becomes obtrusive to my ability to play a game or use some software.

I think STEAM is fine. Even if I have no Internet access, I can still play the game as long as I have installed the game.

I think CD keys are fine. It comes with the game. If I lose the key, that's my fault. The game still theoretically works. The CD key also doesn't force me to go out of my way in some fashion. I don't have to pick up a phone to call someone. My keyboard is right there and all I need to do is type it in.

Re:I have no issues with copy protection if... (2, Insightful)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716465)

So, a console?

Re:I have no issues with copy protection if... (1)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716565)

So, a console?

Pretty much. However, a console's copy-protection serves to make it just as hard for someone to write new software as to copy old. In theory, those two don't have to go together. You could also allow far more modding than is possible on a console, content creation/sharing (lock down executables, not content). But yeah, halfway between a console and a computer.

Re:I have no issues with copy protection if... (1)

JesseMcDonald (536341) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716473)

The only other alternative would be a locked down OS (far moreso than Vista) with some sort of anti-modding hardware and a hypervisor. Even that would only mostly work, but it would work well enough to eliminate any other inconviences.

Or rather, it would make all the other inconveniences seem minor in comparison.

Re:I have no issues with copy protection if... (4, Informative)

twistedcubic (577194) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716843)

Here's an example. I bought Maple 6 around five years ago. The retail box had a penguin on it, and advertised that it works on Linux. Cool. $140. No problem. So I get home, install it, and find out I have to get a license from Maple to run it. I go to the website, and later find out that the license is for Windows only. So I call Maplesoft, repeatedly, and after about a week I finally get a response. Pretty frustrating, but hey, in the grand scheme of things, a week is not a long time.

Several months later, after swapping a bad CDROM drive and upgrading RAM, the license key no longer works. So I call Maplesoft, again, and go through the same stupid hassle. The tech FINALLY gave me a machine-agnostic license after all the other crap she tried didn't work. If I had known, I would have asked for one in the first place.

Adding insult to injury, I had some outrageous charges on my phone bills because I didn't realize calling Canada carried "international calling" surcharges.

In the end, I didn't find Maple as useful as I expected. So the moral: I'll be more careful about spending money on proprietary software in the future.

Re:I have no issues with copy protection if... (4, Interesting)

dhavleak (912889) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716407)

it doesn't treat me like some criminal. I don't want my software to stop working because I had no internet access
I feel for the publishers as much as I do for the consumers. Without copy-protection its just too easy for people to rip-off the publishers. I think for people without net-access, phone-in activation is a decent substitute.

I admit I didn't read the article, but for every new and ridiculous height publishers go to for copy-protection, there a new and ridiculous height that crackers go to, to break the protection and then they put the results on bittorrent.

I think it's another case where the law woefully lags behind technology. There need to laws (urgently) protecting consumer rights when copy-protection is applied, just like there's the DMCA which helps publishers go after people who circumvent their protections (helps a little too much).

The point being, once the law makes it clear what copy protection can and cannot do, then at least the publishers have guidelines to work with and can go to town with copy protections but still not trample on our rights.

I especially think the "treating us as criminals" arguments is given way more weight than it's really worth. I mean, does anybody have a better idea about how to validate s/w as being legally purchased other than using some product activation mechanism (whether it works over the phone or net?)

Re:I have no issues with copy protection if... (1, Insightful)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716513)

I don't feel for the publishers at all. Their software is an infinite good.. it doesn't make sense to charge for copies when it costs a penny to press a disk and costs a hundredth of that to offer it for download. Copying is non-destructive and game publishers lose nothing if someone downloads a game instead of going outside. Charge for matchmaking like Steam does. Provide an actual service instead of trying to keep a certain sequence of bytes a secret and hand it out selectively. That's just as offensive as 09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0.

Re:I have no issues with copy protection if... (5, Insightful)

dhavleak (912889) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716805)

I don't feel for the publishers at all. Their software is an infinite good.. it doesn't make sense to charge for copies when it costs a penny to press a disk and costs a hundredth of that to offer it for download.

Strongly disagreed

It doesn't matter that it takes 1 cent to press a disk. How much did it cost to make the software, and how many disks did you sell? If your development cost was 10 million dollars, and you sold 10 million copies, you would have to charge at least $10 per disk to break even -- simple math.

It doesn't matter that it's an infinite good either, and that at $10 per copy, every sale after 10 million is profits. They are still entitled to think that they are providing you with a product/service that is worth at least $10 and that is what they ask you to pay them for it. Easy example is a $50 game that you spend one month playing for about an hour a day -- it's not an unreasonable price to ask -- if a customer isn't willing to pay that price, they shouldn't buy the game. If consumers show a trend of "getting the game by hook or by crook", then the publisher will add copy-protections.

It's really that simple -- it comes down to simple human nature. As long as there exists theft / shrink / infringement (whatever you wanna call it), there will be copy-protection. It's up to the govt./courts to step in and define our (consumer's) rights clearly to make sure our rights don't get trampled on by these copy-protection mechanisms.

Re:I have no issues with copy protection if... (4, Funny)

dhavleak (912889) | more than 5 years ago | (#23717021)

If your development cost was 10 million dollars, and you sold 10 million copies, you would have to charge at least $10 per disk to break even -- simple math.
Oh the irony!! I meant to say 1 million copies.. so much for simple math :)

Re:I have no issues with copy protection if... (1)

The Snowman (116231) | more than 5 years ago | (#23717023)

If your development cost was 10 million dollars, and you sold 10 million copies, you would have to charge at least $10 per disk to break even -- simple math.

$10 million / $10 million == $1. Simple math :-)

But seriously I get your point, this is an economics lesson, really. If people think your product is worth the price, regardless of the cost to make it, they will spend it. The key is finding that sweet spot and then lowering production costs to make a profit.

The other way I look at it is this. I am not only paying for the game, but future development as well. There is a reason established companies do not need venture capital to continue to develop products: they can fund their own R&D from the profits from existing products.

Re:I have no issues with copy protection if... (1)

rk (6314) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716935)

If that certain sequence of bytes isn't an actual service, then presumably any sequence of bytes (say a 4GB dump from /dev/urandom) is just as good?

You're not paying 10-60 bucks for the current copy. You're helping to pay for the first copy that cost thousands to millions to make without which the current 1 cent copy simply couldn't exist.

With that said, I think copy protection is stupid as it adds at best a slight inconvenience to those who would copy it, and oftentimes a greater than slight inconvenience to one's actual customers.

As to people pirating software, if I ever get around to writing a game that I would charge for, I think the only thing worse than people making copies and sharing it would be people not making copies and sharing it (apologies to Oscar Wilde).

Re:I have no issues with copy protection if... (1)

dhavleak (912889) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716949)

Charge for matchmaking like Steam does. Provide an actual service instead of trying to keep a certain sequence of bytes a secret and hand it out selectively.
This argument would suggest that a game like say Portal, which doesn't have an online gameplay component should always be free. It doesn't make sense. What if the online gaming service is provided by one company and the game by another? Each one is entitled to charge for the service in the manner they see fit, just as consumers are entitled to pick their products and services based on what pricing they think is fair.

Re:I have no issues with copy protection if... (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 5 years ago | (#23717029)

Provide an actual service instead of trying to keep a certain sequence of bytes a secret and hand it out selectively.
So, basically, you're saying that we should consider all books, movies, songs, TV shows, single-player games, etc, to be public domain?

Keeping it a secret might be ridiculous, but charging for it is reasonable.

Re:I have no issues with copy protection if... (1)

Shadow-isoHunt (1014539) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716939)

I feel for the publishers as much as I do for the consumers. Without copy-protection its just too easy for people to rip-off the publishers.
And it's not easy to goto a torrent site and grab the content which doesn't have this protection, generally before the legit content is even out on shelves?

Re:I have no issues with copy protection if... (1)

dhavleak (912889) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716985)

And it's not easy to goto a torrent site and grab the content which doesn't have this protection, generally before the legit content is even out on shelves?
You're right, that's pretty easy, but don't you think publishers would respond to that with even stronger copy-protection instead of removing it altogether?

Re:I have no issues with copy protection if... (1)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 5 years ago | (#23717007)

One of my professors at University uses MATLAB a lot. He works with DSP, so it's a daily thing for him.

He bought a full copy, of course, but the problem is that it wouldn't run about half the time. It had something to do with the verification and requiring internet access.

He downloaded a cracked version which worked flawlessly every time. Technically, he was using a legitimate copy, since he bought the software, but he had to d/l a pirated version to get any work done.

Didn't Rockstar basically incorporate the no CD crack into GTAIII for the PC because it made it run so much better than the legit copy?

The ultimate copy protection: (5, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716045)

Quality product at a reasonable price.

Re:The ultimate copy protection: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23716275)

How about:

"Permission to use, modify and redistribute this program is hereby granted."

I'd like to see them violate THAT copyright license.

Re:The ultimate copy protection: (5, Interesting)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716323)

Quality product at a reasonable price.

...and completely without copy protection. I can honestly say that I have only gotten cracks for games I already own a full license to, but I would have never needed to if the games hadn't been virtually padlocked with a faulty key.

I bet a lack of copy protection would also lower the number of calls to tech support as well.

Re:The ultimate copy protection: (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23716335)

Unfortunately not. If you have no money when a reasonable product is offered to you and you can copy it for free, the reasonable price isn't going to prevent a copyright violation. When your competitors have higher prices and make even more people copy their stuff, the dam is broken and you stand even less of a chance to be paid a reasonable price. The ultimate copy protection is to stop giving the product and offer it's functionality as a service, which can't be copied, so it doesn't need copy protection.

Re:The ultimate copy protection: (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Cowpat (788193) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716683)

I feel less inclined to copy if I'm cheapskating over a reasonable price (when I say 'less inclined', I've never actually copied anything that wasn't abandonware, but feel more tempted to when it's something that I can't stretch to than something that I won't stretch to). If you're charging £15 I'll buy it, or I'll do without, I might even push that to £20 for something that had a good demo, but if you're charging £35 I won't buy it. *I* won't copy it either, but you still don't get a sale. The point is that with a reasonable price for the product you'll get the middle-ground people (who have some moral compunction against copying but lose it when they realise that you're trying to rip them off) to cough up. You probably get the same amount of money overall, I suppose the status quo lets you keep those pirate figures up.

Perhaps the point of a reasonable price as copy protection is that your average man on the street likes to see rip-off merchants get ripped-off themselves. If you had someone come to your door, offer to clean your windows for "two-fifty", and then ask for £250 when the work was done, not £2.50, would you have any problem with writing a cheque for £250 and immediately cancelling it, thus getting whatever work was done for free? I don't think that most people would, and it's getting those 'most people' to not see the game publisher as the rip-off merchant, and thus be willing to pay the price asked for what they're getting, that reasonable-price-as-copy-protection is aimed at.
If someone offers you a deal that is clearly a rip-off, do you just politely decline, or do you try to twist the deal so that you get to do the ripping off? Quite a lot of people would do the latter - that's the spirit behind quite a lot of piracy, and threatening people that they'd better accept your rip-off deal or else isn't going to make that spirit go away - not appearing to rip them off will. The fool and his money are easily parted - the rest of us don't like people who try to demonstrate the former of us by doing the latter.

Re:The ultimate copy protection: (2)

mpe (36238) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716737)

If you have no money when a reasonable product is offered to you and you can copy it for free, the reasonable price isn't going to prevent a copyright violation.

However such a person was never a "potential customer" in the first place. In the worst case senario the seller/publisher/etc has lost nothing. (The same actually applies even if someone had the money but would have either copied for free or done without it).
It's also possible for "pirate copies" to generate actual sales which would never have otherwise existed without any additional marketing cost.

Re:The ultimate copy protection: (5, Funny)

arotenbe (1203922) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716347)

I'd say the ultimate copy protection would be an awful, expensive product. On the other hand, it doesn't seem to be working for the music industry...

Murphy's law of mod points... (1)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716739)

You know I just used up my last mod point 5 minutes ago! LOL

OTOH, I wouldn't have been able to decide between Funny and Insightful, anyway...

Re:The ultimate copy protection: (1, Interesting)

dhavleak (912889) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716551)

The ultimate copy protection: Quality product at a reasonable price.

Strongly disagreed.

Copy-protection (akin to shrink/theft prevention) is a completely seperate issue from pricing.

Customers have every right to think a product is overpriced, and not make a purchase. Similarly publishers have every right to think their product is worth a certain price, and charge accordingly. They might price themselves out of the market if they get the pricing wrong, but they are still well within their rights to decide their price. There might be a tradeoff where a certain price point strikes an optimum balance between legal purchases and illegal downloads - but there's not been a proven case of that happening yet (though hopefully Amazon will prove to be just that for MP3s at least).

Ultimately this argument might work for something like music with is a 1-dollar or less purchase. But this same argument won't extend well to movies, games, operating systems etc. where even the break-even price point could be anywhere from $10 to $100. Comparing that against 'free' -- it's easy to predict what choice most people will make.

Re:The ultimate copy protection: (1)

Alwin Henseler (640539) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716763)

True. All these copy prevention mechanism just have an economic effect. Any mechanism will be cracked quickly once a product is out in numbers. After that, there's a 'free' version that is easy to copy, but comes in a form that takes time on the user side: time to find on a P2P network, time & bandwidth to download, perhaps time to burn a CD/DVD. It also misses some things that come with the original: an original box, paper manual, CD artwork and perhaps a warm feeling inside from knowing you supported the creators.

These 2 versions compete, and a copy protection has influence on how attractive each version is. Make it too cumbersome, and the illegal (free) version becomes more attractive. Make it weak, and it becomes extremely easy to create an illegal copy from an original. Make the original too expensive, and you make the illegal version more attractive.

For a small numbers product I can understand a cumbersome copy protection scheme. But why for a mass market product? If your product is good enough, then your potential market is everyone that is interested, and has the hardware to run it. If you price it ridiculously cheap, say production cost + $1 for a plain CD/DVD in jewel case, then who will bother to search on P2P network, download a full ISO (or multiple ISO's), and burn the whole thing (on discs that are cheap, but not free either)? Nobody. Time is precious, so people are willing to spend money to save time.

So the solution for software makers is easy: if the potential market for your product is big (in terms of number of customers), then:
  • Provide your product in any form that customers desire: downloads via fast servers/BT, plain physical media, collectors boxes / limited editions that include extra goodies.
  • Make your product easy to obtain. Read: get a copy through a 5-minute effort without leaving your home.
  • Payment through any means you can think of, delivery as download via fast servers/BT, or physical media at near production-cost.
  • Forget about copy-protection, since they reduce the value of your product, make the illegal version more attractive, and... increase your development costs (slightly perhaps, but still)
No matter how high the development costs, you will recoup those if enough people give you $1 a pop. Size your development budget according to an estimate of how sensational/desirable your product will be.

The real problem (5, Insightful)

willyhill (965620) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716061)

The submission touches on the real problem, that this epic battle between companies and the freeriders eventually ends up affecting normal people more than really preventing copying. I have friends who are avid gamers but actually end up pirating the games they buy because it's too difficult to deal with the copy protection crap.

On the other hand I think this will eventually reach a breaking point and these normal people (who are the paying customers) will stop putting up with said crap. That will be an interesting development for sure.

Re:The real problem (1)

djsmiley (752149) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716191)

surely by pirating they ARE stopping in putting up with the crap?

Problem is instead of companys activly seaking to please the customer, they give us the option of put up or shut up.

Re:The real problem (1)

willyhill (965620) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716449)

surely by pirating they ARE stopping in putting up with the crap?

Unfortunately by then they already doled out their hard-earned money in exchange for being treated as criminals, basically. A full stop would be to not buy the content to begin with.

Re:The real problem (4, Insightful)

Doctor_Jest (688315) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716223)

Some have stopped putting up with it, but the resultant decline in sales is attributed to piracy, rather than a fed up customer.

Re:The real problem (2, Insightful)

BZWingZero (1119881) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716417)

Technically, it is due to piracy. Because of all the anti-piracy measures, people aren't buying. Those anti-piracy measures were put in place to counter piracy. Therefore, indirectly, it is due to piracy.

Re:The real problem (1)

Kneo24 (688412) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716615)

The worst part about that is that they cite these huge numbers of pirated copies being used at any given time. I guess they divine that information from their crystal ball? They sure as hell never give sources on how they find these numbers.

Re:The real problem (4, Interesting)

Petrushka (815171) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716319)

I have friends who are avid gamers but actually end up pirating the games they buy because it's too difficult to deal with the copy protection crap.

I'm sure there's nothing unusual about that. The very first thing I do when I buy a game, even before installing -- and preferably before buying, too -- is to stop off at gamecopyworld and/or gameburnworld to make sure that there's a crack that I can apply to my legitimate (and patched) copy. It's a trend that will only continue.

I've already had experiences of electronics shops pointing to me to instructions on how to "crack" a DVD player to make it multi-region, how to unlock phones, and so on. I'm sure it won't be too long before we see game shops doing similar things; games will catch up eventually.

On the other hand I think this will eventually reach a breaking point and these normal people (who are the paying customers) will stop putting up with said crap.

That I doubt, unfortunately. As the article shows, people have been putting up with copy-prevention schemes since the advent of commercial computer software (in fact the article doesn't start nearly early enough). Some of those schemes have been much more burdensome than present-day ones -- though they're getting worse again, with "activate every time you start the game"-type schemes.

Re:The real problem (1)

imneverwrong (1303895) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716415)

Exactly, because it only takes one person to figure out how to bypass the protection - everyone else who doesn't know how, still knows to look on The Pirate Bay for the cracked content. The person who loses is the normal consumer who has to put up with 3 minutes of splash screen, "Insert Disc 1", and who can't play the game if he loses one of the CDs/DVDs it came on

Re:The real problem (1)

packeteer (566398) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716791)

I have friends who are avid gamers but actually end up pirating the games they buy because it's too difficult to deal with the copy protection crap.

FYI there is a differance between playing a game you didn't pay for and cracking the copy protection on a game you did pay for. Both are technically illegal but 1 is far more moral than the other in most people's eyes.

Re:The real problem (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716797)

It's not just games, software is affected too. I know people who have legit copies of Windows, but use pirate Corporate editions because they don't need activating.

Same with many expensive bits of software - the pirate version doesn't need a dongle or online activation, plus it will run on their work desktop, home desktop and laptop from one licence. You see, normal people think that when they buy software they own it and can install it on all their machines, not just one at a time. After all, it belongs to them, not the machine.

Dongle Almighty! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23716067)

With USB, computers today have more free ports than ever before and even my mom could add a hub.

Perhaps the time is ripe for the return of the Dongle [wikipedia.org].

Re:Dongle Almighty! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23716179)

Dongles are no more difficult to crack then any copy protection scheme that adds checks through out the code of the game.

Respectfully disagree (2, Informative)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716237)

A couple of problems with that.

First off, it's no big deal to snoop USB, [google.com] which makes dongles pretty easy to crack.

You have to petition the USB folks so you get a unique vendor's ID, which is a pain. Plus, they are finite. [driveragent.com]

You'd have to get Microsoft to give you a digital certificate to make your dongle driver legit - also a pain. And you'd have to go through a driver installation just to load your software, more of a pain.

Finally, dongle bound software is just as crackable with a monitor. There has to be some code that goes out and checks the dongle, then returns "yes this is authorized" or "no let's not run". Just zap that bit and the dongle goes away.

Re:Dongle Almighty! (2, Insightful)

profplump (309017) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716345)

But with USB there's absolutely no way I can tell the difference between a dongle, and a bit of software that attaches to the USB chain. Or a single uber-dongle that emulates an number of other dongles after cloning from the original/loading a saved config. With parallel/ADB/serial dongles it was at least moderately hard, but with USB it's trivial.

At the very least the USB dongle would have to do something sort of calculations to provide authentication using a cryptographic authentication system. Certainly you could build dongles with appropriate computing power, they quickly become expensive. And you still have to deal with the possibility of simply cracking the game to bypass the check and skip to the "yep, authenticated" portion -- the USB device would have to provide some bit of data that was necessary to execute the machine code but different from use-to-use, which is a non-trivial problem all on its own.

Not to mention that no one would just use the USB block device driver -- they would all require that you install slightly different, conflicting drivers to read their USB dongles.

Captain Goodnight and the Islands of Fear (3, Funny)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716077)

Aw man, you mean that secret decoder was just a copy protection scheme? And I wasn't really saving the world? That's it! I was in support of RIAA/MPAA/BSA before but now they've just wrecked my childhood fantasy! I'm going to go poke an eye out and buy a parrot!

Ultima - color book (3, Funny)

bigattichouse (527527) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716081)

I remember the Ultima book back when a laser copy was expensive. The colors were pastels, which wouldn't copy on the copy machines of the day, so to pirate the game, you had to spend about as much in color copies as buying the darn thing. Course, I had a friend whose dad's office had a copier... ahh. smell the piracy.

Re:Ultima - color book (5, Interesting)

v1 (525388) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716219)

The trick there was bleach. Bleach would strip the color off the paper but not the ink. So it would turn a print that was for example, grey ink on dark red paper (which would B&W copy to a sheet of black paper) into a tannish/reddish/white sheet of paper, and black lettering, easily photocopied.

Anyone remember MordorCharge?

What's amusing (4, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716087)

Amusing is sending those of us who actually RTFA to the LAST page of a 4 page article. This article is the straight man in a comedy duo, only without the funny man. That's sort of amusing in an ironic way.

Just think, without copy protection, we wouldn't have been able to distribute our viruses so easily. With all these kids trying to download cracks from any site that offered them, our bits have gone far and wide.

Thanks copy protection!

Re:What's amusing (1)

racas (633636) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716153)

I knew I couldn't have been the only one to notice! Error looks to be submitter's. This [next-gen.biz] is the first page.

Re:What's amusing (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716433)

"Amusing is sending those of us who actually RTFA to the LAST page of a 4 page article."
Oh great, now you went and broke the www.next-gen.biz copy protection scheme!

I still hate copy protection schemes (5, Interesting)

jandrese (485) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716109)

Oh man, I remember moving up from the Commodore 64 to the Mac LC. Because 90% of the C64 software we had was "Load 'n Go" stuff for $1 (literally!) there wasn't much worry about copy protection. I can't remember a single thing we had on that system that had copy protection. The Mac however did have some surprises. We actually sent our first copy of SimCity back to Maxis because we didn't realize that the Red Card with the weird symbols was important and that strange dialog box (I was like 10 at the time, gimme a break) at the start was also important. I thought it was broken because every time you started the game it would throw disasters at your city constantly. The tech support guys were apparently trained to treat anybody asking about the copy protection like a theif, and never bothered to tell us what we had to do either (hence the useless return). Luckily, I figured it out with the second copy (unpacking the box myself instead of letting my brother do it and finding the red card made a big difference).

Later on I played Chris Crawford's (I think that was his name) Patton Strikes Back. This one was interesting it that it let you run about halfway through the game, and then stopped and asked "are your papers in order"? It then directed you to a specific page in the manual and had you type in a specific word (third word on the second paragraph for instance). There was a slight problem though, the manual had apparently been revised a bit after the copy protection was put in place, so about 5-10% of the time, your game would be destroyed halfway through because it failed the copy check. That was after we got AOL and it was my first foray into piracy, as getting halfway through a tough game and then losing because the copy protection was buggy was a real outrage. This was the days before games released patches, so as far as I know unless you crack the thing there's always a chance of losing the war because of the copy protection.

Re:I still hate copy protection schemes (2, Interesting)

bjourne (1034822) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716429)

I had the same problem with Pirates! on the Amiga. I think inputting names to pirate photos was the copy protection scheme that occured at the start of the game. If you failed to enter the correct names, the game would be ultra-hard with lots of English frigates and Spaniards hunting you while your crew would mutiny. I never figured it out but managed to do quite well at the game never the less.

My favorite copy protection scheme was Simon the Sorcerers. It had a set of sprites, hats, cats, brooms and so on and you had to click on a matching direction on a compass. You only had eight different directions to choose from, north, south, east, west, north west, north east, south west and south east so it was brute force breakable since you only needed three correct answers in a row. I remember writing down big tables on my attempts with guessing the sprites so that I could find the correct solution for each one. I think I enjoyed "hacking" the copy protection more than actually playing the game.

Copy Restriction (4, Insightful)

Virtex (2914) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716127)

We should call it what it is - copy restricton. It doesn't protect your copy nor your ability to copy. I could understand if it were called copyright protection, but that's just not the case.

Execution Restriction (3, Insightful)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716233)

Many of these schemes can't prevent copying data, like CSS, online authentication or dongles, so they try to prevent execution.

Even when used legitimately, a computer is going to make at least one copy of the program/data, first into main memory, then into the various levels of caches.

New form of RIAA (2, Insightful)

ChrisDavi (1272976) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716167)

Funny how any form of digital media goes from retail to electronic, only to be more protected, then only to be broken. It will only be a losing battle between publishers, users, & crackers. If you can see or use any product, someone can break the protection. The only sure way of non payers using a piece of software, don't release it (or create it for that matter)

Re:New form of RIAA (1)

Standard User 79 (1209050) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716867)

It's not an absolute issue for publishers. Successful copy protection mitigates theft, doesn't try to prevent it. Last I checked the game industry is doing quite well with their schemes.

Anyone remember PS1/PS2 CP? (1)

djsmiley (752149) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716243)

It was featured in a mag i saw and basicly said that it would "notice" if it was a copied disk....

You could play the game for awhile then "strange" things would start to happen. The example they gave was a pool game where the gravity would get lower and lower so slowly the balls would just float off the table....

did anyone see this actually come to light? Did i just imagine it?

Re:Anyone remember PS1/PS2 CP? (1)

Panaflex (13191) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716593)

My copy of Lego Starwars does this when the disk is dirty... perhaps it is on purpose... or perhaps the data is just corrupted.

Re:Anyone remember PS1/PS2 CP? (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716887)

Operation Flashpoint had a system like this, where if it decided it was a pirate copy the game would slowly fade to black.

I don't think they ever made a version for a games console though because no-one could ever figure out a reliable way of detecting mod chips (or just CDRs on the Dreamcast).

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (3, Interesting)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716261)

It wasn't very effective as copy protection, but the game had an awesome add-in as it immersed you into the world of arcaheology and adventure:

Henry Jones' Grail Diary.

It was in a nice leather-like enclosure, and the paper had a parchment texture. There were lots of pictures with clips and notes addeds, all written by hand.

The copy protection part was a series of descriptions of the Grail according to various authors - which were referenced by Indy as he investigated various items.

BTW, in the LucasArts' adventure games, a trimmed down copy of the grail diary was included only for the copy protection. But it wasn't as good as the original.

As an Indy fan, I would buy the original Last Crusade game again *JUST* for the Grail Diary.

Re:Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (5, Interesting)

Bieeanda (961632) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716707)

That reminds me of my favourite bit of copy protection. It was so elegant, I didn't even realize that it was more than just a bit of box fluff. Ultima 5 came with a whack of little things-- a symbol of infinity, a cloth map, a nice in-character manual describing creatures and spells and whatnot... and a narrow scroll that described the voyage of Lord British into the newly discovered Underworld, and his subsequent kidnapping by the Shadowlords.

Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across the entrance to the Underworld that they used, and found myself able to trace LB's path all the way to the great chamber where his fallen companions still lay. Without that miniature walkthrough, and one page in the manual, with one line of musical notation, written as apparently nothing more than a window on Britannian culture, I'd have never been able to finish the game.

Unfortunately the later games abandoned that completely. The documentation checks were all at the beginning of the game, and all referred to the bestiary, or lines of latitude and longitude on one of the included maps. What had once been pleasantly immersive (and a dirty, dirty trick on a cheap pirate) turned into a challenge and response to prove that you were the heroic Avatar. Kind of says something about the shift in the relationship between player and developer.

Ahhh, holes burned in disks (3, Interesting)

JohnnyGTO (102952) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716299)

Vault Corp. what a product. Actually it was ingenious, even if your 5 1/4 disk wore out the little mark would register with the copy protection software. All you needed to do was swap out the back up disks with the original. I hear at Comdex a certain individual told a certain hacker what he would unleash with the next update a worm on anyone that broke the protection scheme. Company was closed about 6 months later.

Article sucks, but I remember two ... (5, Informative)

Richard W.M. Jones (591125) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716301)

An extremely useless article even by slashdot standards, but I remember two copy protection schemes that sucked even more:

Lenslock [wikipedia.org] - used by a few 80s home computer games. I'm fairly certain it might have been a UK-only thing. It was horrible. You had to fold this crappy bit of plastic a certain way and hold it over a part of the screen. If you were lucky, and your TV wasn't too large or too small, you might be able to make out the decoded letters which you had to type in.

And then one we used at work: Parallel port dongles [wikipedia.org]. I used to work in electronic CAD and all the software used this, the result being you needed 5 or more dongles all plugged in at the same time to do any useful work. In the end we got someone in the workshop build a kind of "dongle motherboard" where you could plug in multiple dongles more conveniently than having them hang out the back of the machine, and more importantly pull them out to swap between machines.

Happy days ... No, actually sucky days. I'm glad I use almost completely free software now.

Rich.

Re:Article sucks, but I remember two ... (1)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716685)

Oh I remember those two. Nasty. Another one was the donglefor leaderboard golf. On the Atari 800 you had to put it in the second joystick port to play. It was a sealed epoxy resined thing so no way to get in without destroying it's secrets.
Anyhow, I wrote the worlds shorted Atari Basic program i.e. print stick(1) which displayed what the joystick port was seeing and all it was was up and down simultanously so I bought a joysick connector shell, wired the two lines up and voila - it worked just fine :-)
World's lamest copy protection, basically.

Re:Article sucks, but I remember two ... (1)

larien (5608) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716741)

Yup, I remember lenslok; I didn't find it too bad once you got the hang of it, even on the crappy TV I had on my speccy. It could occassionally be painful at times if you got the sizing wrong, though.

I never actually had to deal with dongles, although I did see them around from time to time. I've seen the daisy chains as you say, hanging off the back of the desk... urgh...

Re:Article sucks, but I remember two ... (1)

hairykrishna (740240) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716783)

Fucking leslock. I curse it to this day. Amstrad CPC with a greenscreen + lenslock was an exercise in futility. First example I remember of being prevented from using software I had actually paid for.

Re:Article sucks, but I remember two ... (1)

drspliff (652992) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716815)

Capcom I think released a fighting game similar to Mortal Combat in the mid 90s, and distributed with it was a code book - matte black paper with shiny black codes which would just show up all black if photocopied.

To play the game it'd say something like "Page 3 row 5 column C", then look it up in the code book and squint with the light in the right direction to get the code.

Similar-ish idea, but much less retarded.

Grinding disk drives. (3, Insightful)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716359)

I remember copy protection from the days of 5 1/4 inch floppy disks, back when I'd have to boot off the game disk to play. The drive would start grinding like crazy before the game finally started. I never experienced problems but I recall hearing that the copy protection was taxing on the drive and could damage it.

This prevented someone from just copying the files on the disk directly. But there was an application that just copied the image and got around that nonsense.

Things haven't really changed. I don't understand why they just don't give up. This has been repeated many times, but it's true. All they're doing is inconveniencing consumers who actually paid for the product.

Re:Grinding disk drives. (1)

KPexEA (1030982) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716771)

The actual protection was a bad sector on the floppy and the program would read it and make sure the error matched what it was expecting. The side-effect was that the rom software on the disk drive did a reset of the head position a couple of times to try and read the sector and that was the grinding noise that you would hear.

Re:Grinding disk drives. (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716971)

The Apple II was ideal for copy protection. Due to the design of the floppy drives and controller, the programmer had low-level access to the guts of the drive. You could directly manipulate the stepper motor used for head positioning and do all sorts of bizarre data encoding and track formatting tricks.

Re:Grinding disk drives. (1)

UnderCoverPenguin (1001627) | more than 5 years ago | (#23717027)

I remember a copy protection scheme that quarter-stepped the floppy drive head between sectors, so the tracks on the disk were recorded in spirals. It wasn't a grinding sound, but it did make a lot of clicks (16 per each rev of the disk). This meant that a simple bit copy would result in a corrupted copy - until someone came out with a quad track density drive.

My company's strategy (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23716397)

I think we're pretty reasonable.

The software can be downloaded and trialed for 30 days. After that time, it locks out. Could you set your system clock back 30 days? Sure. Do we really care too much? No. If you want to keep your system out of sync by a month just to avoid paying us, you are a doofus.

If you want a license, there are many types available. Our software views documents. You can license an entire web server to serve documents to our viewer, and it will view them. You can get a LAN license which locks to a hostname which allows you to install the software on a file server, and anybody running the software off that server is licensed. If you change hostnames, You can even buy a utility that allows you to embed a license inside a document, so that anybody with a free copy of the viewer can view that particular document.

The license is protected with some simple ciphering. Could it be broken? Sure. Could the host locking be broken? Sure. We don't really care too much. The license is there to keep people from accidentally installing the software on more than one file server. If you want to do it deliberately, you need to set both hosts to the same hostname. Or figure out how to hack the encryption. We don't delude ourselves into thinking this is impossible. To our knowledge, nobody has bothered. If somebody came up with a keygen and put it out on the Internet, we'd be pissed. But our response would probably be to switch to another cipher. If our software was suddenly so popular as to inspire some cracker to write a keygen, my first response would probably be "Cool beans."

None of the licensing mechanisms are onerous. It doesn't "phone home." It doesn't expire silently. If you want to extend your eval, we are happy to work with you.

We prefer to sell our software by providing quality. If it's not worth the $XXX to you, then either you don't have a legitimate use, or our price is too high. But we're not going to treat our legit customers like criminals just to get that extra 1% in licensing.

Re:My company's strategy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23716789)

Yeah, but too bad your company, WJJSoft, won't fix all the problems in MyBase that I've pointed out.

Re:My company's strategy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23716807)

Well, that was a fascinating read, but it's not my company.

The irony... (2, Insightful)

damburger (981828) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716443)

...is that the people who are described as the good guys in this article are the ones who want to control your computer, and even more they refer to those wanting to choose what to do with their own computers as 'crackers'

Re:The irony... (1)

Zironic (1112127) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716585)

People that break copy protections (Specifically unprotect .exe's) refer to themselves as crackers.

Anyone remember Robocop 3's copy protection? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23716469)

Robocop 3 dongle [proboards44.com] ... a bit of hardware that you attached the the parallel port on the Amiga 500. It was cracked days before the official release. It was just asking the parallel port for a code to unlock the game.

With the proliferation of USB ports on computers these days though could you have some weird hardware that a CPU couldn't emulate at speed? In the same way that software depends on graphics accelerators make it dependent on some weird USB hardware that's used for in-game-physics or text layout or something.

I mean it can't be the case that computers are fast enough to emulate everything, so these days couldn't we make custom hardware that a game required?

Re:Anyone remember Robocop 3's copy protection? (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716965)

Actually, the Robocopy 3 dongle connected to the mouse/joystick port (which irritatingly meant you had to unplug the mouse) and simply simply held the "joystick" both left and right at the same time. The game cost £35, £10 more than the average. You can see why people went for the cracked version.

Copyright protection schemes get in the way ... (1)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716491)

... of legit users. A while ago I wanted to play Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, never came to it when it was "new", but it wouldn't work on my new machine with Windows Vista. The fix was easy, download the no-cd patch (the one with copyright protection removed) and it works without a single issue.

Copyright protection software often abuses certain OS features which could be "fix" in a security update and thereby rendering the copyright protected software useless.

Ahh the good ole Apple IIe days (1)

multi-flavor-geek (586005) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716499)

Copying video games from each other, we each had our disk of copy protection cracking software, some were better than others though. I had all the good games, moon patrol, Conan the Barbarian, Ms. Pac Man, Karateka, Serpentine, Q Bert, etc... Ahh, those were the days, 1 megahertz processors, 64 kilobytes of ram (that swapped back and forth) and cracking software when the teacher wasn't looking. Not bad for being in fourth grade (circa 1983)

My favorite "copy protection" (1)

rmsnwbrdr (134786) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716507)

Some of the older copy protection schemes were actually quite ingenious. Leisure Suit Larry 3 was my favorite. There is a point in the game where there is a locker in a gym (called Fat City) with some vital items that must be retrieved to continue the game. What's the combination? Good question. It took my friend and I about 2 weeks to figure it out. In the instruction manual there are mock advertisements for products in the game and for Fat City. The combination to the locker ended up being the page numbers in the manual with the Fat City ads. No manual? Then you would never get passed this part of the game. Sierra did similar things with King's Quest, Police Quest, etc., but the LSL-3 scheme was pretty funny.

We Copied That Floppy (5, Informative)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716525)

I remember in the 1980s when game vendors started burning bad sectors into Atari 400/800 floppies on which they distributed their products. Their game's loader SW would try to read those sectors and abort if they weren't unreadable, thinking that pirates couldn't replicate them with just diskdup SW.

The Atari 810 floppy drive [wikipedia.org] (the highest density storage available, like a 1TB HD is now, and the only game in town other than ridiculous tape drives, except for the extremely rare and stratospherically expensive 5MB Corvus HD) had a little potentiometer in its circuitboard controlling timing of the eletromagnetic signal waveform sent to the write head, that could be turned out of calibration to deliberately write a bad sector. So pirates would map the original's bad sector list, then copy the good sectors, then detune the pot, then write to the list of bad sectors - ruining them, then retune the pot and boot the copy.

Sure, that's pretty complex, voids the floppy warranty, and intimidates a lot of potential pirates. So instead, some people just stuck a disklabel to the edge of the target floppy, left the label sticking out of the drive, and grabbed that tab to jiggle the floppy while writing to each of the bad sectors - ruining them. Presto!

Besides, the pro pirates had the same mass floppy duplicators with the same programmable "write bad sector" circuitry that the original game vendors had, so the large, commercial pirates weren't fazed (pun intended ;) one bit (gotcha again >:P), but lots of honest people couldn't back up their games (which were sensitive to all kinds of transient EM, like paperclip collector magnets on desktops), and the vendors spent valuable time and money on worthless copy protection.

In fact, beating the copy protection was often more fun than the game. So around the world people were working to beat it, even if they never played the game again, but gave copies to friends just to show how ubergeek they were.

This cat & mouse game is in fact the exact model for all SW copy protection. It's become only a worse value waste for the SW producers, especially in content. They should use their only advantage, their earlier possession of the SW/content, to make big bucks at the first release, just like Hollywood does for movie premiere big weekends. Then let the pirates do their distribution work for free, and charge for support, customization, and subscriptions to upgrades. And build brands to sell their future releases.

Because "Don't Copy That Floppy" has been a losing battle, long before people would say "what's a floppy?"

Re:We Copied That Floppy (1)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716833)

Yeah, I remember all that, especially tugging the floppy during the bad sector write. Of course, stuff like the Happy board, 1050 Duplicator etc made it a lot easier copying 8bit Atari games.
Back then it was more about collecting titles than anything and people would try and out do each other on numbs 'hey, I've got 400 floppies full of games!' etc. The few games I actually played were the ones I bought, partly out of bloody mindedness i.e. having payed GBP35 for a game I was damn well going to get 35 worth of game no matter how bad it was, especially when it took 20 mins to load off a tape. The other thing was I always felt guilty enough to cough up for a game I really got some use of - Infocoms, Defender, Dig Dug, Archon etc.

The Arms Race (2, Interesting)

xrayspx (13127) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716535)

I loved being the 7834th person to figure out how to crack Psygnosis titles back in the Atari ST days. Not that I cared about being able to copy the games, they were available anywhere, but just to figure out how to get around the hurdle.

Back then every game was like buying two games, one that they wanted you to play, and one that they didn't want you to play, the "figure out how to copy it" game. I was never really any good at the cracking-the-game game, but it was interesting and fun anyway.

Well that was a crap article (1)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716545)

Badly researched, inaccurate...
It misses out on huge chunks of anti-piracy techniques, introduces stuff like it was new ten years after it was first used and asfor 'typing programs into DOS' - WTF?
This has to be one of the worst articles a slashdot story has linked to for some time.

DO NOT WANT (2, Interesting)

ewhac (5844) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716599)

You know, I used to really enjoy playing Team Fortress Classic under the old Half-Life engine. Even the occasional cheater would provide some amusement. Then Valve jammed Steam down everyone's throat, and suddenly I couldn't play anymore. Because I refused to install Steam.

I think I'd enjoy playing Half-Life 2. But I won't install Steam. Same deal for Portal; looks like enormous fun. But I will not install Steam.

You seeing a trend here?

Valve is leaving at least $120 retail on the table. I am paying for entertainment. I am not paying for remote monitoring. I can look after my own machines, thank you. All Valve has to do is delete the Steam requirement, and they can have my money.

Schwab

Re:DO NOT WANT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23716827)

Just get a pirate copy. No need to mess about with Steam then.

Re:DO NOT WANT (2, Insightful)

Kneo24 (688412) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716995)

You know, you can play your games in offline mode, where STEAM doesn't snoop on you all the time. That's great for single player games like Portal. Online games, ok, you can't exactly play them in offline mode. Now, at the very least, you can play half the games you mentioned.

Boy, I could have written this a lot faster (3, Funny)

Dan667 (564390) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716711)

rev1: fail
rev2: fail
rev3: fail
rev4: fail
rev5: fail
rev6: fail
current: seeing what happens (fingers crossed!)

C&C RA (2, Funny)

Toreo asesino (951231) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716731)

One of the C&C Red Alert games...it would work out someone in a network play had the game copied (most of us were legit, but 8 people buying the same game is rare), but you wouldn't know immediately until everyone had at least a construction yard, power plant, refinery and barracks built for everyone, then without warning and for no apparent reason, everyone's buildings exploded at once like everyone had been nuked.

It would've been a good photo to take of everyone's expressions at that exact moment, because it certainly took us by surprise and convinced us to, er, try even harder to crack it. Which we did.

One of My Favourites... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23716755)

...was the Leather Godesses of Phobos text adventure. The game came backed with several odds 'n' ends, among which was a comic book.

Towards the end of the game there was a sequence required to navigate through a maze of sewer pipes. The exact sequence of moves was detailed in the comic and was absolutely impossible to guess at--who would guess at stopping to mimic the mating call of a local crab species?

Kings Quest III (5, Interesting)

AdamTrace (255409) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716773)

From the article: "Perhaps the most notorious example of this method is Sierra's King's Quest III, in which lengthy passages of potion recipes and other information had to be reproduced from the manual. One typo, and you were greeted with a "Game Over" screen."

I never viewed this as "copy protection", as such. If it was, I thought it brilliantly played into the actual game.

The spot in the game is where you're creating a potion or magical item. You needed to follow the directions PRECISELY, or the spell would backfire. I remember typing VERY slowly and carefully, doublechecking everything. It really enhanced the experience of the game, for me.

If it was meant purely as copy protection, I thought it actually ADDED something to the game.

Adman

No mention of e-books? (4, Insightful)

RexDevious (321791) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716859)

E-Books *should* have been the first victims of internet piracy, simply because they were the smallest, and all the content was just good ol' plain text. Ever wonder why it's a hell of a lot easier to get a pirate copy of a whole DVD than it is to get one of a non-Guttenberged E-Book?

One reason may be the incredibly elegant system of copy protection they used. You unlock the book with 2 pieces of information - the name and credit card number you used to buy the book. Now... someone might not think twice about throwing up a bunch of serialz out to the general public; but publishing their name and credit card number to a site that caters to thieves? Kinda loses it's appeal.

Maybe I'm missing something here. Maybe people don't mind that e-books cost just the same as their paper counterparts. Maybe computer geeks would rather lug around paper versions of Cryptonomicon than read it off their PDA's, or iPhones. Maybe someone's already cracked the .pdb e-book format, and I just haven't run across it despite having found dozens of ways of cracking movies and software.

If so - let me know. I'd love to transfer my existing e-book collection into plain text, or possibly loan copies of some titles to people I wouldn't necessarily trust my credit card number with. I can give copies to my mum, and she could give the same copy to someone else - but she'd have to give them all my credit card info for them to read it which makes her much more discerning.

There are other little aspects to it as well - take a look at how e-books are sold to see why they aren't pirated and see if you think it could be applied to larger software offerings.

blind people have to hack e-book just to read them (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716975)

blind people have to hack e-books just to read them. Is this what you want? you want a e-book that works with your screen reader pay more.

This was not limited to PC software... (1)

KC7GR (473279) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716879)

Back in the late 1980's, Data I/O Corp. [dataio.com] first released their 'Unisite' line of memory/PLD programming hardware. At that time, they were deathly paranoid about having each and every customer pay their (probably exorbitant) fee of at least $1,400 per year for keeping the programmer's operating software up to date.

The initial scheme to handle this, and lock a single copy of the operating software to a single programmer, was to send a preprogrammed PAL (Programmable Array Logic) device with each update kit. This PAL had the security fuse blown during initial programming at Data I/O's factory, so it was impossible to copy.

In order to update the programmer, you were required to install the boot floppy for the update, install the PAL in the Unisite's DIP socket, and fire everything up. The theory was that the software validated itself against the PAL's programming (it was, in effect, a hardware key), installed itself, and then literally fried the PAL chip to keep it from being used again.

This whole scheme was rife with problems, primarily because the PAL chips were highly ESD-sensitive and the person doing the upgrade at the customer's end didn't always take ESD precautions. Bad PAL? Gotta beg Data I/O to send you a replacement. And Lord help you if your programmer happened to be far enough out of calibration that it couldn't read the PAL, or if the DIP socket was intermittent.

Data I/O abandoned this crazy scheme barely two years later. The next thing they tried was a simple "lock the floppies to the programmer" thing by writing an encrypted hash of the programmer's hardware ID to the floppy boot sector, and having the operating software check for it. This caused massive problems with customers who had cause to try and use older device algorithms from previous disk sets, because said sets lacked the hash check.

That scheme faded quickly into oblivion as well, and Data I/O has, as far as I know, dropped copy protection on the software for the Unisite. I don't know if they still do it for their other programmer lines.

Happy tweaking.

Lotus 123 (1)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 5 years ago | (#23716951)

Another horrible one was Lotus 123 for DOS, mainly earlier versions. That used to write to the master floppy when it installed to track where it had been installed. When you wanted to put it on another PC you had to uninstall it first and that would restore the master floppy ready for reinstalling elsewhere. It also wrote something nasty to the HD - an unmoveable file of some sort ISTR which probably made life interesting for defraggers.
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"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
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