Copy protection

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This page is in need of updating. A page about digital rights management (DRM) should probably be split off from this page. Copy protection is a tool used by DRM; DRM relates to the processes by which content-licenses are obtained, accounted for, and used to unlock copy-protected content.

Copy protection, also known as Digital Rights Management (DRM), is a term applied to any technique used to prevent unauthorized copying of any work in any medium which would otherwise be relatively easy to copy. It is most commonly applied to digital media such as CDs and DVDs, but is also used in some proprietary file formats to prevent access to the work on unauthorized machines. It may aso be applied to measures such as "watermarking" of digital images, which does not prevent copying but makes the image unusable for resale purposes.

Content protection is only slightly different from "copy protection" in that it also prevents unauthorized access to the work in question, preventing the work from being played even if one has already obtained a complete and accurate copy.

Copy protection is almost never applied to traditional/analog media such as books, paintings, or vinyl records, partly because these media are already laborious to copy and expensive to reproduce in a form which appears similar to the original, and partly because analog copy-protection is difficult to implement. The chief use of copy-protection in the analog world is printed money, certificates of authenticity, bank checks, credit cards, and other such items (is there a word or phrase which encompasses all those?).

Copy protection is controversial because (1) the techniques most commonly used are imprecise and tend to have effects far beyond their intent, (2) the most precise techniques require a centralized authority to excercise control over certain aspects of the user's computer, which many people are unwilling to cede, and (3) the same companies which are trying to enact and enforce excessive copy protection measures are usually the same ones taking draconian measures to punish anyone found to be doing unauthorized copying; the taint from these latter actions has rubbed off on the former.

Related Pages


  • 2004-02-01 Free Legal Downloads for $6/month: a model for subsidized music distribution similar to the EFF's proposal
  • Voluntary Collective Licensing of Music File Sharing by the Electronic Frontier Foundation
    • My main thought about this is that the sort of people who would be likely to "volunteer" for this sort of system would also be more jazzed about it if they knew that the revenues were being divided in proportion to the popularity of each work among those subscribing to this scheme, rather than in proportion to each work's general popularity. To this end, a large fraction of such volunteers might be willing to install software which either automatically tracks what music they are playing (much as many software players will automatically announce artist and track in chat rooms) or allows manual entry of tracks (especially if some kind of rating system is included). Dividing revenues according to mass popularity seems to me like a bad idea, though possibly better than what we have now (but that's not saying much). --Woozle 16:13, 25 March 2007 (EDT)


Filed Links

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