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Combating CD Piracy

Solutions For Replicators

By: Pat Casey

With the advent of digital media and most recently the introduction of DVD, issues of intellectual copy protection and piracy control have been paramount in the minds of content owners. Various solutions have been offered many of which fall into the realm of the replicator. From Source Identification (SID) Coding to holograms that help track pirated discs to hardware and software technologies that prevent the making of copies, the number of options open to replicators is increasing.

Protection Built Into A Standard

Looking to satisfy the major Hollywood studios the DVD Forum settled on a standard in early 1997 that would prevent DVD disc copying — CSS (Content Scrambling System). Aimed primarily at general users, this technology encrypts the information contained on a DVD disc, and while it is not foolproof it does hamper the copying of material at the playback level. Such discs can only be played back on a DVD player that has CSS descrambling capability.

In an effort to deliver further security at the playback level, C-Cube Microsystems, Inc., Milpitas, CA, a major chipset manufacturer serving the DVD and related industries, developed a single-chip DVD decoder with SecureView protection and decryption technology incorporating the DVD Forum’s CSS copy protection scheme. The addition of SecureView to the CSS technology protects the content once it has been descrambled by the DVD player from unauthorized copying.

Such technologies, while incorporated into the DVD specification and made an integral part of the playback hardware are also added to the content on the physical disc during the premastering process before disc manufacturing, and as such have fallen in many cases into the domain of the replicator.

But, copy protection issues in the worldwide arena have caused many publishers considering DVD distribution to stop and ask: "What about piracy?" In fact, what about copying digital information off of optical discs for the specific purpose of re-sale. If consumers can find ways to get around encryption systems and if tracking mechanisms only identify where a disc was made, then isn’t the market left wide open for those infringers who have made it their business to make a lucrative living off of others hard work? Of course it is, and as this international problem ensues new schemes are being developed from various market segments to try and stop the plundering.

A Publisher’s Option

For the publishers, several copy protection options are available. On the software side, CD-Secure from C-Dilla Ltd., Berkshire, UK, allows content creators to encrypt software with a mechanism that requires the user to phone in for an unlocking code that offers one-time disc access or a full license. Another option that can be implemented by the publisher is CD-Cops from Link Data Security which protects CD-ROM content and can be applied to CD-R. This particular technology is also available to the replicator for a one-time fee and a royalty on all sales.

Seed key encryption from Digital Delivery Systems, Inc., Bedford, MA, offers a software solution that prevents copying by grouping software "lots" together that cannot be broken.

Either offered to the publisher or performed as a service by the anti-piracy vendor, such software solutions are finding their way into the marketplace where their effectiveness is being tested.

A hardware/software solution for CD-ROM, which is currently available from Rainbow Technologies, Irvine, CA, is another publisher option that incorporates keys that are attached to the computer. Called Sentinel, this technology employs multiple encryption algorithm keys that deliver Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) security. When software protected by Sentinel is used, the program sends queries to the key attached to the computer. The key immediately evaluates each query and responds. The correct response ensures that the software operation continues without interruption. If the key is not present, the software will not operate.

Replicator Hardware Options

While publishers may choose to implement encryption and decryption software and hardware solutions that are provided by the particular anti-copy provider or by the publishers themselves, there are some new technologies available that are specific to the replication process. Most notable among these is a light sensitive polymer scheme from Hide & Seek Technologies (HST), Nederland, CO, and DiscGuard from TTR, Inc., Kfar-Saba, Israel, which delivers a fingerprint on the glass master prior to replication.

How It Works

HST’s copy-protection technologies under development include a three-phase plan that will be implemented over the course of three years. The current generation on schedule for delivery to the industry in early 1998 is designed specifically for CD and CD-ROM application. The technology employs defects that are imbedded in the disc itself.

The manufactured disc contains a unique pattern of physical defects which may vary per replication run. Software will direct players to look for these defects each time the disc runs. Because of the physical nature of these defects they are not able to be copied by a CD-R, a common method employed for pirating CDs and CD-ROMs.

Currently in the prototype phase with Media Morphics, the Copy Protected CD/CD-ROM incorporates a Bongle which brings control of unauthorized software use to the end-user and networked environments. The Bongle is a "dongle" on the CD-ROM. Dongles are devices, usually a small box that contains a chip which stores a unique serial number, which must be physically attached to the computer, usually through a serial or parallel port.

The second phase of technology development underway at HST and expected to be available later in 1998 includes a laser-light sensitive polymer(s) process. The polymer is added to the disc during the manufacturing process.

For copy protection, the presence and/or change of these polymers is verified at play time to allow use of the disc. The specific composition, as well as the application of these polymers would make pirating extremely difficult.

With this method discs can be controlled without the cost of additional hardware to play or install a set number of times. One, five or (x) number of plays are implemented through the laser-light sensitive polymers placed in, or on, the disc. Each time the disc fully plays, a polymer is darkened. Once the preset limit is reached use is disallowed.

The third phase of anti-copy technology under development at HST includes the use of an oxidation polymer which would, under certain conditions, render the disc unusable. This method which also does not employ additional hardware, would allow the disc to play for only a certain period of time. Discs can be time stamped by a laser-light polymer or discs can be shipped in sealed bags which have a polymer which oxidizes, gradually darkening like a "chemical clock" once the bag is opened.

For example, a movie could be metered to be used for a day, a week, month or a year. There is no schedule as yet for the release of this technology.

Another Replicator Option

TTR technology called DiscGuard, also employed by the replicator, prevents illegal replication and use with enhanced MIS that places an indelible "fingerprint" on the optical media at the time of glass mastering. The fingerprint can be read by CD/DVD readers but cannot be duplicated by CD-R/DVD-R recorders or by remastering. The fingerprint will also not appear in any unauthorized replica.

In a recent licensing agreement between TTR and Doug Carson & Associates (DCA), Cushing, OK, DiscGuard technology has been incorporated into DCA’s Mastering Interface System (MIS). According to the agreement, DCA holds an exclusive worldwide license to bundle DiscGuard into its MIS V6 machines.

MIS is currently operating on over 75 percent of the world’s laser beam recorders. The software components necessary to implement DiscGuard, will be licensed under separate agreements between TTR, replicators and software publishers and content providers.

Making Decisions

The decision as to which copy-protection scheme will be used is up to software publishers and content providers. With the growing number of options available, choices are becoming harder to make and the equipment purchasing decisions of the replicator are difficult, too.

Several replication companies have formed ventures with technology providers to offer solutions as part of their full-service offerings to publishers. To stay abreast of what is new, it is best to contact each manufacturer individually for an accurate description of what is available. Then survey of your clients’ needs to determine which way to go.