Copy-protection software thwarts felt-tip hackers

A new version of CD copy-protection software from Israel's Midbar claims to have fixed an embarrassing flaw

Midbar, the Tel Aviv, Israel-based company that makes copy-protection technology for audio CDs, said on Monday that its products are now to be found in more than 30 million CDs worldwide, with 10 million of those in Japan. Separately, the company said it has fixed a glitch that allowed consumers to circumvent its copy protection using a felt-tip pen.

Midbar makes the Cactus Data Shield (CDS) line of copy-protection technologies, which scrambles CD data in such a way that it can be played on an audio player, but can't be copied by a PC. Copy-protection schemes such as CDS and Key2Audio are highly controversial, however, with some protected CDs having been found to cause glitches in some ordinary CD players, and to cause some computers -- particularly Macintoshes -- to crash. Besides the technical issues, many argue that consumers are entitled to make copies of their CDs for personal use, much as the law allows consumers to make duplicates of copyrighted audio tapes.

The company said that a new version of CDS-200, one of its three CDS products, makes the felt-tip pen hack impossible. In May, it came to light that CDS, Key2Audio and other technologies could be circumvented by carefully drawing a line across the CD with a black marker, or even by sticking notepaper across the edge of the disc. The new version of CDS-200 has been on the market since July, and adds Macintosh compatibility, among other features.

CDS-200 is designed to allow full playability on audio players and PCs without allowing copying. CDS-100, like Key2Audio, simply prevents all PC playback, while CDS-300 -- to be released later this year -- builds digital rights management into downloadable tracks.

Big labels such as Sony Music and Universal have begun adding copy protection to their CDs in an attempt to stop consumers from copying tracks and distributing them over the Internet. A recording industry-commissioned study this week found that most consumers who had begun using file-trading services in the past six months had bought less music than before.

See the Digital Rights News Section for the latest on DVD-Ram, DVD-RW, zoning and copy protection.

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