Consumer electronics maker JVC and games developer Hudson Soft have developed a new copy-protection technology that they claim will prevent CD-ROM discs from being copied, the companies said on Wednesday. The technology, called "Root", marks the latest effort by the computer industry to control software piracy through technical means.
The Root technology -- so named because it is intended to prevent illegal copying "from the Roots up" -- uses encryption keys, a method that has been tried in the past. The disc's contents are encrypted, so that it cannot be read without a "key" also placed on the disc. The innovation in this case is that the key is hidden in such a way that it can be read by any CD-ROM drive, but cannot be written by a CD-R/RW drive, so that a copied version of the disc would be unreadable.
The key is different for each disc, and is hidden in a different place each time, according to the companies.
Root is a response to the proliferation of CD burners, which increasingly come as a standard option on PCs, increasing the industry's risk of losses from piracy. "The problem is expected to grow larger in the future, making copyright protection an urgent issue for content holders," the companies stated. The companies said that the technique could be applied to other media, including DVDs, but not to audio CDs.
In the past, the software industry has attempted to institute elaborate measures to prevent illegal copying, from earlier encryption methods to the requirement of a special hardware key. Currently, however, most software has reverted to a system of unique keys that are included with each product, and must be entered to use the software.
Audio CDs are another matter, with some of the major music labels beginning to introduce anti-copying measures into their CDs. These prevent a computer from "ripping" songs onto a hard drive, while theoretically leaving audio quality unimpaired on an audio player. Such techniques have been known to be incompatible with some players, however, and sometimes cause PCs to crash.
JVC is to offer encrypted discs through its CD-ROM pressing business, and expects the service to add 10 percent to its 2003 revenues, compared with 2001. Companies can already order the service in Japan, and US orders will begin in October.