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How CD/DVD/Blu-Ray Copy Protection Software Works

Copy protection also known as Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a necessary but often overdone part of our digital world. In theory,  CD or DVD copy protection software is a tool that protects the content creators from losing sales to piracy. Yet in fact, it’s a sometimes obtrusive technique that can alienate customers.

Disc Encryption

Disc encryption, an incredibly popular form of copy protection, protects content by encrypting it using one of a number of set encryption keys. The encryption can only be broken (in theory) if a valid key is used to decrypt the content, making it available for viewing.

Encryption can also become vulnerable to brute-force attacks as computing power increases. Agreed encryption standards often don’t change as quickly as computer hardware progresses. The creation of software capable of bypassing copy protection is illegal in many parts of the world, but there are still free decryption programs available.

Region Locked Copy Protection

Optical media, particularly in the form of DVDs and Blu-Ray discs, are often “region locked”.  This means that they contain a form of copy protection that prevents a disc from playing if it is inserted into a player that contains a different region code than the disc.
There are some “region-free”players, and in the case of players such as computers, it is sometimes possible to change the region code of your optical drive. Players such as DVD X Player will ask you to change your region if you insert a region locked DVD

Registration Keys and Online Product Activation

Registration keys used to be the standard method of protecting software, either on disc or downloaded, but such keys are also vulnerable to being compromised. The keys are usually generated using an algorithm, and that algorithm can be reversed-engineered or otherwise compromised. As a result, companies such as Microsoft have moved towards online production activation.

High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection

HDCP is a relatively recent form of copy protection, used to control Blu-Ray.It circumvents the traditional problems associated with content encryption by moving the responsibility of encryption from the content itself (the disc, file, or other media) to the devices playing the content.

Device Driver Copy Protection

Device driver copy protection installs a new driver on a computer as part of a program’s installation process. The responsibility of this drive is to validate the software and also to protect the software from attempts to circumvent it or run it without a proper registration key or disc.

These are just the forms of copyright protection that most commonly apply to CDs and DVDs. There are other forms of authentication and encryption that are frequently used to protect digital content, such as music downloaded from the iTunes store.