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Topic: This just in... copy protection ruins honest buyer's week

  1. #1

    This just in... copy protection ruins honest buyer's week

    Often times these piracy/anti-piracy discussions come up, and insane copy protection methods are mentioned. Well, I have a real world example for you that happened to me. I'll be nice, though, I won't mention the developer.. but needless to say, I think their copy protection method sucks and is pointless. Why? Because pirates wind up cracking it anyway. The people that get hurt are the honest folks.

    So, I bought this sample disc early last week. Relevant to the explanation, I'll say it's a soft synth. I opened it up, popped it into my DAW... waited... a bad sound comes from the drive: "sssssss"... "sssssssssssss". Nothing. Dead silence. I opened up "My Computer" and the name of the disc didn't even register. This is bad, because I was really counting on having this set of sounds for a project I'm auditioning for. I ran into the other room and booted up the laptop to see if it worked there. It did.. that's odd. My DAW's drive is an NEC DVD+/-RW, totally solid, never burnt a coaster, reads EVERYTHING. No prob, I figured I'd just copy the files from the CD to the laptop, then use the wireless LAN to transfer the files to my DAW.

    I started copying. It got to a particular file that was about 640-650MB in size.. copying, copying... boom, CRC error. WHAT?! To shorten the story, I spent a whole week trying to get a replacement copy. The company that makes this software didn't respond, and it was last Friday I wrote them. This is inexcusable. The vendor I bought it from gladly got me a new copy, and guess what? It exhibited the same behavior!

    My theory was that the master disc used to duplicate this batch was corrupt, so all the copies were corrupt. I figured all was lost, there's no way I could get a VERIFIED working copy in time for my deadline.

    Then, a fellow NS'er I was talking to offered a theory: that maybe this large file was just a copy protection scheme set in place on the disc. I think he's right. And the developer stupidly made it ruin the CD-ROM's filesystem's integrity, INTENTIONALLY, so people couldn't copy the file off the CD (hence the CRC error). The problem is, of course, that my DAW won't even register the disc at all. The laptop does, but I don't want to install it on my laptop. So basically I've wasted a week over the wrong issue, trying to get a new CD to me, when the real issue at hand was... copy protection.

    Copy protection had me waste a whole week thinking I was being given corrupt copies. Could I have done something to remedy this sooner? Sure, I could've pirated the damn software. Not that it would've mattered if I did, because I own it legit. But it just goes to show that this copy protection is USELESS, because this software is available out there on P2P networks.

    My plea to developers: DO NOT USE COPY PROTECTION SCHEMES THAT COMPROMISE THE CD-ROM'S INTEGRITY. You run the risk of your media NOT working on certain drives. And my drive isn't bad, or old, or anything. It's a new model, with rave reviews, and great media support. Ironically, it's the crappy drives (my laptop and another machine I tried this on) that were able to read this disc OK.

    Now, I have two plans to try out tonight: #1, put the disc in my laptop, share the laptop's CD-ROM over the network, then go on the DAW and install using the networked CD drive. Failing that, plan #2, use Alcohol 120% on my laptop to create an image of the disc, transfer that image to the DAW, and use Alcohol to burn to a CD-R. Maybe that will work.

    This just goes to show, copy protection in many cases (but not always) winds up hurting the honest consumer. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that EVERY f'ing sample library out there is available, cracked and pirated, for download. Pirates don't care how tough the protection scheme is. It's fun for them, it's challenging, to take a product and break its security measures. So, while I'm not suggesting to get rid of copy protection entirely, I AM suggesting to KEEP IT LIGHT, and don't do anything that would risk the integrity of the media. I really don't mind re-activating my products once in a while, or being prompted for a serial# once every few months. Fine. But this corrupt media bit is just pure nonsense.

    End of rant.
    Sam Hulick

  2. #2

    Re: This just in... copy protection ruins honest buyer's week

    You are correct about one thing, copy protection screws the legit user the most and to developers could care less to boot. Everyone is a thief in their book. I am not and will not buy all these sob stories from developers about piracy. Anyone remember the day when you could purchase software, load it up and be on your way? Not today! You have to type in serial numbers, registration codes, give your life's story, wonder if your hardware is going to read the copy protected disc, you MUST have internet access to authorize in many cases (this is one of the biggest downfalls of the internet), and on and on it goes. Now we are finding out that companies such as Sony are secretly installing rootkits on people's machines without their knowledge all in the name of copy protection. To me there are only 2 things that all this copy protection adds up too from developers. 1. Greed. and 2. Control. I also remember in the past that companies that put out good code before all this copy protection nonsense not only survived bit thrived. Show me any software today that's worth so much effort to copy protect in the first place! To take this a little further, who's doing anything to protect the artists intellectual property in all these piracy issues in general? These are the people who really get screwed!

    Personally, I am not afraid to mention names of companies I have had problems with copy protection. I've had issues with Spectrasonic's and Ultimate Soundbank the most. What's ironic is that the protection I have most loathed (the Steinberg dongle) is the ONLY protection device/method I have never had any real issues with (yet). Go figure! But in the end, it all gets cracked anyway so what's the point other than copy protection being a major thorn in the side for legit customers. Thank you developers for making your software such a drag to use.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Los Angeles, CA

    Re: This just in... copy protection ruins honest buyer's week


    I don't blame developers at all for trying to protect their content. It is war, and disinformation is acceptable in wartime.

    What you're describing sounds like it could involve physical errors that are purposely introduced onto the disc. If you try to copy it, the drive reads the files more or less sequentially, and when it comes across the physical error(s) the disc read fails. The software installer, though, could know where these errors are and essentially skip over them (or employ special low-level reading techniques).

    While I'm no expert, and perhaps Brian 2112 could weigh in here, this sort of thing is actually a pretty old technique -- in the days of floppy discs, these kind of flaws could render the disc permanently unreadable if you broke the rules and tried to copy it.

    I think the next level of copy protection would be something like the online distribution service used by game developer Valve. They have a service called Steam that is used to download games users purchase. The users download encrypted game files, which can only be decrypted after a thorough online verification. Generally speaking, in order to play the game the user must be logged in to the Steam service. In this way there is a constant link between user and provider during runtime (I don't run Steam when I'm not playing their titles).

    Another interesting benefit is that you can use any PC with the Valve games installed, and play them as an authorized user, once you log in to Steam with your own username and password. Consider what this would mean at a commercial studio -- log in to the service from any PC and access the libraries for which your account is authorized.

    There is also the benefit of a very smooth means for automated bug fixes, upgrades, advertising, and future purchases. As a customer, I was initially not very enthused about the "big brother" aspect of this, but I'm now feeling more comfortable with the experience. I also feel like I'm getting better customer service through the regular patches and updates that come down the pike.

    While on its surface this would need quite a few changes to work in a music studio context, it could probably be done. I find this to be much more acceptable as opposed to a secretive "rootkit" approach (see my Sony thread).

    In short, an aboveboard, client-server approach to copy protection -- instead of more and different ways to exploit hardware and software design loopholes in the client system.

    What's especially interesting to me is that the piracy level of Valve titles is apparently pretty low. It is easier to just buy the damn thing than try to circumvent. There is a performance/resource cost associated with running the Steam software, but in this day and age it seems to work rather well.

    And the game files are large -- not as large as sample libraries, but can be many hundreds of megs in size. I had no problems with this at all, and in the future I could see the experience scaling to a level that would be able to handle sample libraries.

    Any thoughts?
    Some experts learn more and more about less and less, until at last they know everything there is about nothing at all.

  4. #4

    Re: This just in... copy protection ruins honest buyer's week

    Just for the record, both of my ideas above failed. It didn't like being installed via LAN, and Alcohol stopped being able to process it properly at 93% through.
    Sam Hulick

  5. #5

    Re: This just in... copy protection ruins honest buyer's week

    Just some random thoughts on copy protection:

    It could be that the higher-ups in the board rooms at these companies demand that copy protection be included to "protect the company's IP". There may be shareholders or other investors to answer to and that Board knows nothing of the real world. If the project is to stay funded, The Board must be appeased.

    Just as hackers take it as a challenge to break someone's copy protection, people who write software take it as a challenge to make copy protection uncrackable. Neverending vicious cycle.

    I have to wonder how musicians (us), who complain about copy protection, feel when our music is pirated or our "IP" is stolen by another writer who hears our tune and plagarizes it.

    There are multiple points of view. I'm not advocating any, just putting a few out there.

    - G

  6. #6

    Re: This just in... copy protection ruins honest buyer's week

    Hmmmm...I'm on a Mac. NEVER the kind of problem that caused me any serious angst. At least for 15 years of composing- well, honestly never a serious issue. Yeah, Spectrasonics is a bit lenghty but...geez...It's RMX 1.5.
    Cheap at twice the price and hassle.(don't even think about it, Eric) The only issue ,really, was breaking that MACH 5 dongle once a year. Then I got KONTAKT 2. Now I can break the Miroslav dongle.
    I wonder if the problem is mostly PC based. I'm really curious because I've seen this argument for quite some time and always think that maybe faxing Mother Theresa the horrors of a composers life and when she's having a bad day, she'll know someone has REAL problems...but she's gone now. Pakistan?
    But with all due respect to the awesome composers here at this fine forum, I don't get it. I find it apalling that major composers and engineers in my city use cracked (stolen) software. I've spent hours pondering the stolen software issue and a handfull of hours of copy protection issues over a 15 year period.

  7. #7

    Re: This just in... copy protection ruins honest buyer's week

    Quote Originally Posted by MDesigner
    Just for the record, both of my ideas above failed. It didn't like being installed via LAN, and Alcohol stopped being able to process it properly at 93% through.
    You could try IsoBuster for doing the copy. It would take some time because of the broken sectors on your CD, but I'm quite sure it would work. They have a fully functioning demo on their web-site (try googling).

  8. #8
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Dallas, Texas

    Re: This just in... copy protection ruins honest buyer's week

    Sam, it doesn't do the community any good unless you reveal the name of the product and the producer.

    Then, we can hold that person accountable.

    Group pressure is extremely effective. Don't be afraid to give bad ideas bad press. It's the only way they're ever going to get changed.

  9. #9

    Re: This just in... copy protection ruins honest buyer's week

    I'm not sure if this helps - have you tried downloading the latest firmware for your drive?

    It happened to my dvd drive couple of months back - It can't seem to read one of the dvds I bought. I almost thought that my drive has gone haywired, with just barely 5 months old! But then I made a search around the net for some answers and found out newer versions of DVD/CD roms might not be readable on some drives, and they need to be updated. Since my system is dell, I logged into their website and downloaded the latest dvd firmware and everything went on smoothly ever since...
    Peter Wong

  10. #10

    Re: This just in... copy protection ruins honest buyer's week

    Well, you said that the disk worked in an older drive. Because I was about to second Nexus' comment about firmware, etc. Seems like some "older" drives are now unable to read some of the newer higher density dvds. Older drives could mean anything that's at least a couple years old. And that normally would not have had any problems.

    I have to say, when I saw the headline for this thread my first thought was... hmm, must be a fellow Steinberg customer. Funny reading Rhythmic's post because at this end the Steinberg dongle is the one (and only one) that's been causing me troubles.

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