Will Industry Ever Learn, Copy Protection Never Works

April 30, 2007

All the storms today about the infamous HD DVD key seem like old news to me. Copy protection has never worked, and as far as I know, never will.

In the olden days (early 80's) game manufacturers first started putting weird hacks on the floppy disks that their games came on. Usually they would take advantage of odd hardware features to try and subvert the ability to duplicate and run the disk. One scheme would work for a while until someone found a way to defeat it, and then a new one would appear. That too would be defeated, and so on it went.

The problem with any such scheme was that the software at some point would have to actually run in the computer. You couldn't really hide it all that well. Sometime people would have simple code in their games to check for passing the complex copy protection.

if (pass)

This of course was a laughable bit of code to circumvent.

Over the years companies have tried virtually every kind of scheme since then, and without exception all have eventually fallen. As long as you have to (or it can be forced to) run the code on a computer it will be found. The whole idea of having a single key for all HD DVD's is itself laughable; it's like having a single key to all the houses in the country; lose it once and everyone's unsafe.

Only a complete fool would expect this to be kept secret.

Then again we are talking about the MPAA and their good buddies the RIAA, for whom bad sense would be an improvement. Today their lawyers are trying to deliver cease-and-desist letters to every site that even points to an article with the key in it (ie Digg, Google, etc). Yet the more they try the wider spread the key gets. The more they try the funnier it gets as well. This is the best kind of security theater.

You can't order the internet and its users to cease-and-desist and expect it to happen. Even governments try and fail.

Maybe these folks should check out a little history and discover the title to this article is old hat.