Anti-piracy Software

Written by Kevin Tavolaro
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Software vendors turn to a variety of techniques in order to prevent their copyrighted applications from being stolen. Because there are so many ways to pirate software, vendors have had to develop an equal number of prevention techniques. After all, it would be difficult to create one single measure that could prevent copyright violations ranging from bootlegged CD-ROMs, to free online executable files, to unlicensed corporate access, to the lending of programs between friends.

Physical copy prevention is a more recent, and controversial method of protecting software from illegal duplication. These CD-ROM copy prevention schemes are created when manufacturers include additional content, usually corrupted data, on a disc in order to prevent it from being read by a CD writer. The oldest types of CD-ROM drives are only able to access a specific area of a disc. Writeable CD-R/RW drives, being more sophisticated than standard models, read previously inaccessible regions of a disc. This is where manufactures write the misleading data, with the intention of confusing the drive. However, this type of anti-piracy protocol is highly unpopular with consumers, as it can sometimes prevent paying customers from legitimately accessing the software.

Anti-Piracy Software Registration

Registration-activated software also features built in measures against piracy. This type of software requires user registration in order to be fully functional. The application's features are deactivated upon installation, and require a key code from the vendor in order to be unlocked. Users can register either by phone or online, at which point they are provided with a code that will activate the program in its entirety. The registration process usually involves providing a unique serial number found somewhere in the manual or documentation. This helps software manufacturers detect unlicensed access to their products. Registration also enables the user to receive technical support.

Some of the most expensive, specialized software is protected against piracy by requiring special hardware in order to be accessed. The additional hardware usually serves no function other than to unlock the program. For example, some applications come with a dongle that can be attached to a PC's USB port. Since the dongle cannot be duplicated and distributed as easily as a CD-ROM, it prevents copies of the software from functioning on other systems. When the software is loaded on a computer, it can detect the presence of the dongle, which verifies that the rightful owner is accessing it.

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