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Copy Protection


Techniques used by software developers to (try to) prevent illegal use of their products. The unlicensed use of software (i.e. software piracy) is a major problem. It is not difficult for an organisation to purchase, say, one licensed copy of a program and then install it on, say, 6 separate machines. Or install the program on a server and allow numerous users access through a network. This is illegal, rendering the organisation liable to prosecution - even if the installation was carried out without management's knowledge.

Copy Protection comes in a number of forms :-

Moral; a legal copy comes with an End User Licence Agreement (EULA) which states the terms upon which the software may be used. The EULA usually includes a selection of dire threats concerning the possible actions which the software developers may take if unauthorised use of the software comes to their attention.

Physical, typically a Dongle or a Key Disk, one of which is supplied with the original program and must be physically present on/in a computer before the program will run. Quite effective but unpopular with users since, typically, a parallel or serial port or floppy drive will be used by the device, and hence is unavailable for other use.

Required Input; method used most commonly in games software, whereby the program will not run until it has been give a specific piece of information which is (or should be ) available only to the registered user. Typically this will be a particular word from a specific place in the official user manual, or a number from a code sheet. One copy of the manual or code sheet will have been supplied with the software and the required input will change each time the program is started. This approach is quite effective, but since the manual may often easily be scanned also, it is not full proof.

Logical; a variety of methods used singly or in combination, including non-standard formats of disks (to dissuade copying), machine-specific registration, installation counters, etc designed to minimise the risk of the program being installed on more than one machine.

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