copy protection

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The copy protection logo of the IFPI

As copy protection or copy protection is called measures to the duplication of data to prevent.

Absolute copy protection is generally not possible because the data carrier must be readable by a reader or playback device. It cannot be prevented that the data read by the playback device is saved on another data carrier. Copy protection is therefore only effective for certain readers, but does not protect the data against manipulated readers or readers from other manufacturers. In the case of digital data, software or firmware can also be used instead of the reader .

Legal position


According to the German Copyright Act , it has been forbidden since September 13, 2003 to circumvent “effective technical measures to protect a work protected under this Act or another subject matter protected under this Act” ( Section 95a (1) UrhG). The production and distribution of programs and other aids that serve to circumvent them are also prohibited (Section 95a, Paragraph 3 of the Copyright Act). Infringements that are not for one's own private use can be prosecuted as criminal offenses ( § 108b UrhG) or administrative offenses ( § 111a UrhG).

When a protection is "effective" is controversial among lawyers despite the legal definition in § 95a Abs. 2 UrhG. Basically, however, mechanisms that use any type of encryption, no matter how easy it is to decrypt, are simply defined as effective (see this same paragraph in the UrhG).

This prohibition applies above all to video and audio carriers and does not apply to computer programs in accordance with Section 69a (5) UrhG. According to § 69d UrhG, the authorized user has a right to be able to make a copy under certain conditions.

According to ( § 95d UrhG), technically protected works must be clearly marked with information about the properties of the technical protection. The law means (as of January 2009) with work in the case of the CD and similar image and sound carriers, apparently the copy and its sales packaging. The owner or buyer can identify which usage technology is to be impaired and how by providing information on the properties of the technical protection. Only by checking this impairment can he possibly identify the technical protection that he may have. U. may not handle.

Where the use technology of the purchased item is only defined as a hindrance, the buyer's bond may be restricted, for example through the right to contest the purchase contract due to error.

The Federal Constitutional Court has a constitutional complaint , not accepted, which was directed against the new regulations of § 95a ff. Copyright Act for formal reasons for the decision and initially referred to the exhaustion of remedies.


In the draft of the new copyright law in Switzerland, it is stated that circumventing copy protection should be punishable if it is done “deliberately and illegally”. Since the creation of private copies is permitted or remains lawful, the manufacturers of private copies need not fear anything. It will also remain unpunished to create and distribute software to circumvent copy protection, if it is mainly used for the legitimate creation of copies. In the explanations of the draft it is openly stated that copy protection measures represent a "self-help" of the authors. Likewise, according to the new URG, a tax is to be levied on the purchase of empty data carriers - so that the authors also earn on private copies. On the one hand, copy protection measures are protected by criminal law and, on the other hand, those who exercise the right to make private copies suffer financial damage through the “remuneration”.


In Austria, in the new version of copyright law from 2003, a regulation of “copies for private use” was also introduced. How far this right goes has not yet been clarified in court.

United States

With the Audio Home Recording Act (AHRA), a law was created in 1992 that bans the manufacture and import of devices that circumvent copy protection.

Furthermore, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was passed in 1998 . It criminalizes the production and distribution of technologies, devices or services that circumvent access restrictions such as digital rights management (DRM) to copy-protected works (ie “cracking the copy protection”), even if the copyright itself is not violated.

Criticism and cons

Parody of punk - rock band The doctors on the copy Logo IFPI

Criticism of the law

The German copyright law largely restricts the legal possibility of private copying (the obligation to pay remuneration for blank media is still retained), since in principle it is sufficient for the manufacturer of a work to provide it with a simple, technically ineffective, but legally effective copy protection. Even with dubious protection procedures, actions of the consumer can potentially become criminally relevant because copy protection is bypassed by currently legal mechanisms (hardware and software) without passive or active intervention, for example with the last version of the Cactus Data Shield , which is like described below, the data of an audio CD is falsified (by means of incorrect error correction values), but depending on the technical equipment of the consumer, which may be able to handle it unintentionally or intentionally, in no way prevents it.

It also remains unclear how the law justifies the obvious illogic of how there can be copies of copyrighted works that have supposedly effective protective mechanisms. In addition, the law prohibits the acquisition, sale and manufacture of techniques for circumventing copy protection measures ( Section 95a (3) UrhG), but not possession.

Disadvantages of audio CDs

The simple copy protection through encryption (defined as effective by law) is not possible with audio CDs because the playback devices do not have a decryption function. Instead, certain recording errors must be intentionally inserted into the CD.

Persons who have legally acquired a "copy-protected" audio CD, that is, intentionally with errors, must, provided they activate or leave activated the optional correction functions available on some CD-ROM drives , and thus also legal copying do without, accept the following disadvantages compared to the error-free copy:

  • The legally acquired sound carrier cannot be played everywhere. With car radios, DVD players and even hi-fi systems, playback can be disturbed or impossible.
  • Playback on a computer is only possible to a very limited extent. Often the audio CD cannot be played - or only with special software with reduced quality. This software mostly only works with the current versions of Microsoft Windows at the time of publication , users of other operating systems and earlier or later (no longer compatible) Windows versions are often left out.
  • With these "copy protection" or intentional error techniques, there is a tendency to change the user's Windows PC to the user's disadvantage. B. the user's listening habits are monitored or the functionality of the PC is restricted, as in the case of the rootkit - "copy protection" XCP from Sony BMG or the alpha (only effective if the user cooperates by activating / activating the MS Windows autostart function) DVD “copy protection” for DVDs.
  • Converting a "copy-protected" or intentionally faulty CD into another music format (e.g. mp3, so that the purchased CD can also be heard on an mp3 player) or making a private copy is possible by using the CD-ROM Drives available, optional correction functions made difficult or impossible. Nevertheless, it is technically and legally easy to copy these faulty audio CDs legally by either simply not activating the optional, non-standard-compliant correction functions or by deactivating them, for example by using software that does not take care of these correction functions , or by simply using a CD-ROM drive that does not offer these optional correction functions .
  • Some "copy protection" - i.e. H. Error techniques work with incorrect error correction values ​​(see examples); this can lead to playback errors more quickly with slightly scratched CDs when the correction function is activated .
  • The general possibility of converting an audio CD into a (non-amplified) analog signal and from there back into an unprotected digital format cannot be prevented. With very high-quality devices, a loss of quality is no longer audible.

So-called “copy-protected”, actually faulty CDs do not correspond to the Compact Disc Digital Audio (CD-DA) standard specified by Philips in the so-called Red Book . They are therefore not standard-compliant audio CDs and may not be designated as such.

Disadvantages with software

Buyers of software with copy protection must also expect disadvantages when using it.

  • Modern copy protection procedures such as StarForce intervene very deeply in the operating system. For example, system drivers are installed that enable access at the ring 0 level. The manufacturer does not provide sufficient information about the installation of such system drivers. That can
    • lead to incompatibilities between system drivers,
    • lead to security gaps and / or system crashes due to faulty code.
  • Copy protection is partially implemented through the use of various programming tricks, some of which differ significantly from the standard of an operating system. This can mean that software will no longer work completely and properly on future operating system versions. A side effect can also be the failure of software when used on emulators .
  • The use of games without inserting the data carrier is usually not possible even with a full installation.

However, according to Section 69a, Paragraph 5 of the Copyright Act, the copy protection of computer programs may be circumvented legally, for example to make a backup copy. On the other hand, z. B. disclosure that is not absolutely necessary for use remains illegal.

Because of the problems caused by "copy protection", consumers also speak of "playback protection" or "consumer protection", more drastically also of "purchase protection" - purchase protection, among other things, because unlicensed copies are often easier to handle, For example, music can be easily transferred to portable playback devices and games can be played without having to insert the original data carrier every time.


  • DIN standards used to be published on colored paper, which made copying impossible with the black and white copiers that were common at the time due to the choice of font and background color. For computer games like Zak McKracken , protected code tables were used in the same way - which, of course, were soon copied by hand and distributed by fans.
  • The so-called Lenslok method was used to protect computer games in the early 1980s . It was a uniquely cut plastic lens that the program user had to hold in front of the screen in order to be able to read a corresponding protection code from there. Without the lens, the code on the screen was illegible.
  • In the case of audio CDs on which errors in the data format are intentionally incorporated, thereby violating the audio CD standard, only a few lawyers, predominantly in the service of the music industry, are of the opinion that this is actually an effective copy protection. Usually these errors are ignored by common CD players, as they only interpret certain data on the CD (the so-called Red Book standard). On the other hand, some CD-ROM drives can attempt to interpret (or “correct”) the incorrect data, which can lead to error messages and crashes. With these drives, the use of these correction functions with copy-protected CDs can even lead to increased device wear. Many car radios and portable CD players are based on the (very inexpensive) CD-ROM technology and are therefore also affected, provided the (optional and non-standard-compliant) correction functions of the drives used are activated.
  • Data is encrypted on the data carrier and the key is only given to authorized parties, such as device manufacturers. The manufacturer's drives can then decrypt the data, but can only be controlled with authorized software. Thus, playback programs should be denied access to the data. This is not a copy protection because the data can still be read and thus copied. (Example: CSS on DVD )
  • HDMI and DVI connectors in HD-ready devices already offer point-to-point encryption using HDCP , which works together with AACS copy protection for HD media. This is to prevent the data stream from being recorded from the source to the output medium. In connection with this, the broadcast flag can also be mentioned, by means of which HD recordings could be restricted.
  • Video Encoded Invisible Light is designed to prevent monitors from being filmed.
  • Television broadcasters can provide the broadcast programs with a copy protection signal. DVD and HD recorders that observe this signal do not record programs marked in this way; instead, only an error message can be seen on the storage medium with a reference to copy protection.
  • With EURion , banknotes and other documents can be protected from being copied using a copier or scanner . Some image processing programs also refuse to process image files with existing protection symbols.

Copy protection method for CDs / DVDs

Note: The Content Scramble System (CSS) used on many commercial video DVDs is not actually copy protection. Rather, it is an encryption process that is intended to prevent the playback of video content on unlicensed playback devices and unlicensed media (including copies). However, CSS cannot prevent the data itself from being copied.

Application protection methods

Some protection methods cannot / should not prevent copying at all, but try to make it pointless. These include password requests, serial numbers, dongle (the copy does not work without a dongle; sometimes part of the program code is even stored on the dongle), hardware-based licenses for software (these contain data from the specific computer for which they are intended as a protection method; these Data is checked when the program is started so that the license cannot be used on another computer with other data) and region codes for DVDs and Blu-ray discs (the discs only run in players with the appropriate region code; for Blu-rays, even the Inquiry of a "country code" is possible so that, for example, a US disc cannot be played in Japan and vice versa, although both countries are in the same Blu-ray region [A]).

Regionalized activation of software and devices

Kaspersky Lab uses regionalized activation codes for its antivirus programs (e.g. an American code does not work in Germany and vice versa), partly to make international trade in pirated copies more difficult, partly because the programs are sold at different prices in different regions. Once activated, the software can be used anywhere. Problems can arise if the license has to be renewed or the software has to be reinstalled in a different region than the one for which the license was purchased. The region is recognized by the IP address, so an Internet connection is required for activation.

A number of computer games also have regionalized activation.

The Galaxy smartphones from Samsung sold in America and Europe must be activated by a local SIM card, but can then also be used in other regions. The regionalized activation is intended to prevent gray imports.

Region blocked credit cards

Some credit cards can be blocked for certain regions of the world as protection against theft and misuse abroad. If the cardholder wishes to travel abroad and use the card there, the block for the region in question can be temporarily lifted.

Storage of biometric data as protection against document misuse

In ID cards, passports and sometimes also in non-transferable season tickets and credit cards, the holder's biometric features (e.g. fingerprints, iris patterns) can be stored as protection against misuse.

Copy protection procedure for floppy disks

  • Laserhole - a burned-in hole causes write errors on certain blocks, for which the medium is checked by the software through write access and subsequent read access.
  • Different track formatting - one or more tracks were formatted with a different block size / sectoring.
  • Overformatting - The floppy disks were written beyond the margin specified by the target system, so additional tracks were created.
  • Non-standard bit patterns - the beginning and / or end of the block were marked by bit patterns other than those intended, or bit patterns that were not intended were used for the user data.
  • Non-standard checksums - checksum values ​​were calculated differently than usual, so that reading errors caused by incorrect checksums are recognized during normal reading.
  • Half and quarter tracks - data was placed between the normal positions of two (then unused) tracks.
  • Spiral tracks - tracks were created in a spiral, partly as normal tracks, partly as half and quarter tracks. When reading, the head has to be moved at exactly the right moment, otherwise the data will be illegible.
  • Extra-wide tracks - the read head is moved back and forth between two tracks while reading. Only if the tracks have been created by a special, extra-wide writing head will they remain readable during this movement.

The aim of the methods was that either errors occurred when reading with operating system resources or that the information could only be read incompletely or that an original diskette could be detected on the basis of statistically abnormal behavior, such as B. with fuzzy bits . Direct programming of the controller was necessary to recognize the originals or to read the data completely. Since at least the boot sector had to remain unprotected in order to enable the program to be used at all, it was always possible to circumvent the protection through intellectual comprehension and corresponding changes to further processes, but sometimes very time-consuming.

Bypassing the copy protection

There are different ways of circumventing this, depending on the copy protection.

  • Floppy disks, CDs, DVDs or Blu-rays
         Use of a special program (depending on the program and settings, the copy protection is either copied or removed when copying); Examples of programs:
Cracks can either be created yourself or downloaded from the Internet. In the latter case, there is a risk, especially in the case of illegal cracks and black copies , of additional malware getting onto the computer. However, there are also official cracks from the manufacturer itself, e.g. B. if the original medium is no longer supported. Many older games that used to rely on floppy disks or CDs could otherwise no longer be played on a modern computer without a corresponding drive.
  • Copy by TSR deal
In some cases, a DRM-protected program can be started using a memory-resident program (TSR) . As with a crack, this type of bypassing copy protection can be illegal or legal.
  • Reset trial period
In programs with a trial period, you can try to reset the trial period (" Trial Reset ") . However, many programs are limited in their functions during their trial period or have other measures built in to make " trial resets " pointless.
  • DeDRM
With DRM-protected content, such as e-books , it is sometimes possible to remove the digital rights management (DRM).


Web links

Wiktionary: Copy protection  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. BVerfG, decision of July 25, 2005, Az .: 1 BvR 2182/04
  2. Draft for the new URG (see Art. 20 and 70a) ( Memento of the original dated December 11, 2005 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  3. Explanations of the draft (see page 21) ( Memento of the original dated December 31, 2005 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  4. ( § 42 UrhG )
  5. Video copy lock Alpha-DVD blocked burner ,, February 4, 2006
  6. News report on
  7. Sierra AGI Back-up Disks. In: The Sierra Help Pages. Retrieved June 17, 2020 (example of official copy protection bypassing).
  8. User Manual / Playing a game with ScummVM. ( Wiki ) Retrieved on June 17, 2020 (English): "... there are cases where the game companies (such as LucasArts) themselves bundled 'cracked' executables with their games ..."
  9. MugShot: Hyper Speed - Copy Protection TSR patch freezes the game (FIX). In: Steam Community Forum. January 14, 2018, accessed on June 17, 2020 (English, example of a legal TSR program to bypass copy protection).