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JVC: You can't copy this CD-ROM

The consumer electronics maker will make software discs that it claims cannot be duplicated by a CD-rewritable drive. Pirates, beware.

Consumer electronics maker JVC and games developer Hudson Soft say they've found a way to fight CD-ROM software piracy.

The companies said Wednesday they've developed a new anti-copying technology, called "Root," that they claim will prevent CD-ROM discs from being duplicated. The technology is just one part of the computer industry's ongoing efforts to control software piracy.

The Root technology--which prevents illegal copying "from the roots up," the company says--uses encryption keys, an established method of protecting data. The technology encrypts a disc's contents so it cannot be read without a key, which is also located on the disc. The key is hidden in such a way that it can be read by any CD-ROM drive, but cannot be written by a CD-R/RW drive--so that a copied version of the disc would be unreadable.

The key is different for each disc, and is hidden in a different place each time, according to the companies.

Root is a response to the proliferation of CD burners. As the technology becomes a standard component of PCs, the software industry's piracy risk is expected to increase.

"The problem is expected to grow larger in the future, making copyright protection an urgent issue for content holders," the companies said. The companies said that the technique could be applied to DVDs and other media, but not to audio CDs.

In the past, the software industry has attempted to institute measures to prevent illegal copying, using techniques from earlier encryption methods to special hardware keys. However, most software has reverted to a system of supplying a number/letter key that is unique to each product that must be entered by the user to run the software.

Audio CDs are another matter, with some of the major music labels beginning to introduce anticopying measures into their CDs. These are designed to prevent people from "ripping" songs onto a computer hard drive, while theoretically leaving audio quality unimpaired. Such techniques have been known to be incompatible with some audio players, however, and sometimes cause PCs to crash.

JVC plans to offer the encrypted discs through its CD-ROM pressing business, and expects the service to boost revenue 10 percent by 2003. The service is already available in Japan, and will become available in the United States in October.

ZDNet U.K.'s Matthew Broersma reported from London.