Felt-tip marker hack for copy-protect CDs ‘completely neutralized’
Midbar updates technology
Israel-based Midbar Tech announced yesterday that 10 million CDs using its Cactus Data Shield technology have been released in Japan, bringing the total number of music CDs using the controversial copy-protection utility to about 30 million. Coincidentally, a Japanese entrepreneur is credited with the 1962 invention of the versatile writing instrument called the fibre- or felt-tip pen.
Marjie Hadad, Midbar spokesperson, said the CDs, which implement the CDS-200 protection scheme, will play on computers - unlike previous CDs released with Midbar's CDS-100 technology, which caused myriad difficulties for PC users who attempted to play purchased CDs in their computers' CD-ROM drives, as well as in DVD players and car CD drives. Windows users had the fewest problems; by installing a special utility included on the copy-protected CDs their PCs were able to play the music.
The copy-protection technology works by using "proprietary electronic circuits and software algorithms" to alter the data on the CD, making it unreadable by CD-copying software. Midbar says that while the data is altered, the audio quality remains "perfect."
The last spate of copy-protected CDs spurred some down-home ingenuity, producing a deliciously simple method of circumventing the technology which aims to prevent CD owners from making any copies, including those for personal use only. The method involves the use of a black felt-tip marker pen, with the ink carefully applied to a specific portion of the CD in order to "prevent the prevention."
But Hadad says that won't work anymore. "Though the felt tip marker issue was never considered a universal hack, Midbar did add a feature in the last version of the CDS-200 that completely neutralizes even the remote possibility of its success."
Midbar's Web site promotes three different levels of copy protection. Its CDS-100 release is apparently purposely designed to prevent any kind of computer playback. This release has been reported to cause severe problems with Macintosh computers - some users reported that the CDs utilizing CDS-100 copy protection caused CD drives to lock up, rendering the drawer unopenable and the computer itself unbootable (although some sources say Midbar's effect on Macs was not so extreme). Bug or feature? You decide.
The CDS-200 release allows playback, and although as Hadad says, it is not intended to allow a felt-tip hack, a grassroots effort will surely soon be underway to test that claim. Japan's Pentel, Inc., once known as the Japan Stationery Company, is credited with the invention of the felt-tip marker back in the mid-60's, and a company representive assured us that production levels are more than adequate to cover any increased demand as a result of the millions of copy-protected CDs flooding the market.
CDS-300, scheduled for release some time in 2002, will work with downloadable music services, to prevent data streams from being copied by the user.
Among the companies in Japan using the Cactus Data Shield technology are Toshiba, Pioneer, and Memory-Tech.
CD Warning labels in use Eurorights.org has compiled this instructive list, as part of its "Corrupt Disc - Inferior Audio" campaign.