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copy protection

(kop´ē prō-tek´sh&n) (n.) Refers to techniques used to prevent the unauthorized copying of software. The idea of copy-protected software was created by software manufacturers who wanted to prevent software piracy -- users copying programs and giving them to friends and colleagues free of charge.

As enticing an idea as it may be, copy protection has not proved to be a viable strategy. For one, it is practically impossible to create software that cannot be copied by a knowledgeable programmer. Second, many consumers shy away from copy-protected software because backup copies are difficult to make. Thus, if their original copy of the software is damaged, the user must contact the manufacturer for a new copy. Finally, some copy-protection techniques can actually damage other software on the system. For these reasons, copy-protected software is becoming less common.

Most software producers now protect their programs by issuing registration numbers with each package. When you install the software, you must enter the registration number. This does not prevent all piracy, but it limits it. In addition, users cannot get updates to a product unless they own the original diskettes and documentation.

An alternative strategy for dealing with the problem of software piracy is shareware, where users are actually encouraged to copy and disseminate programs. Shareware publishers rely on people's honesty to pay for the products used.

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