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Introduction, Continued

Mysteries Of The CDRW and Back Ups Revealed
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If you have children in your household, being able to make back up copies of your data CDs can be essential, if not critical, to protect your original CDs from damage by little hands with sticky fingers. Although CDs are supposed to have a fairly indestructible quality, scratches and surface damage to a CD can cause read errors, resulting in skips of the disc. In some cases with audio CDs, for example, read errors can render discs essentially not worth listening to, and thus, unusable. Although the drive's error correction is supposed to address this issue, in reality this error correction function at best is somewhat of a crapshoot - sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. (Sometimes more expensive players and drives do provide more advanced error correction, which as a byproduct can mask more problems.) While some software companies will be happy to replace a damaged disc for a minor fee, this may or may not be an acceptable solution to the licensed user. Many folks feel that they have already paid to use and access the software, and thus have psychological difficulty parting with additional money to replace an already paid-for, damaged disc. There is still some software that uses no copy protection, but in the majority of new games, this is not the case.

The battles among the software companies and "software pirates" (those who are not authorized to copy software, but do so, then sell or redistribute it to other unlicensed users) have been well documented. It has often been described as a cat and mouse game, with many software developers enhancing the protection for each new release of the software to make the data more difficult to copy. The software pirates, on the other hand, then spend an equal amount of time "cracking" and disabling these copy protection schemes in order to allow for the easy redistribution of these titles. In many cases, these fixes to distribute or copy the CD are made within hours of the title's release.

What continues to amaze us is the extent to which each side will go to find new ways to defeat the other. One unintended result of these more advanced protection schemes is that they sometimes create compatibility problems for CD-ROM/ DVD-ROM drives that don't strictly adhere to the industry standards. In some cases, if your CD-ROM/ DVD-ROM drive is having difficulty reading a certain copy-protected title, you may have to go to the extreme of "flashing" the firmware in your reader to get that title to function correctly. (Provided, of course, that your drive manufacturer is aware of the compatibility problem and has addressed it through an available firmware upgrade, which isn't always the case.) Don't look for the software publishers to lend a sympathetic ear, either, as most of them believe that they have done as much as they can to make their title compatible with the widest variety of CD-ROM/ DVD-ROM drives.

With the discovery of Napster and Napster-like "peer-to-peer" file transferring programs, now even the audio CD companies are getting into the copy-protection act with the introduction of schemes that are making it more difficult to back up audio CDs. Again, these protection schemes have created compatibility problems for audio CD players that don't strictly adhere to the established standards. This has caused headaches for users wanting to make "mix" discs of their favorite songs, or back up copies of audio CDs they already own, to listen to in their car or portable player, for example. It is understandable that recording companies want to control audio CD copying to prevent illegal redistribution, but users are accustomed to fairly broad fair use rights for music that they have purchased. Many record companies felt "safe" when they only had to deal with copying to analog tapes, but the new technology which provides the ability to create perfect, bit-for-bit digital copies has frightened the bejeesus out of the recording companies. Recently released industry statistics indicate that the purchase of CD recordings has dramatically declined, while sales of blank CDRs and accompanying equipment have mushroomed.

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