Copy Protection

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      Code wheel? F***, I downloaded the game!

      Even from the early days, the ease of making a perfect copy of software was a concern for gamemakers. Nintendo's experience with the Disk System add-on for the Family Computer went so badly due to unlicensed copying (called "Piracy") that the company shied away from discs even long after all the other consoles had abandoned cartridges. They did flirt with optical media starting with the GameCube all the way to the Wii U, but reverted to solid-state cartridges not necessarily out of piracy concerns, but due to optical media being too clunky and fragile for a portable console such as the Switch.

      So from a fairly early time, game developers and hardware manufacturers employed a variety of mechanisms to prevent unlicensed copying. Many of these were poorly implemented, and tended to either be prone to locking a player out of playing a legal copy, being trivial to circumvent, or being so annoying that players either chose to play something else or pirate a cracked copy.

      One early method, called "key disc" protection, required that the game access its original disc during loading—metadata not normally preserved when a disk was duplicated was required to play the game. This was prone to failure, made games unplayable on newer machines (as this out-of-band data could not always be found by new hardware), and prevented the player from using a (perfectly legal) personal "backup" copy. Given that floppy disks had a typically short operational lifespan, this also had bad effects for long-term survival. Even a few CD-ROM based games used this method, intentionally introducing errors to the disk, then refusing to run if the error-correction mechanism did less work than expected.

      The most expensive early system was to require that a piece of specialized hardware be attached to the machine, but this was hardly ever used outside of server-grade software. Some modern productivity software (in the $500+ range) uses a USB dongle key with decoding information built-in.

      A more reliable (but also more intrusive) method was to require some piece of information from the game's manual to play. This could require the player to look up a code (or look up "the third word on page seven of the manual"), or, much better, solve a puzzle using clues from the Feelies. Some very early games even used this to save disk space by putting most of the expository text in hardcopy, sort of like a Choose Your Own Adventure book (complete with "red herring" exposition to discourage you from peeking at parts you aren't supposed to read yet).

      The simpler forms of this could be beaten with a photocopier. A few games tried to make this, too, infeasible. The Carmen Sandiego games, for instance, could request information from anywhere within the almanac-sized book that came with the game, which was often the current year's World Almanac and Book of Facts, which was also sold separately. SimCity's copy protection codes were untypeable symbols and printed in black on a dark red page to thwart photocopying. Games like Railroad Tycoon or Indianapolis 500: The Simulation required the player to identify a 2-8-0 Consolidation or Johnny Rutherford's 1976 winning McLaren Offenhauser, although this was trivial to a trainspotter or race fan (the very kind of person who'd want to buy such games). Old Disney games often came with a two-layer card stock disk, with the bottom layer having various words printed on it and the top layer having sections with cutouts; the game could then ask you to turn one section of the disk until you saw a certain word, and then read off the word displayed on another section, supplying at least the number of possible keys as your average combination lock.

      With the rise of the CD-ROM and the fall of printed manuals, this sort of copy protection faded away. For the years until CD duplication became cheap, the medium itself was considered good enough copy protection.

      The internet was probably the final nail in the coffin for most of these schemes, with all the secret codes now being accessible with just a few mouse clicks. Even in times when DOS (or Win 95 exclusive DOS mode, for that matter) didn't allow the player to switch and look at a solution in a plain text file, it still could be printed, or easily bypassed via DOS multitask extensions and programs like Game Wizard.

      But now, things have come full circle again. Much software now uses internet-based copy protection, which players without a permanent connection might find annoying be Driven to Suicide over. For starters, you shouldn't even bother to buy such games if you don't already own a cable modem. Which then creates entirely new problems - you can only hook four computers up to most cable modems,[1] so unless you live alone, you're taking up half the slots with just your computer and your console. Wi-Fi has made this concern all but obsolete. Then there's also the issue of access providers capping upload/download speeds at levels counter-productive to gaming.

      On the other hand, companies love this option to pieces. Games with an on-line component can implement such a mechanism "for free" within their own authentication structure. Of course, in the event that the company goes under, no one will ever be able to play their games ever again. Or, even if they're still in business, there's the question of exactly how many people need to keep playing an older game before the economics of appeasing fans of old titles comes into play. But the companies don't care so much about that. In fact, some probably like the idea of simply turning off the activation server for Mega Quest and thereby forcing all their users to buy Mega Quest 2.

      Modern games simply fail to run if not authenticated. Earlier games tended to let you play a small part of the game, or play at a massive disadvantage, even if copy protection failed. In SimCity, failing the copy protection would cause a non-stop stream of disasters to strike your city, making the game all but unplayable. (This sort of thing may have been intended, though, as another protection against people breaking the copy protection, since there was a chance someone idly examining the game before distributing it illegally might not have realized it had copy protection at all.)

      In theory, the only way to have fine-grained control over what end-users can or cannot do with software is to physically separate it from them via a client/server arrangement. In this setup, the client only serves as a front-end—sending player input to the server and outputting streaming audio and video from the server. With a competent IT staff, infringement all but ceases to exist, yet each player is at the mercy of the server's uptime and bandwidth requirements for streaming audio and video. OnLive, a retail PC game streaming platform, inherently has this kind of copy-protection. With servers being overloaded and game companies bombing on a regular basis, this ends up being one of the least reliable systems in terms of gameplay and game longevity.

      The only thing that cannot be defeated is charging a monthly fee, and that really only works for massively multiplayer online games and other stuff that runs off of a central server. And sometimes even that isn't immune, especially when a popular game has private player-run servers start popping up, often implemented through reverse engineering of packets transmitted and received by the game client. This has the side effect of preserving multiplayer-only games which were otherwise made unplayable whenever the central servers for them go defunct.

      See also Digital Piracy Is Evil, DRM.

      Examples of Copy Protection include:


      • In the original Bard's Tales games, the actual spells you cast in the game used magic words that you had to type in to cast them, present only in the manual and never given in the game (you would see only the 'thematic' name of the spell in-game, not the magic word used to order your characters to cast it.) This made playing the game without the manual extremely difficult. Most ports of the games made the spells selectable by menu, eliminating this issue.
        • Also in the original Bard's Tale, whenever you leveled up, the Review Board would ask you to name a street in the city. The map that came with the game had the streets misspelled - the Grand Plaza was labeled "GRAN PLAZ", and Hawk Scabard was labeled "HAWK SCABBARD". You had to use the map's spelling to pass; if you didn't have the map, you could never get past first level.
        • The third game of the trilogy, Thief Of Fate, had dimension-hopping as a crucial plot point. In order to travel from the main world to one of the seven other dimensions, the player had to not only cast the correct spell (see above), but then input the correct number from a three-layer card stock disc included with the game, similar to the Disney example given in this trope's description.
      • The Carmen Sandiego games each shipped with a large tome: a copy of that year's World Almanac and Book of Facts, a history book or Fodor's guide, from which information could be requested. Several problems occurred with this: although it was intended to get kids interested in using an almanac, it wouldn't help if the book was lost at school, or if some schools used a newer edition of Fodor's (which meant that none of the hints corresponded to the correct pages, meaning going up in rank was impossible).
      • Hired Guns for the Amiga. The programmer responsible summed it up best himself: "One week I came up with a cunning plan. I figured anyone who cracked the game would take out the manual protection, play the game a bit and leave it at that. But I included a routine that detects if the game has been altered, it then does nothing until you make a certain amount of saves at which point it messes up your save files, just when you're getting into the game."
      • Infocom tended to be among the cleverest in their integration of copy protection: for the most part, the game was simply unwinnable without the clues which the Feelies provided:
        • In Leather Goddesses of Phobos, the copy protection feelie was the map through the obligatory maze. Considering that the maze was pretty much instantly deadly if you didn't do the right things in the right places, this was rather irritating when the map invariably got lost.
        • A curious bit of copy protection was in Infocom's only romance game: Plundered Hearts. The feelies in the game consist of facsimiles of the heroine's starting equipment, one of which is a banknote. The note shows the game's villain posing dramatically... but would you believe he's showing the solution to a puzzle? Grab his hat, try to grab the book he's carrying and press on the same part of the globe where he is and presto! Secret door!
      • Introversion Software's Uplink featured a code table printed in glossy black ink on black card, which could generally only be read where the light reflected off the ink. However, this was also turned on its head when the developers later admitted it was designed to be a nostalgic nod to old-school games, and it was admittedly useless as copy protection (seeing as the game was massively profitable anyway). They later posted a PDF containing the entire table on their site, saying it was not intended as a means of copy protection.
      • Several Level 9 games used a method called "Lenslok". Using a graphical pattern, a passphrase was rendered unreadable. A color filter provided with the game, similar to those in the Milton Bradley Jeopardy! games, could be placed against the screen to render the text legible, but this failed with exceptionally small or large monitors.
      • The Metal Gear solid has always featured copy protection measures:
        • The NES Metal Gear also had some rooms that couldn't be completed without the game manual. That is, unless you used a certain bug to skip parts of the game...
        • Metal Gear 2 used "P23 tap codes" at certain points in the game, and the Colonel would instruct you to look at the manual for information on how to interpret tap codes. This was a frequency you needed to continue, and while brute-forcing it was possible, it was far more annoying than brute-forcing Meryl's frequency in the sequel due to the MSX's criminal slowdown and Snake's insistence on starting every conversation with "THIS IS SOLID SNAKE. YOUR REPLY, PLEASE...". Even more annoyingly, the version included in Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence (the first release of the game in English) did not come with tap codes in the manual. Konami eventually provided a downloadable online manual with the tap code chart in. The European version of the Subsistence manual also omits the tap code chart, but does tell you the frequency, albeit without any context as to when it's required.
        • Metal Gear Solid had a character, early in the game, who "forgot" a vital communication frequency and mention that "it's on the back of the CD case," referring to one of the images on the back of the game's plastic case. If you rented the game, moving beyond that point was impossible. Better yet, Snake has a CD case in his in-game inventory. Many, many gamers tried to figure out how they were supposed to look at the back of that case. When they couldn't figure out the solution to the "puzzle", they turned to GameFAQs. The remake The Twin Snakes eliminated this particular problem by having the character say that the code is on the back of "the package", since there's no package item. The only other option for players was to try every radio frequency in sequential order until they reached the correct one.
          • Hilariously, the 2008 Essentials box set included all three PlayStation 2 Compatible Metal Gear Solid games in DVD Cases, including the original with new artwork in the style of the original "longbox" Playstation cases. Brilliant, ..Except for the fact that there's no screenshots of the game on the back, even the one needed to progress in the game! It's not in the manual either!
      • Almost all of Sierra's point-and-click adventure games had copy protection in their manuals, meaning that those who used illegal copies of the game (or who just plain lost their manual) couldn't progress any further:
        • Codename: ICEMAN: The game begins as the main character is on vacation in Tahiti. A nearby volleyball player drowns in the surf and the player must rescue him and perform CPR. Obnoxiously, the game didn't tell you that it wanted you to look in the manual and type off the instructions verbatim.
          • However, the introductory walkthrough in the game's manual offers step-by-step instructions, making this section trivial for legitimate first-time players.
        • Conquests of Camelot: The Search For The Grail also used this system - you had to look in the manual to solve various riddles throughout the game (but you learned some interesting mythology in the process).
        • The Even More Incredible Machine required you to look into the instruction manual to input a code on a randomly decided page each time you opened it. However, during the game's intro, if you clicked to get past it at just the right time (specifically, when it switches from the second screen back to the first) it would almost always request the code on the first page of the book, requiring you to remember only one code.
        • Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist requires that you look up recipes in the enclosed "home health manual" and create the prescriptions to solve certain puzzles. Only problem is, when the game was re-released in the Sierra Originals version, only a truncated version of the manual was included in the CD booklet, and one of the required recipes was left out entirely. Oops! Al Lowe, the game creator, has since put the entire doc on his website.
        • A certain line of the King's Quest Collection, which included games I-VI, had a misprint in it, leading to a player most likely getting the spell wrong until they noticed that the misprinted manual decided to rhyme "thither" with "thither" instead of "hither". The VGA remakes with the copyright stripped out that allow the player to just work the entire spell with a single command actually make the game vastly easier.
        • King's Quest III: A very large part of the game revolved around copying lengthy, exact instructions for magical spells from the game manual. Getting the instructions wrong would end the game with a bad ending. The correct phrasing was to simply type over the exact sentence in the manual, although words like "the" and "a" could be omitted. This was in addition to the disk check at the beginning of the game (that all Sierra games had at the time).
        • King's Quest IV actually has a copy protection joke inserted into the coding. Activating the command box at the start (Ctrl + D) and typing in "Pirate" causes the game to play a small bit clip of "Drunken Sailor" and show a picture of a Pirate, while a text box above reads "Your privileges to this game have been revoked because you are a pirate! 'Yo ho ho!'" See it here! In a straight example, before starting, the game would ask you for a certain word in the manual (for example, the fourth word in the second paragraph on page 3)
        • King's Quest V: Randomly during the game, you have to cast a spell from Crispin's (dead) wand to get past mundane parts. To cast the spell, you would have to look up the symbol on Page X of the manual. Entering the wrong code made the game Unwinnable.
        • King's Quest VI came with a "Guidebook to the Land of the Green Isles", which contained the key to getting past a certain part of the game. Without it (or a friend to tell you the clues) you'd be stuck.
        • The first Laura Bow game (The Colonel's Bequest) required you to identify a fingerprint from a sheet that came with the game; originally, the fingerprints could only be viewed with a special magnifying glass, but this was too unfair (since some of them were fairly similar to begin with), so later printings just did it in black and white. Its sequel, The Dagger of Amon Ra, also required the player to dig information out of the museum guide book that came with the game.
        • Leisure Suit Larry originally didn't have copy protection, but age protection - to play the game, you had to answer a question that you'd have to be fairly old to know the answer to. (Presumably.) See for yourself. The VGA remake added actual copy protection questions based on the included Feelies.
        • In Leisure Suit Larry II, you have to insert the correct phone number of a woman by inputting it from the manual.
        • In Leisure Suit Larry III, there's a promotional code you have to type (which is in the a certain page of the magazine the game came with) when presenting your show ticket. Another which you have to know the locker combination.
        • In Leisure Suit Larry 5, to obtain airline tickets, the player must enter the corresponding symbols from the Aerodork timetable, which was printed in black on red in an attempt to make it uncopyable.
        • Police Quest (VGA): The combination to the main character's locker, which you needed to get into to retrieve his uniform, was the score of a football game reported on in the fake newspaper included with the game, and also inputting violation codes while putting an arrested man in jail. The sequel required the player to identify the last name of the person on a mugshot before playing the game.
        • Quest for Glory IV: In order to get potions from Dr. Cranium, the player needed to help him remember the "formula" for various elements that went into the potions. Interestingly, the copy protection may not seem to matter since it's "just potions"; however, one of the puzzles required to beat the game requires a potion, meaning that without the manual you can effectively do everything except beat the game.
        • Robin Hood: Conquests of the Longbow featured a number of puzzles which involved having to consult the papers which came with the game. On the plus side, reading through these provided papers allowed you to learn about everything from medieval heraldry, to a secret "hand code", which used letters assigned to different parts of a hand to spell out words, to the purported magical properties of gemstones and trees. There were also dire consequences if you failed.
        • In Space Quest I (VGA), to get the cartridge, you had to enter the symbols from the manual corresponding to the term the dying scientist told you into the library computer. A second copy protection code was used for the coordinates of the Deltaur near the end of the game. Definitely copy protection overkill.
        • Space Quest IV had its copy protection when you first enter the timepod, and you have to use the Space Piston Magazine included with the game to solve the code.
        • Space Quest V has the codes you need to enter to get to the various planets in the manual. Since you need to keep entering the codes throughout the game, it's borderline overkill.
        • Space Quest 6 had the datacorder puzzle, which you needed the Popular Janitronics magazine which came with the game to solve. Unfortunately, the 2006 re-released Space Quest Collection didn't include it.
      • The Spellcasting Series used various methods of feelies throughout the trilogy, including inputting information from included registration forms, or maps that were required for navigation in certain areas. The most inspired method was in 201, which included a set of sheet music you needed to play the moodhorn properly.
      • Star Trek 5 included a Klingon dictionary in its manual, which had to be used to advance past certain points.
      • The Secret of Monkey Island used a code wheel called "Dial-a-Pirate", whereupon loading the game, the user had to rotate the wheel to match the upper and lower halves of a series of pirate faces and then return the given date revealed by the wheel. Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge used a similar "Mix'n Mojo" code wheel, which involved lining up reagents in a voodoo spell. This was also used in the old SSI Gold Box Games (Pool of Radiance, etc) and their Translation Wheels.
      • Wizardry II had a small booklet of "spells" composed of four-letter nonsense words. The player at times had to consult this booklet and enter the third word of a spell. Unfortunately, the booklet was black text on dark red paper, making it difficult even for those with proper eyesight to read.
      • Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders required the player to enter exit visa codes before traveling between countries, which are given in the manual. Inputting an invalid code more than four times results in a Nonstandard Game Over wherein you are placed in a "pirate jail".
      • Nintendo got in on the act when it released StarTropics for the NES: At a later point in the game, it asks for a code that you can get by dipping the included map in water. Needless to say, this was a major inconvenience for people who rented the game or bought it used.
        • Remember the bit above about Nintendo games being on ROM cartridges, all but uncopyable by the typical users of the time? Nintendo apparently didn't.
        • When the game was released on Nintendo Wii Virtual Console, the letter is included in digital form with an image of a letter and a bucket of water at the bottom. When the player clicks on one of the images, the letter dips into the bucket and the code is revealed.
      • The original Star Control required players to answer questions with the help of a copy of Professor Zorg's Guide to Alien Etiquette. Star Control II had the Starmap Trivia Quiz.
      • Starflight II asked you to look up a code on a code wheel every time you left the starbase. If you entered it wrong you could still play the game, but a few hours in, your starship would be pulled over by the Space Police. The accused you of software theft and gave you one more chance to enter the right code; failing caused them to blow up your ship.
        • The original Starflight had the code wheel. Starflight 2 had a fold out star map and a viewer to isolate 3 inch sections of the map. The game would then ask you the number of certain colored stars in the 3 in section once you placed the viewer at certain coordinates.
      • Infogrames' original Alone in the Dark series had this, and notably ratcheted it up in the second game. The first required two objects from the game to be entered, which was already saying something given the large number of one-use clutter. The second, however, was a bit more complex. When you entered the first screen, it had a message something along the lines of "Protection Ace of Hearts over Three of Clubs First Hole". This could be disregarded, and if one tried to enter the hedge maze without inputting a code with the F keys, the game would say "YOU DIDN'T ANSWER THE QUESTION" and smite you. It turned out the manual told what the question is, and the game came with a number of hole-punched playing cards. Only by correctly laying the cards over each other and examining a hole could you figure out the required code to get on with it.
      • In Vette!, you are a given a question whose answer is in the manual. If you incorrectly answer three times, the game allows you to play, but with severely crippled gameplay (e.g. can't go above 80 mph), and after a certain time, it ends with the message "You are driving a stolen Vette".
      • F/A-18 Hornet had you answer a question from its rather large flight manual before starting a mission.
      • The Elder Scrolls: Arena, the first game of the series, requires you to answer questions about spells in the known Spellbook part of the manual before leaving the first dungeon. Recently, Bethesda allowed the game to be downloaded for free—and did not remove the Copy Protection.
      • Professor Layton and Pandora's Box (or the Diabolical Box in some countries) came with a train ticket needed to find the location of where the last half of the game takes place. It required a code to be deciphered and the answer had to be inputted into the game.
        • More Feelies than this trope: the ticket was also shown in the game when it got to that puzzle. The puzzle required folding it, so it was a bit of a pain to envision how it folded from just the picture and without the physical ticket, but by no means impossible.
      • Ni no Kuni comes with the spellbook the character uses in the game, which it makes you sue to get through the challenges.
      • The Commodore 64 game Monty On The Run made the player choose from 5 items of around 15 when starting the game. 5 of those items were needed to win the game at various points, and unless you looked up the correct items in the manual, the game would be rendered Unwinnable.

      Physical methods

      • Particularly before the advent of CDs and DVDs, console systems traditionally used media that could not be easily obtained or created - if at all - by the public:
      • Eight-bit to 32-bit consoles including the Game Boy, Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, (Super) Nintendo Entertainment System and Nintendo 64 used proprietary cartridges that were relatively expensive. But by the time of the Game Boy Advance, third parties introduced compatible cartridges for playing homemade GBA games (which could also be used for pirated games, wink wink nudge nudge).
        • That's not all. The North American NES made use of a "lockout chip" system called the CIC, composed of a chip on the console that would reset the CPU if it did not detect a corresponding key chip on the game card. Nintendo patented the design of the key chip so that no one else could legally manufacture them.
        • Depending on which sources you believe, the primary intent of the lock-out chip wasn't copy protection. Instead, the system was designed to allow Nintendo to keep tight control over who could release games for the platform and extract heavy licensing fees from third party developers. This was also the mechanism Nintendo used to enforce their infamous censorship and quality control regime, keeping out the porn games and low quality software that caused recurring PR nightmares for Atari. The copy protection was just a nice side effect...
        • Some unlicensed games work around the lockout system either by using special cartridges that piggyback on another game a la Game Genie, or through a charge pump designed to send a voltage spike which should knock the CIC offline; later revisions of the NES were no longer susceptible to said voltage spikes. This led to companies such as American Video Entertainment to bundle their unlicensed games such as Wally Bear and the NO! Gang with instructions on how to modify their NES in case their console is of the newer revision.[2] Also, Atari's Tengen division got themselves into a lawsuit by using social engineering and reverse engineering to create a key chip workaround called the "Rabbit Chip". Years later, the Rabbit would serve as a key to successfully reverse-engineering the CIC for homebrew and reproductions of popular games due to the presence of debug/test headers in the chip.
        • While the top-loading NES omitted the chips, a similar, albeit more sophisticated system was used on the Super NES and Nintendo 64. Bootleg games still thrived on the Super NES, though not as much as it was in the NES days (it also helps that the use of complex enhancement chips such as the Super FX meant that bootlegging the likes of Star Fox would be nigh impossible), and there were reportedly only a few bootleg cartridges for the N64 until recently when the CIC for it was reverse-engineered. There were however backup devices such as the Doctor V64 which used a legitimate N64 cartridge for authentication and loaded games off commodity CDs. While it was ostensibly marketed as an inexpensive development tool to test games on actual hardware, with a number of developers, notably Iguana Entertainment, using Doctor V64s for developing their N64 games due to a shortage of official development kits from Nintendo, the V64 could easily be modified to run backups, and many resellers sold their V64s pre-modded. Unsurprisingly, Nintendo took umbrage and filed legal action to halt the sale of the V64.
        • The Game Boy is an interesting example, as it was designed more as a passive trademark protection scheme that relied more on their merry band of lawyers than actively shutting out any bootlegs, the theory being that bootleggers and developers of unlicensed games wouldn't dare display the Nintendo® logo lest be sued for trademark infringement, which was more easily enforceable in certain jurisdictions (This is also why some bootleg multicarts for the Game Boy simply have "GAME" embossed on the cart to dodge trademarks). If a copy of the logo was found on the cartridge ROM, the game loads, but using it as it is would make them an easy target for litigation. There is however a workaround taking advantage of a peculiarity on how the logo is checked and displayed: the Game Boy reads the boot logo twice--once to display it, and another to check if it matches the one on the boot ROM. Through this, unlicensed developers were able to subvert Nintendo's trademark protection by displaying their own logo on startup as a form of Plausible Deniability, then load the Nintendo logo to pass the internal boot check.[3] Ironically enough, Argonaut Games demonstrated this to Nintendo, and rather than sue Argonaut for breaking their protection scheme, they invited them to develop 3D games. And the rest, as they say, is history.
        • In a similar vein to Nintendo, Sega used a similar trademark enforcement system on the Genesis, aptly named "TradeMark Security System." The TMSS checks for the "SEGA" wordmark in various memory locations for a cartridge to boot, and if an unlicensed game has the necessary strings in the ROM, Sega can sue them for trademark infringement. This was however challenged in 1992 by Accolade when they were involved in a lawsuit concerning the use of Sega's trademarks on some of their games. The courts ruled in Accolade's favour, as the judges concluded that the required TMSS code took up 35 bytes while the rest of the game was wholly original content, and that Accolade's reverse-engineering to achieve compatibility with Sega hardware was a reasonable invocation of fair use.
        • The Famicom Disk System also relied more on trademark enforcement than actual hardware or software-level protection. The disks, which were little more than a semi-custom variant of Mitsumi's Quick Disk, had NINTENDO molded at the bottom part of the disk, with the I and second N activating a switch which authenticated the game. Paper-Thin Disguises ensued as with most pirated games, with the trademark being minced to "NINFENDO", "NINTEN", "NINJENDO", "INTEND" or even just "I N". Eventually, bootleggers simply just left indentations on the disk without the need to mold the Nintendo name or intentionally misspell it at all, making this scheme useless.
      • The Sega Dreamcast used a proprietary disc format called GD-ROM, which had the pits packed more closely together allowing it to hold a maximum of 1GB of game data; the system could load games off CDs, too, though, and many games could be fit on a standard CD or the game itself compressed to fit.
        • It wasn't meant to be able to load games off of CDs, they just screwed up royally while implementing the code for "multimedia enhanced CDs" in their music CD player firmware. The result: a no-mod-required method of playing copied discs. Both the commercial emulator Bleemcast and the Utopia boot disk took advantage of this exploit.
          • Technically, Dreamcast piracy wasn't quite as simple as copying the GD-ROM, which regular PC drives could not read. Dreamcast piracy involved first ripping the GD-ROM using special hardware (often the Dreamcast itself via hardware plugged into the modem slot), then some tricky work involving a boot track and multiple burn sessions for the CD-R. Once created, though, that CD-R could be easily copied and used on any Dreamcast.
      • The Sony PlayStation read a tracking pattern pressed onto the lead-in of official CDs, which cannot be reproduced normally. The PlayStation 2 uses a similar system. They will both refuse to read any disc that doesn't have a valid pattern.
        • The PlayStation mechanism was actually very clever, and made it completely impossible to burn a disc that would pass the protection ever. Unfortunately for Sony, there were points exposed where people could solder a chip in to override the attempt to read the signature and replace it with a valid one. People COULD press pirated discs once they figured out how the protection really worked, though, yielding the boot disc. There were anecdotal reports of so-called "Hong Kong silvers" which would boot on an unmodified PlayStation, but it is uncertain as to whether they exist or not. While the likes of Datel were able to press PlayStation-compatible discs without Sony's blessing, it is unknown if bootleggers have managed to do so as well; given that there's so many modified PlayStations out there, it is more likely that they didn't even bother trying to reproduce the needed wobble. Worse yet, it turns out that by using a single valid PlayStation game and some quick swapping of the burned disc any reasonably dexterous person could play burned discs on a completely unmodded console. It takes some practice, but it's not that difficult.
          • The final evolution of this "swap trick" was the production of kits containing stickers to hold down the "lid open" sensors (so the console would not try to perform the security test again when the lid was opened to swap the discs), and boot discs that would pass the copy protection check, then stop the disc from spinning and wait patiently until the start button was pressed (so the user could swap in another disc at their leisure).
        • Contrary to what Sony's marketing wanted people to believe, the black undersides of a genuine PS1 disc was more of a red herring (or maybe just Everything is Cooler in Black) than anything else. The black coating wasn't technically necessary; a number of games were released on bog-standard silver CDs. However, the black undersides did make a lot of people think that the discs were more special than they actually were; if Sony's marketing were to be believed, it would've been nigh impossible for a commodity CD-ROM drive to read a PS1 disc.
          • Before the PS3s dropped backward compatibility altogether, this bit Sony on the ass - they had a hell of a time trying to read PS2 discs, to the point where most of the last-gen library was bugged out or failed entirely while playing on a PlayStation 3.
          • And then Sony removed the OtherOS function from the PS3 back in April 2010 citing fears of security, though piracy concerns were cited as the reason for its removal. Generally, people weren't pleased and even brought on lawsuits. And to rub salt into the wound, the removal of OtherOS further motivated hackers to bust the PS3 wide open.[4]
      • The Nintendo GameCube uses a proprietary 8 cm DVD based on the miniDVD.
        • Contrary to popular belief, discs for game consoles do not spin in reverse. But Gamecube and Wii discs do use a slight variant of the DVD sector-level encoding. Unfortunately for Nintendo, Wii pirates disregarded the physical aspects of the copy protection and instead decided to attack the console's firmware, which had quite a few holes. Not to mention that the Wii is backwards-compatible with the GameCube, and as such homebrew for the latter will work for the Wii to some extent, albeit not taking advantage of the Wii's enhanced features. In addition, third-party video game accessory manufacturer Datel somehow managed to press discs which boot on an unmodified GameCube or Wii by adding sectors that would at least nominally satisfy the challenge-response authentication the GameCube or Wii is looking for with authentic discs. Datel also used the title ID from NHL Hitz 20-02 for their unlicensed software, which led to Nintendo banning it on subsequent hardware revisions, which consequently led to NHL Hitz 20-02 being unplayable, though it's a small price to pay considering it's just a throwaway annual sports title.
      • Sony has been fighting a long standing war against the Homebrew scene in the name of copy protection on the PSP. The Homebrew scene finds an exploit to allow unofficial software, Sony releases yet another patch (that they usually make mandatory in order to play the newest games) to fix it, and the cycle continues. One particular patch that was designed solely to fix an exploit that would require a user to load a specific game in order to "unlock" their PSP, succeeded in introducing an exploit that allowed users to unlock their PSPs without any game whatsoever.
        • The 3.56 firmware update to the PlayStation 3 marks the start of Sony's attempt to do the same thing (in addition to fixing the embarrassingly large security hole discovered not 2 months before the patch's release). How did it fare? Well, on the first release of the patch, it only succeeded in curbing (briefly) Call of Duty Modern Warfare hacks. It got cracked in under 24 hours, and that's NOT the worst news. It would not work on Slim PS3s that had an upgraded hard drive, something that you are legally allowed to do. The second release of the patch only fixed the hard drive issue.
      • EarthBound memorably has a vast array of copy protection mechanisms of surprising intricacy and thoroughness. For its first layer, it has a checksum that could detect whether the game was running from a copied cartridge or being booted from a cartridge-copying device;[5] if the mechanism did not check out, the game threw up an antipiracy warning screen at the beginning and did not play any further. If the protection was cracked, a checksum mechanism would detect the change, and the game spawned many more enemies than usual - some even in places they didn't belong! - in an attempt to discourage further playing. If the player persevered through this or cracked this second layer, however, an even nastier surprise awaited: the game would freeze and severely glitch after the first part of the Final Boss fight against Giygas... and when you reset, you would find all your saves deleted!.
        • These copy protection schemes sometimes trigger on legit cartridges, likely due to wear and tear over time. Although unrelated to copy protection, the same wear and tear can cause the game to run entirely in black and white as well.
        • The English NES prototype of its predecessor MOTHER, dubbed EarthBound Zero by the fans, also had similar copy protection, but it's more mundane and far less cruel in its implementation. Instead of making the game impossible and scrubbing your save games at the end, it runs a checksum at certain points to test whether the game is pirated; if it is determined it is, it stops the game and throws up a screen saying that the game is an unauthorized copy and will not continue, and bricks the ROM/cart. This measure was part of a major headache in getting the ROM to work properly when it was first discovered and dumped in 1998, and owners of the actual physical prototypes are understandably concerned that the condition of the prototypes may set it off anyway. This protection wasn't in the Japanese version, nor does it exist in MOTHER 1+2 which is built upon the prototype data.
      • Several Capcom games also employed similar mechanisms as copy protection: if they detected a pirate copy, they generally made some early boss unbeatable by giving them infinite health. Known examples include Demon's Crest.
        • Another example would be the Mega Drive game Puggsy, which would, several levels in, try to access the cart's SRAM (battery backup save memory). If it succeeded, it threw up a message telling you to stop playing this silly copy and buy the game. Puggsy doesn't have on-cart save, but copiers and emulators enable it by default.
        • Mega Man Battle Network: Operate Shooting Star, a remake of the first game, prevented you from editing your folder, and initiated a battle with three Mets, the weakest enemy in the game, with every single step you took while on the Internet.
        • When the ROM boots up, The Manhattan Project checks to see if the copyright text and/or icon has been modified (a common practice among pirates) - if it returns positive, the damage the players give out is reduced, the damage they take is increased, and a boss around 3/4 of the way through the game is modified to have infinite health, making the game Unwinnable for anyone masochistic enough to keep playing after the first few levels.
        • Similarly, back in the SNES era if you played a copy of the No Export for You Final Fantasy VI on a UK machine via an adapter, it would work fine, but wouldn't show the ending. It's not known if this was deliberate or not. The only way around it back then was to get a US/Japanese console, or have your UK machine chipped to run at 60 Hz instead of 50 Hz.
      • The Journeyman Project, at three points in the game, asks you to enter a code from the "Temporal Protectorate Handbook" (aka manual). Unfortunately, if you got this game bundled with a new computer, it most likely didn't come with the manual, and unless you were clever and looked up the codes on the Internet, you would have to brute-force the code to continue.
        • Fortunately, if you remember what type of code it is (a numeric sequence), it's actually pretty easy to brute-force it, since the game automatically stops you the moment you input an incorrect character, meaning you only have to go through around 90 sequences (tops) before getting at the correct code, as opposed to over a million.
        • On pack-in editions of the game, the necessary codes are actually printed on the disc's artwork. Of course, they're printed just as small as the boilerplate copyright notice, with no indicator of their importance, and you're going to have to copy them down before you begin playing, unless you have a glass-topped CD-ROM drive...
          • Your glass-topped drive won't help unless you can also read fine print spinning at a minimum of 200 RPM.
      • Steel Beasts Pro PE has hardware-based DRM in the form of a USB key. This key must be plugged in while running the simulation! (And it's not the only example...)


      • Valve Software's Steam is its online download and updating system, used to distribute Valve's games, first-party mods and some select quite a few other titles they have contracted in. It's usually cited as "DRM done right" by those who believe such a thing is possible. However, at the time of its original release, late 2004, DRM was nowhere near as common as it is now, and many players, who purchased the retail boxed copy, were understandably annoyed that they would have to install a separate program that runs in the background in order to prove that they weren't thieves. In addition, initially they had to connect to the Internet every time they wished to play the single-player game. Valve eventually removed this, and by now retail sales of their games have been dwarfed by digital sales, meaning most of their players already have Steam anyway. It is worth noting, however, that Steam is one of a handful of DRM systems to deliberately prevent players from reselling or giving away their used games.
        • To be fair, Steam also avoids a common issue with copy protection software—the inability to install a single copy of a game on multiple computers. On a growing number of games, it even works cross-platform now.
          • Although the fact that Steam only allows one computer logged in to an account at one given time means that you can't have a game downloading on one PC while playing another game on another PC. It's quite common for gaming enthusiasts (or computer enthusiasts in general) to own two (or sometimes more) gaming rigs.[6]
          • And oh, apparently the client would refuse to go into offline mode unless you're already logged in (the offline mode button that appears when you're unable to connect to the server is apparently broken). This will surely ruin the vacations of people who're uninformed of this limitation and forgot to put Steam into offline mode on their laptop before leaving home for a destination where getting an internet connection is very difficult.
        • Steam's DRM also provides a useful service to online gamers: Since every game is tied to its owner, once a user is banned from a server, they are banned for good unless they are willing to buy another whole copy of the game. And since most of Valve's games are multiplayer...
        • Valve has also announced (but not contractually) that if they are in danger of going under, the last update sent out for the games on the Steam platform will include something so that they won't have to contact Steam servers in order to play the games. How this is going to work with TF2 and its unlockables is another story entirely.
          • Theoretically, they could spread some cute lite-Steam server ("now your server is"). Whether they would really bother to do it in emergency is another question entirely.
        • Unfortunately, since every CD Key worked once, it was not uncommon to buy a copy in the store and then find that someone had already used the CD Key that was supposedly only accessible by opening the box.
          • Luckily, Valve will usually send the customer a new CD key if they show their proof of purchase.
        • Did we mention that, despite having a perfectly good copy protection system built in to Steam, most third party publishers keep their own, more intrusive systems in the version of their games that they sell on Steam anyway? At least the store warns you about this... most of the time.
          • However, there are now very easy ways to get a non-steam copy of all their games.
      • Recently, copy protection has resulted in controversy because some gamers and journalists have complained that copy protection systems can make some games unplayable and can even make the computer unusable. For example, the copy protection software known as "StarForce" was boycotted by some gamers due to these issues. Some of StarForce's nastier side-effects included reduced system security due to the low-level manner the copy protection was implemented, causing CD-ROM drives to step down into a form of data access that caused undue wear and tear on the drive, and BSODs (and not of the heroic kind either). It should be noted, however, that many of these issues are unlikely to be experienced by average gamers. For example, some copy-protection software works by checking the serial number of the computer's hardware, so that changing the hardware can confuse the copy-protection system into thinking you have just copied it to a different computer. While gaming journalists routinely swap out their hardware so they can test games on different computer configurations, most gamers are unlikely to be changing hardware enough for this to be a problem. Of course, this doesn't make these problems any less serious—it just illustrates why companies can afford not to care.
        • About routinely swapping out hardware - hardcore gamers do that as well. There are people who swap out video cards as soon as a newer card hit the market.
        • Galactic Civilizations 2 by Stardock Systems features "No CD copy protection"; once you install the game, you never have to verify it again. They felt that ease of use was worth the increased risk. The trick is that Stardock provides lots of free patches and content updates; If they find out your copy is being pirated, you don't get those anymore. StarForce, mentioned above, was so impressed by this system that they posted a link to a webpage where one could download pirated versions of Galactic Civilizations 2. The backlash from gamers was so intense that they quickly removed the link.
        • Speaking of Starforce, they've updated their copy protection nowdays—so if you buy a game with the old StarForce, like Second Sight, you need to download a patch off the company's web site in order to play the game.
        • The launch of BioShock (series) was screwed up, plain and simple, when the single-player offline game shipped with SecuROM Copy Protection that allowed installation twice, ever, before the customer had to contact support. In its wake came crashing authentication servers, the customer support of the publisher and of its parent company each referring people to the other, said support demanding photos of the CD and the manual, people in smaller countries being asked to phone the same support - i.e., to make international calls in a foreign language, PR representatives assuaging the public by falsely stating that properly uninstalling the game would give the right to another installation, finding out that installing on another account or making what SecuROM deems to be a significant hardware change counts, the protection disrupting other programs if they look like the sort that might be used for cracking, the demo coming with SecuROM - without activation - when it acknowledged it has no reason to do so, and halitosis. It would've been nice to tell about the limit beforehand, too. Others are cool with that and just dislike having unannounced, non-consensual, un-removable data on their computers. Some parts of SecuROM don't like being told to leave.
          • All of this extra security didn't stop a pirated version of the game appearing three weeks after the game was released.
            • And ever better yet, Spore, which also used SecuROM, was cracked a good 4–5 days before release.
        • The Starforce copy protection on Cold Fear was so bad that it locked up a large percentage of legitimate copies, and Ubisoft had to distribute a scene no-cd crack for paying customers to be able to play the game. They released their own no-cd patch later, but it was essentially the same as the scene patch.
        • Likewise, the Starforce copy protection on legitimate copies of Rogue Trooper is absurdly prone to false positives, but the publishers/developers never bothered to fix the problem because not enough people bought the game for them to care anyway.
      • In similar vein to StarForce, Denuvo became the bane for PC gamers due to numerous allegations of it adding significant overhead to games it came protected with, like high CPU usage and excessive wear and tear on storage media especially SSDs. Denuvo of course denied such claims, though some evidence suggests that the protection was detrimental to performance.[7] Other outlets dispute this however, as test results with a cracked copy of Assassin's Creed Origins that had its protection (painstakenly) gutted out weren't as dramatic as expected. On top of this and activation woes, Voksi, a Bulgarian hacker who released cracks for several Denuvo-protected games, was arrested following complaints by the company, and 3DM, a Chinese warez group, reportedly threw in the towel due to how initially hard it was to circumvent it.
      • Mortal Kombat: Armageddon had copy protection which caused the game to boot up and then go into Cabela's Big Game Hunter.
      • Some games like Mechwarrior, Warcraft and Marathon had special, network-client-only "spawn" installations that you could make many or an unlimited number of on other machines from just one copy and run without the disks (sometimes full versions and/or demos would automatically run in "spawn" mode when you don't pass the copy protection). These needed a full installation on another machine to act as a server, and would sometimes connect only to servers run by the full install from the same copy. Similarly, Diablo II allowed you to install a "multiplayer Version" with which you could play online, without the cd, but disabled the single-player segment of the game.
      • Microsoft Reader's activation scheme lets you read the same book on five machines. The problem is that it doesn't realize when you have reformatted the drive or gotten rid of the machine. So when you run out your activations, you're screwed. Luckily, the encryption is easy to break.
        • Apple has something similar going on. You have to 'authorize' a new machine in order to use the iTunes Store, or play your downloaded tracks, or... something. Whatever it is, you only get five of them - and if you didn't hit 'deauthorize' before that old hard drive died, that's your own fault.
          • Authorization is required to play music/movies from the iTunes Store. If you run out of activations you can deactivate all machines via the iTunes Store. Still annoying, but if you forget one machine you aren't hosed.
      • In the PC version of Ghostbusters: The Video Game, the developers chose an interesting method of copy-protection, by making the Candleabra Crawler monsters, destroyable ghosts in the very first level, invincible. Since the Crawlers come at the player in swarms and will follow you relentlessly, it was next to impossible to proceed past the section where they are first encountered.
        • And if the player DOES defeat the Death Crawlers- which you have to be pretty pro to do and practically playing on Easy- the VERY LAST LEVEL glitches so that Ray stands there slimegunning a wall and refuses to follow you, rendering you unable to continue. That's right. It lets you play the whole game, except the ending. The game is Unwinnable if you have a pirate copy or a false-positive legit copy.
      • Bethesda doesn't distribute CD keys with The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, showing that they know exactly how "helpful" CD keys are.
        • Unfortunately they were forced to in Fallout 3. However, the copy protection only denies you running the Fallout Launcher, you can still launch the game from the game's directory.
      • In the Macintosh World Builder game Enchanted Scepters, if you're playing a pirated copy, the game will randomly teleport you to the Arena, where you have to fight a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and will probably die. It also displays the message "The pirates laugh 'Har, har, har!'".
      • Rogue: If you're playing a pirated copy, the monsters do six times more damage than normal, and when you die (as you almost certainly will before the third level), the tombstone says "Rest in Peace: Software Pirate, killed by Copy Protection Mafia". This can even happen on legal copies, possibly due to bit rot.
      • The PC version of Sonic Adventure DX released in Europe had an absurd copy protection system which, each time you ran the game, required you to insert both of the two discs the game shipped on, and then performed a full, intensive scan of every file on the disc. On systems that were new at the time this would take about a minute for the entire process, but if you were using a system which only just met the minimum requirements, it could take ten minutes.
      • Command And Conquer Red Alert 2 had a particularly creative version. A pirated copy of the game would load up completely normally, and the actual gameplay itself would also operate normally. For about three minutes, until all of your units and buildings would simultaneously explode using the nuclear weapon animation, causing you to lose. It was pretty funny.
      • A very recent version of copy protection: a pirated copy of Croteam's Serious Sam 3 will spawn an immortal giant pink scorpion thanks to the DRM software which comes with the game. This scorpion is unnaturally fast, armed to the nines, and will kill an unsuspecting player in seconds. see for yourself.


      • The Nintendo DS with a lot of recent titles has been adding varying copy protection methods, which all have been defeated by use of simple cheat codes.
        • Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles: Ring Of Fates (awfully long title) also detected pirated copies. This caused the game to end after a while, with a "Thanks for playing!" message, which certainly confused many pirates. Why not have a "Stop playing this game now, you dirty pirate!" message?
          • This game was allowed as a demo in many stores. The same message would play in the demos. The method of the Copy Protection was that the game would have around a 30-45% chance of a random check to see if the game was a proper game... each time you changed rooms in the dungeons. The demos were only given a certain amount of game memory and that did not include the key to stop the Copy Protection from activating. This truely was a great AP due to the way it confused so many Pirates.
        • Chrono Trigger allowed you to play until you first traveled back in time, which then stuck you in an eternal loop in the warp sequence. This was also present in the original SNES version.
        • Love Plus+ made it impossible to get past the first part of the game IN ADDITION to making it impossible to gain hearts in the main part of the game, effectively making the game unplayable on flashcarts. Apparently, if you're too cheap to pay for your virtual girlfriends, they will dump you.
        • Ghost Trick made all the text blank if you use a flashcart.
        • If you play a purported copy of Michael Jackson: The Experience, the notes don't appear (it's an Elite Beat Agents clone by the way), and it plays vuvuzelas over the music.
        • Other games that included protection: Dragon Quest V, Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars and other major titles.
      • Recently, controversy surrounding the copy protection of the PC version of Mass Effect sprang up. Here's the short version: You're only allowed three activations on a single computer until you have to buy another copy. You don't get back an activation and changing your hardware settings takes one up.
        • There was also going to be a validation process that checked up on you every 10 days or the game would not run, but the immense backlash caused that to be abandoned and the developers will only implement the three-install limit. How thoughtful!
      • Starship sim sequel Frontier: Elite II had an interesting version of this. Periodically, the player would be challenged by the in-game Space Police, and asked to find (for example) the fifth letter in the third word in line 17 on page 158 of his spaceship's manual. Three wrong responses in a row and you're arrested by Chief Inspector Braben,[8] who would give you a lecture on how stolen starships are a major disincentive for starship manufacturers to make new starships; your ship is confiscated, you're sent to prison and "with luck, you'll get a job cleaning the toilets when you get out".
      • In the classic adventure game Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade Marcus would ask Indy to translate some symbols for him, which would need to be looked up in the manual. Failing to do so would let the game continue as normal - until a crucial point where Indy, at Donovan's place, would fail to translate a tablet concerning the Holy Grail (Indy mistakenly translates it as "Holy Grain"), prompting Donovan to say "Seems you're just an illegitimate copy of the man I thought you were."
      • Operation Flashpoint is notable for being the first game to use the FADE copyright system, which slowly degraded the quality of gameplay (for example, decreasing the accuracy of the player's weapons) if piracy was detected. The same applies for ARMA : Armed Assault, its Spiritual Successor. The best copy protection for ARMA was of course the fact that it didn't run under Vista.
      • Another Czech game, the first Mafia, also used the FADE system : The farther you got in an illegal copy of the game, the more choppy it ran, forcing the player to continually lower the graphics quality. It didn't stop some people from beating the game, though.
      • Day of the Tentacle required the players to configure a machine based on an image printed on a certain page of the manual. Thing is, similar images were printed on every page, and the player needed a certain number in-game to look it up. Ironically, you can now download the manual for free from several sites.
        • This copy protection apparently only exists on the floppy disk version; it's nowhere to be seen on the CD version. DOTT's predecessor, Maniac Mansion, also had copy protection as an in-game puzzle, but the version available for play within DOTT omits it by making it impossible to close the steel security door, which remains open throughout the game.
          • When DOTT was released, copying a CD was virtually unheard of.

      For those of you playing from a Compact Disk, ignore this section [Copy Protection]. It never happened. It doesn't exist. These aren't the droids you're looking for. Move along.

      • The Ultima games were particularly prone to this, forcing players to look up the Feelies for information from "Beyond the Portal" before being granted the right to save, leave the starting town, and so on.
      • An early-'90s Spider-Man computer game asked the player several trivia questions before starting. The answers were supposed to be looked up in the manual, but they were also available in any of the Spidey comics of the time.
      • As mentioned above, the original Railroad Tycoon had you identify a railway engine at the start of the game. If you chose the wrong name, the game would confiscate all but two of your trains and make you unable to run more normally (though - perhaps due to a bug - clicking at the bottom of the train list actually allows you to view the lost train and buy it back by replacing its engine).
      • F-19 Stealth Fighter: if you failed to identify the plane the game showed you, the game forced you to go on a "training mission" with preset equipment instead of allowing you to choose your mission, plane or ammunition.
        • Microprose were well known for this. Sid Meier's Pirates! (the original '80s version) allowed you to start the game even if you failed the manual-based question. However, winning the "intro duel" was extremely difficult. Still, even if you lost, you could still continue playing the game from a difficult starting point.
      • Pirates! Gold, meanwhile, would sometimes ask you to identify a famous pirate you encountered by his flag. Answer wrong and your ship loses all cannons. It was still possible to win the ensuing battle if you had enough crew to board the enemy ship, though. Also, since the copy-protection scheme only kicked in sometimes and other times the game would tell you the name rather than ask for it, with patience it was possible to reconstruct the list from scratch.
      • The aforementioned SimCity copy protection sheet actually could be copied, if you had a copy machine that could be adjusted properly.
        • Or, you know, you could spend all afternoon at your friend's place doing it by hand. And once color photocopiers became prevalent, the scheme fell flat on its face.
      • At first glance, the computer game Master of Orion used a simple "What spaceship is this?" manual copy protection. However, if the game executable was modified to remove the protection altogether, the game would detect the alteration of its code and become so difficult as to be virtually unplayable![9]
      • Dark Star One featured an extra protection. In improperly cracked versions, the star map would "shiver" making it hard as hell to read or select anything. And the price of items & upgrades would be multiplied by 100. Or reduce the sale price of everthing to 0, making it impossible to make money, and getting the player stuck in the first system.
      • Many old arcade games have "suicide batteries" that are believed to be used for this purpose. When the battery runs out, the game's graphics glitch, the sound goes away, or the game itself stops working.
        • Of course, once replacement batteries stopped being made, it became a rush for emulation experts to save these games from oblivion.
        • Many operators believe that the suicide batteries are actually used for another purpose: planned obsolescence. The idea being that once the battery dies, the operator will be forced to buy the next version of the game (often, the deal is sweetened with a trade-in discount for the new version of the game), or pay through his nose for "repairs". Hence it's common to see this and Capcom Sequel Stagnation go hand in hand. In fact, these are now used in a different way: Given that many new arcade machines run off hard drives or GD-ROMs and sport real time clocks built-in (and many are based off PC hardware) and could be upgraded just like any other PCs, many of the games now contained a time bomb within themselves and will display an error telling the operator that its licensing module has expired, and to call the game company's local distributor for an upgrade. No doubt that the operator will be told that the game is no longer supported and will be pushed to buy a newer version of the game instead if he/she calls (if not charged a fortune for "repairs"). The fact that it can be used for copy protection is just a nice side effect. It is also a bad idea in itself that it didn't stop the more adventurous of the bunch from attempting to make a backup of the board while the battery is still alive and use the backup on the board once the battery has died through various methods, most with high levels of success.
        • Some arcade games also required "Licensing modules", which are a separate ROM board that holds only the decryption key of the game. Many newer games, since they're run on machines based on PC hardware, requires a USB dongle to run. And of course the USB dongle could hold an expiry date instead of the game, adding to the planned obsolescence method mentioned above.
      • The old Gold Box Dungeons & Dragons computer games by SSI requires the use of the included a thick manual not only to log into the game ("In the manual section on page 45, paragraph 2, line 10 - what is word 6?"), but also to understand the plot (you have to refer to the journal part). In the brilliant move by the company for its Anniversary set, they included the spin wheels for some of the games' copy-protection, but forgot to put in the manuals for Gateway and Treasure of the Savage Frontieer, rendering those two games unplayable.
      • Unintentional example: Deus Ex had a scene transition triggered by a certain audio clip. Pirated versions would often leave out much of the audio to save space, making the scene transition never take place, and making it impossible to continue the game. Additionally, there was also a batch of defective disks with corrupted audio files. Thanks Ion Storm!
      • The BattleTech PC game, The Crescent Hawks' Inception, had two series of copy protection: one early on in the game, when you had to look up (or memorize) different Battlemech components to continue training at the Academy in your ersatz Doomed Hometown, and one very near the end, where you had to look up some stuff on a star chart in order to get your father's Phoenix Hawk Land-Air Mech (AKA VF-1J Valkyrie, but that's another trope). Woe betide you if you lost the star chart.
      • Lampshaded in the Fictional Video Game Only You Can Save Mankind, in the novel of the same name by Terry Pratchett:
        • "Someone in America or somewhere thought it was dead clever to make the game ask you little questions like "What's the first word on line 23 of page 19 of the manual" and then reset the machine if you didn't answer them right, so they'd obviously never heard of Wobbler's dad's office photocopier."
        • "Basically, there were two sides to the world. There was the entire computer games software industry engaged in a tremendous effort to stamp out piracy, and there was Wobbler. Currently, Wobbler was in front."
      • Commander Keen 6: Aliens Ate My Babysitter required you to identify a random enemy by name before you could play it. The enemies were never identified in-game, requiring you to have an instruction manual on-hand.
      • Parodied in Strong Bad's Cool Game For Attractive People: 8-Bit Is Enough. One puzzle involves Strong Bad opening the way to the world of the adventure game Peasant's Quest using a giant code wheel, to satisfy the voice of the "copy protector" who wants him to use the manual and special red cellophane glasses with said wheel in order to solve his "riddle" (a random trivia question). Strong Bad has neither, so he's forced to solve the problem in a slightly different fashion.
      • In the first Civilization game, there would be two instances in the early parts of the game where you had to look up a civilization advance in the manual: you were shown a picture of a random one, then given a large set of multiple-choice answers of which two advances were its direct prerequisites. (The in-game justification was that "A usurper claims you are not the rightful king!") If you were wrong, you lost all the military units you had outside of your cities.
        • Ironically, all the advances were also documented in the in-game "Civilopedia", and even if you didn't read that, the answers could often be worked out logically anyway.
          • Indeed. It would ask you things like "Which Advance requires knowledge of Steam Engine and Bridge Building?" Uh... geee... could it be railroad? Ya think?
      • Halo for the PC seemed to have some sort of copy protection in place; if the game was obtained illegally, players could still play the game normally without problems, but if they tried to play the online multiplayer, they wouldn't be connected and got a message saying the CD key is invalid.
        • Using CD Keys to prevent online play used to be quite common among PC Gaming, and it dates back as far as StarCraft.
          • And it seems to be coming back; several Games For Windows Live games do this. So does World in Conflict.
      • Lemmings 2 had a sly example; when installed off non-original floppies all would seem to proceed okay, but you wouldn't be able to advance past the first level for any of the tribes.
      • Myst III: Exile's copy protection system required you to insert Disc One at least once per run (either when starting a new game, or loading an old one), then pressed an error right into the disc that made that disc uncopyable.
        • That copy protection is called SafeDisc. EA loves it. Unfortunately, all the forcing of the drive to read a bad sector can't be good for the lens...
      • Command & Conquer: Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 uses DRM and counts your game installations. Also, for the first time of the history of Command & Conquer, two players can't even play in LAN mode with the same license (while before, the game using two CDs allowed it). Curse you, EA!
        • Actually, you can't play C&C 3: Tiberium Wars in LAN mode with the same serial key either.
      • Some users complain that the 2008 Prince of Persia on the PC will ping an unknown server every 75 seconds. The most common guess is that Ubisoft is tracking your CD key and looking for duplicates.
        • The original Prince of Persia also had manual-based copy protection which set several apparent vials of poison over which hovered several different letters; a variant of the "Page/Line/Word" index. Drinking the wrong one three times in a row would result in death; drinking the right one caused the door to the next level to open. The second game had you select a symbol from a certain page of the manual between levels.
      • An annoying variation of this problem occurs with the Xbox360. The 360 has a removable hard drive and a variety of memory cards available, meaning there is a potential problem of people copying (paid) downloaded games and giving them for free to their friends. To remedy this, Microsoft decided that to play something you purchased, you must be signed in online with the purchasing account, or be playing the content on the machine that downloaded it in the first place. The problem with the second option is that Xbox hardware failures are notoriously common, meaning the only way to play your downloaded games from any other console is to be signed online. If you ever lose internet access after owning a replacement console, you were completely screwed out of everything you bought online, although (several years down the line...) they made a website to transfer the licenses to your new console without having to be signed into your gamertag online.
        • Actually, licenses were and are supposed to transfer the instant you get it back and do the 5-second "redownload" after getting your new machine. Most people didn't bother to do the quick redownload, though, believing "My internet will never fail!", and so wind up with broken stuff.
      • On the subject of the 360, the chief form of copy protection besides watermarking the disc code is the verification process afforded to Microsoft by Xbox Live's client/server model. Detection of circumvention perma-bans the offender from playing online on that console. This doesn't stop people from staying off Live (save some) and just skipping the standard disc check by modding.
      • The Interactive Fiction game The Lurking Horror deserves special mention of its copy protection. Getting anywhere in the game required you to log into an in-game computer; the necessary information was included with the Feelies. However, while the password was clearly marked, the login was not (and, to complicate matters, was not on the same page as the password).
      • Famous line from Captain Comic: "Captain, I'm afraid you have made a terrible mistake. You failed to obtain a certain object you should have had from the start of your adventure. Since this object is not very expensive, you should go and obtain it before you venture any further." It shows up quite some time into the game.
      • The 1988 Microprose game Red Storm Rising would give you the profile view of a ship and ask you to identify it; all the requisite information was in the manual. Of course, if you're as big enough of a naval geek... guns in back, smokestack, missile pack, Krivak. Or you could just use Wikipedia nowadays.
      • This video (quoted in the page picture) gives a cheesy rap song about why people shouldn't use floppies to copy games, followed up by several developers that explain how games are made and how they won't make certain games anymore if more people copy their products instead of buying them since they feel less sales = people did not like product. The boy trying to copy doesn't see why the whole thing is a big deal, saying "everyone is doing it" and "one copy won't hurt them." The girl convinces the boy to change his ways by the video's end. Of course, things have not changed since then.
      • Maxis' The Sims 3 has recently been leaked on line several weeks early, giving many players a sneak peek at the game's functionality. EA caught wind of this pretty quickly, saying that the leaked version was missing half the game's content and was glitched to hell, and instead of hunting down every single person who's downloaded the game and preventing them from accessing the game altogether, has settled on telling them they're running an unauthorized version and pleading them to buy the full version to get extra content. Which is surprisingly fair, considering this is EA we're talking about here.
        • In actual fact, the retail copies of the game are missing this same half of the game's content as well, in the form of an extra city that is offered as a download upon registering the game. It should be noted however, that the common leaked version is apparently 17 builds behind the retail version, as found by reading information about the first patch for the game, which for some reason this information was already uploaded to EA's servers.
        • Also, thanks to the SecuROM situation, EA decided to scale back this games' copy protection to the traditional CD check and serial number that the earlier games used.
      • All these modern examples pale in comparison to a form of copy protection employed by several publishers during the Commodore 64 era. We'll spare you the boring and confusing details, but it involved placing a deliberate error on the disk, which, being that it was an error, could not be reproduced by the current copy software. However, this also caused the disk drive's head to knock repeatedly against a stopper every time it tried to load the program. Over time, this would cause the head to become misaligned and be unable to read anything anymore until the drive was repaired. That's right, a copy protection scheme that caused legitimate customers (and legitimate customers only, as this required pirates to hack the software and eliminate the need to read the error—hardly unlike today's cracks that remove pesky DRM) to experience actual hardware failure. Yikes.
      • The Island of Dr. Brain forced you to consult the manual, called the Encyclo-Almanac-Tionary-Ography, to input the coordinates necessary for finding his island. This counted as the first puzzle in the game, and you receive a gold plaque just for completing it.
      • Spyro: Year of the Dragon, if you are playing a cracked copy, has Zoe the Fairy appearing at the latter part of Sunrise Spring telling you that your copy is hacked and may be an illegal copy, which will lead you to experience "problems" you would not experience on a legal copy. [1]
        • The game also features a "save file erasure" thing similar to EarthBound, although in a more subtle manner: instead of taking you back to an empty "select your save file" screen, it just stops the boss battle against the Sorceress and then a travel-between-worlds Saving-Loading Screen appears, and after it, you return back to the Sunrise Spring Home with your hot air balloon, with the only difference that your save file has been written with a new status - namely, a fat zero over everything you can collect. To sum it up, instead of erasing your save file, the game resets it back to the beginning. You can see it here.
      • DJMAX Trilogy comes with a USB dongle that must be plugged into your computer to run the game. It also contains your profile, which has your usernames, unlocks, etc., so a fortunate side effect is that you can carry your unlocks across multiple machines. On the downside, lose the dongle and you're screwed.
        • Inverted unintentionally in DJ MAX Portable Black Square, in which songs will skip when played via UMD due to memory management issues, but won't when played via an ISO on a memory stick.
      • Titan Quest has "mysterious" crashes on bootleg copies due to properly working sneaky Copy Protection, which of course caused a lot of bad press and consequently dropped sales more surely than "pirates" could do on their own.
        • The conclusion: any Copy Protection not working explicitly is self-defeating. Most people won't bother to investigate on their own why this or that software happened to be buggy or crappy, ever. So unless users can openly admit what they tried and compare, this buries the reputation of an original, not a bootleg copy—they haven't any separate reputations if no one mentions them.
      • On the Amiga, there was a game The Killing Game Show. This game was broken and copied early in its life, but the original protected disk would alter the system timing during bootup. The broken copy did not alter the timing, resulting in a game that became Unwinnable without removing the "timer". (It is not known if any cracked version ever fixed this.)
      • The German game Drakensang (Das Schwarze Auge/ Black Eye) had at least three instances of copy protection and you were punished for then buying the original because you had to start anew, as the problems were saved in the savegames (there was supposed to be a patch for that, but it's unknown if it ever got made). First you have to go to a NPC that doesn't spawn. This can be corrected by using an SQL editor. Then there is a vital door, that's just not clickable. And last but not least there is supposed to be a door that usually leads to another vital part of the game, but in case of a pirates version leads into a cell with no exit. And no, nobody ever said anything about this beforehand, leading to a mass of "buy the game already" and almost as much "I already OWN it" :=)
      • The diskette version of System Shock stored more data on disk number one then normal copying tools would allow it to hold; attempting a basic clone would fail. Still quite easy to copy once you worked it out.
      • Origin's Strike Commander came with instructions to copy the disks and put them in the cupboard in case something happened to your originals.
        • Another Origin property, the Wing Commander series, required for the first few games information included in the Feelies or manual to start playing the game. When they were reworked for the Kilrathi Saga collection, the check was eliminated.
      • The Dreamcast game Ooga Booga had an interesting Copy Protection mechanism: If it detected that you were playing a burned copy, instead of starting the game it would show an in-game pirate character that would dance when you pressed any button on the controller. The group who released the pirated ISO left this in, but made it continue to the actual game when the player pressed Start.
      • The PC version of Batman: Arkham Asylum has one of these in the form of a deliberate glitch which disables Batman's cape glide ability, rendering the game Unwinnable. The developers say this.

      "It's not a bug in the game's code, it's a bug in your moral code."

        • Now that the (legit) PC version is out, however, it quickly turned out that the publishers have apparently forgot to take out these delibrate bugs for legit retail releases, and thus the PC port would very likely to go the way of Titan Quest. Oops.
      • StarCraft II has no have localized multiplayer, in a effort to create "a more social gaming experience", or somesuch.
        • Must be noted that local multiplayer is still possible, just that two people in the same room have to play each other through the official network.
      • The Dragon Ball video game trilogy known as "Legacy of Goku" (And the spiritual sequel, GT: Transformation) had its form of copy protection wherein a message popped up at a certain point saying "this game cannot be played on this hardware" and wouldn't go away, should it detect that it isn't a legit copy (Although there are rumours of some retail copies having this problem as well). Perhaps stupid is the fact that later versions of the emulator Visual Boy Advance decided to emulate this form of copy protection, making playing the games on that emulator extremely difficult.
      • The Amiga game Elvira: Mistress of the Dark had you hunting for six keys hidden in the castle, and one was hidden in a dark passage, requiring you to have Elvira cook up "Glowing Pride" to find it. However, you couldn't find any recipes inside the game; all of them were in the manual. In other words, you could play most of the game on a pirate version, but to complete it you needed the original version. (At least, until GameFAQs was invented.)
      • Not strictly Copy Protection, but more like incredibly failtastic programming: Capcom's Mega Man Battle Network 4: Blue Moon has issues the Red Sun version doesn't exhibit which make the game virtually unplayable on anything except the original Gameboy Advance hardware. One unavoidable section of the game causes the entire game to slow to a near halt (the music remains normal, however) if you open the menu or encounter enemies. The game will eventually bring itself back to normal speed, but this glitch turns what should easily be a 15 minute at most scenario into something that can take up to an entire day to complete.
        • There was a Super NES game that accidentally implemented copy protection: the game program had a bug which, by sheer dumb luck, caused it to depend on extremely precise timing of the SNES cartridge - play it on a copier or emulator, and the slight timing change would crash the game.
      • Some games on the original PlayStation, such as Legend of Dragoon and Vandal Hearts 2, would detect if you had a mod-chip (which lets you play imported or copied games) in your system, and then the game would not play and a message to call a place to report the problem would come up on screen. What it boiled down to was that people who had mod chips and COULD pirate the games but DIDN'T could not play the games they bought legitimately. It was probably in an attempt to get people to abandon their mod chip consoles, guess what they abandoned instead?
      • Robot Odyssey, an Electrical-Engineering-based adventure game by the Learning Company utilized copy protection by checking the 5.25" disk for a "flaky bit". If the bit was not found, the player's ability to solder connections in the robots of the main game was disabled, rendering the game unwinnable. However, the copy protection was never disclosed in the manual and the flaky bit had a tendency to "settle" over time, meaning that many users found their legitimate games impossible to play past the third level.
      • On certain emulators Hamtaro Ham-Ham Heartbreak would not go past the character-naming screen.
      • La Abadía del Crimen, a 1987 adventure game by Spanish publisher Opera Soft, based on Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, required the player to assist to daily matins. In the original game, a recorded version of Ave María would play during these sequences. However, if the game detected a pirate copy was running, the song would be replaced by an echoing voice saying "Pirata, Pirata, Pirata" and locking up the computer.
      • Touhou games always avert this, and most fangames follow suit. However, the fangame Touhou Unreal Mahjong requires a serial key for online multiplayer, which supposedly allows one user account per serial key as opposed to the usual one computer per serial key, so that the same key can be used as many times as you want as long as you still play on the same user account. The game is completely playable in single-player mode without a serial key.
      • Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story locks up at the file select screen. That was quickly patched, though. It also had a couple, lesser known ones: The tutorial battle with Bowser will go on forever because Bowser won't attack and Toadsworth won't do a tutorial which is required to progress (even if you say no to his offer). A second one occurs with another tutorial battle with a Goombule which won't progress because Starlow won't do a tutorial.
      • Ubisoft's recently proposed Online Services Platform have caused such controversy that it deserves a mention. Already confirmed by review versions of PC Assassin's Creed II and The Settlers VII and planned for use into just about every Ubisoft PC release from now on, it basically requires you to remain online during play, and if shall even a slightest connectivity hitch to occur, you would be booted off from a game and lose any unsaved progress. Assassin's Creed 2 and Splinter Cell Conviction have since had the always-online requirement removed; the games must now "only" access the Internet each time they start up.
        • Additionally, in Assassin's Creed 2, the DRM is very poorly implemented. People who pirate the game report that it's an excellent porting job and runs as you would expect it to on any given level of hardware. People who buy it often report that the game's performance is dodgy at best, with inexplicable drops at random times in frames per second.
        • All of their confidence in spite of the fact that - quite predictably now - it's already been leaked few days before the release.
        • And how it fares towards the legit customers? The servers used for this scheme went down not even a week after release, making the games unplayable at all for these poor souls. Ubisoft might better prepare a barbecue if they still insist on carrying this scheme from every single of their PC releases from now on.
          • PCGAMER US starts off their review of AC2 as follows: It's brilliant. Don't buy it. This is followed by a few paragraphs explaining exactly why they don't like the DRM on it. They also say they considered including this on their final review score, but decided to only judge the game on the actual gameplay contents and not factor in the DRM.
          • Additionally, the very next issue reviewed two more of Ubisoft's games - both of which had the exact same DRM - and actually brought BACK the "Copy Protection" descriptor, putting this in attention-getting RED (which they rarely use there) and actually docking off a few points for the DRM this time around.
        • All the fans of Ubisoft-published Il-2 Sturmovik series also got screwed over after purchasing a legit copy of the final 1946 collection of the game - which is heavily protected by SECUROM. Trying to uninstall and reinstall the game for whatever logical reason (including the need to change damaged hardware) will cause the antipirate malware SECUROM to block the game from launching. Fortunately, there are already several easy methods on how to bypass the original install (by making your own copy) and then uninstall it along with SECUROM. Fun fact : The reason your hardware could mysteriously become damaged in the first place (if your a responsible PC user) is because SECUROM's influence will gradually mess it up, which then comes full circle when you have to pay for new hardware and SECUROM will ban you from installing the game again on said new hardware.
        • Might and Magic fans have had a bit of a fun time, too, with the latest installment Might and Magic Heroes VI. Ubisoft's copy protection came in the form of the Dynasty system, which rewards players with leveling items and buffs as they progress through the game. The kicker: Dynasty progress is stored in the online "Conflux". There's an offline mode, but games saved to the Conflux obviously can't be loaded offline. Players with a steady internet connection naturally figured they might as well take advantage of the Dynasty bonuses... and were treated to a series of Conflux outages during prime play-times (including a few weekends and the week after Christmas) for a while after the game's release.
        • All the backlash has led to Rayman Origins not containing any DRM. Just to tell the infamy of the debacle, the game's Steam page explicitly mentions the lack of DRM.
      • Electronic Arts tried the same thing as Ubisoft with Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight. While it didn't bring up as much bad press as it was in Ubisoft's case, there were some people complaining about nonetheless, and that includes one of EA's own employees.
        • It should be noted that several companies, including Ubisoft, have previously tried to convince Microsoft and Sony to let them release console games that would require the player to be connected to Xbox Live or the Playstation Network at all times, irrespective of whether the game has any online elements. And despite the fact that such a mechanism would probably be far easier to implement on a console than on Windows, both Microsoft and Sony have smacked down such requests each and every time, on the grounds that they don't want to be responsible for the fallout that would inevitably happen. Let's reiterate: Sony, who love locking up everything harder than Fort Knox, using proprietary solutions wherever they can, and who have in the years attracted a lot of hatred due to their boneheaded antipiracy measures, have rejected Ubisoft's project. You'd think this would be an eye opener in and of itself for Ubisoft...
          • That certainly didn't stop Capcom of all things pulling off that dirty trick on the consoles. At least the Second time they did it, they said it required a PSN login right on the description. (And it still only affects the Play Station 3)
            • That type of copy protection actually is allowed by Microsoft and Sony, but only on download titles—even then, however, the game has to go through a more rigorous validation process than usual, which is why most game developers don't do it. However, Ubisoft (among others) have repeatedly demanded to be allowed to implement this type of protection on disc-based games, which is silly when you consider that a significant amount of people still go without internet connections on their consoles. Fortunately, both Microsoft and Sony both have more sense than the developers in question, and still refuse to allow them to do so.
        • Ubisoft tried to guard against the first Assassin's Creed I being leaked by deliberately introducing a performance-degrading bug into the code, to be removed only when the game was sent to be mass-produced. Unfortunately, they didn't actually tell anyone, so when the bugged version was inevitably leaked, it considerably hurt their sales because the pirates spread through word of mouth to potential legitimate buyers that the game had terrible performance even on high-end computers.
      • SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 3 forces you to pay 20$ to play online on pirated or second hand copies. And it didn't take long to crack it, which makes this PSP copy protection irritating as it was preceded a month before by...
      • ...the initial Japanese release of Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep. Why? At the time of the game's release, no one fully cracked the 6.20 firmware, which the game requires. The game was released in early January; it took until early March for a major cracking progress. Yeah.
      • The Lord of the Rings: The Battle For Middle Earth contained a rather unique form of anti-piracy. About ten minutes in, if the game decided our copy was pirated, your entire army would self destruct resulting in a game over. Caused some problems because bugs resulted in the game doing this to even legal copies sometimes.
      • Bonetown, an H-game by western gamers, has been noted for being "Uncrackable" despite using only Securom. The big problem? The Securom was rather archaic and was quietly subverted once the Retail Version was released (aka the physical copy) rather then the Direct Download version
      • Spirit Tracks had this when you got on the train. The controls for it wouldn't show up so you would end up crashing into another train over and over again in the tutorial section. This was patched.
      • Hackers had a field day when it came to Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey. Any pirated copies of the game would erase any saved data upon restarting, as well as not including any random encounter enemies whatsoever.
        • The above "save data erasure" assumes that the game even saves correctly (notably, on a LOT of cards, the game automatically stops saving halfway and states "save failed", and then deletes the failed save data when you attempt to load it), which turns out to be the least of your issues when you realize that the "random encounters" are actually required to stand a remote chance of making it through one round of a boss battle (Tool Assisted Superplay notwithstanding). Not that anyone who plays these games hasn't figured that out before getting this one.
      • Mirror's Edge on PC had copy protection in the form of a game-breaking bug that tripped in the third stage, slowing Faith to literally a snails pace, rendering it impossible to jump the requisite gap to continue with the game. A second fix was made to address this.
      • Pro Tools, an audio-editing suite currently used by the majority of the music industry, has gone back to the "piece of hardware" method. You can pirate the software all you like... But unless you have an "MBox" plugged into your computer, the program will start to load, put up an error window that says something on the order of "ha ha ha", and close again. Used versions of the MBox 1 go for something like $200 on the secondary market; MBox 3s are worse. Oh, and, let's not even start on the "iLok" dongle.
        • Though, if someone in the music industry is committing piracy, well, they have alot to answer for.
          • What does the poor alot have to answer for?? But no, most people in the music industry are probably good to go. It's the people trying to get into the music industry—Indie labels, home-studio owners, Jonathan Coulton—who would be running into this problem.
      • Worms came with a code sheet printed in glossy black ink on matte black paper.
      • The Ef: a fairy tale of the two duology from minori is one of the few visual novels with any sort of copy protection. Strangely, the objective wasn't to stop pirates. Explanation below.
        • To start off, you need a valid serial key to install either of the games. After it's entered, the installer begins extracting files from the DVD to the install directory while encrypting them at the same time. This encryption is to prevent the game from running should the files be copied to another machine after an installation and a start up attempted there. This does not stop people from installing the game using the same key and DVD on multiple computers, but it makes them take the extra step of finding a key they can use.
        • What the copy protection was supposed to do was prevent people outside of Japan from being able to play either of the games. In addition to the above encryption and the fact that the computer clock must be set to Japanese Standard Time, a Japanese version of Windows XP or above was required to even get the game to run at all.
        • All the above did not apply to the demo for the first game. So when Fan Translation group No Name Losers was working on an English localization of both games, they decided to do a combined stand-alone release that was run using a modified version of the demo's exe.
      • Fictional example: In User Unfriendly by Vivian Vande Velde, the protagonists are playing a pirated copy of Virtual Reality RPG Rasmussem. Unfortunately for them, discussing the game in front of an NPC initiates an infinite loop in the relevant AI which can only be terminated by a customer service representative.
      • The DOS game Al-Qadim: The Genie's Curse featured copy-protection in the form of a question whose answer you needed to look up on a page in the manual in order to start playing. Not only does it give you the page of the manual and what number word it is, it also gives you the heading of that section of the manual and the first letter of the word. Unfortunately, one of the copy-protection questions used an answer that was directly related to the heading and extremely easy to guess: "On page 19, under the heading Sound, enter the ninth word: (first letter is m)" (unsurprisingly, the answer is "music"). If you answered the question wrong it would simply let you try again with a different question as many times as you wanted, so even if you lost the manual it was easy to just cycle through the questions until you got one you knew or could figure out the answer to (not to mention having the first letter of the words made brute force guesswork much easier).
      • X3: Reunion shipped with StarForce, along with a lot of bugs. The players and developers both hated it, and it was removed in a later patch (along with, if memory serves, instructions on how to completely eradicate StarForce from one's system. The standalone expansion X3: Terran Conflict shipped with a different DRM package, but it was also ditched in a patch. Egosoft's position is they hate Copy Protection but publishing contracts require them to use it.
      • Similarly, both Supreme Commander and its expansion came with a disk-check but it was removed after a couple of patches.
        • The copy protection was required by their publisher, THQ, during the short period in between the European and North American launches. Neither the developers nor the community liked the mere presence of the DRM, and it was promptly patched out; in the first patch for the expansion in fact.
      • Oregon Trail II normally has to load the oregon.dat file from the CD drive, but this can be easily circumvented by copying the file to the hard drive and instructing the INI to load it from there.
        • This is actually true for most if not all Edutainment Games. Their reasoning being 1: the customer base (mostly schools and libraries, as well as parents, who're buying the game for students) needs a way to make a backup of the game, seeing that the media will be mostly handled by kids, and 2: their software are rarely attractive to pirates anyway.
          • Except there were indeed pirates who did release children's games, but that is mostly a niche subject compared to other genres.
      • Most modern CD/DVD-ROM games require the original disc, not a copy, to be present in the drive for the game to run. Such as the aformentioned Safedisc system. Not surprisingly, most of these games have illegal no-CD cracks, although they can be flaky at times.
      • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project would make enemies tougher and the bosses invincible if the copyright code was modified.
      • Here's one that's both software and hardware at once. A form of copy protection for music CDs involved making the data initially read by a PC (but, theoretically, not a CD player) intentionally corrupted, which would prevent a PC from copying or even playing the CD. Which would have been brilliant, if not for the fact that you could use a Sharpie marker to physically prevent a PC from reading the corrupted part, forcing it to start on a working part, allowing you to play your CD on the computer.
      • Game manuals for Nintendo 3DS games include this lovely bit of text: "Important! Read the Nintendo 3DS operations manual before setup or use of your system. This product contains technical protection measures. Use of an unauthorized device or any unauthorized technical modification to your Nintendo 3DS system, will render this game and/or system unplayable." [10] Yes, Nintendo is putting it right there in the manual that if you attempt to modify your 3DS, they will attempt to brick it via firmware updates. The catch? At least one method of delivering these updates cannot be disabled, and (in theory, at least) all firmware updates must be accepted by the 3DS.
        • It may or may not be true.
        • And then there's emulation, which is blocked by the innovations of the system; good luck emulating the 3D screen or the gyroscope.
      • KeySIGN, a traffic-management software that creates road signs, has a dongle attached to ensure the licence is installed on a particular machine. (AFAIK, this is based on info from the link).
        • Actually, most software used for engineering/science work will have a type of copy protection; usually it is online activation, unless we're talking about very high-end stuff you can't buy except through a contract.
      • Cactus Data Shield uses slight quirks on the disk designed to disrupt some speakers or cause read errors. The result was that it hung on some CD players, or caused other players to repeatedly play a given track.
      • Sin encrypted the music files, to prevent them from being played outside of the game.
      • The first Happiness! Visual Novel (not the sequel Happiness! Re:Lucks) used a variant of StarForce that required entering an encryption key. It was the only Visual Novel to use StarForce to date.
      • The Doctor Who adventure games are free via the BBC website to UK residents. Everybody else is required to pay. In order to prevent unauthorized users, they use two forms of "protection". First, the BBC website will check whether your IP is local before allowing you to download the game - and even if you manage to get around this via a proxy (or have someone else send you the game), it will "phone home" when you attempt to install it to check it again.
      • The sheer contempt for DRM has even caused some companies to consider the lack of it a selling point.

      Non-software variations

      • In the early days of Silent Films, piracy ran rampant. Projectionists would often "lend" prints to pirates for duplication. The pirates would replace original title cards with their own title cards and claim copyright if they were caught. To combat this, studios painted stencils of the studio logo onto the scenery in every shot so they could verify that they were the legitimate copyright holders.
      • It is a common practice among the publishers of paper maps to add "copyright traps" to their maps in order to identify competitors who steal their cartography instead of doing their own.
        • The most common of these are "trap streets" -- a deliberate misrepresentation of a street, usually in such a way that does not impede navigation (like non-existent bends and curves, an incorrect name, or depicting the street as being a different size from reality. The number of these can be surprisingly large -- one publisher claimed in 2005 that their map of London had "about 100" trap streets on it.
        • On larger-scale maps, fictional towns or land features can serve the same purpose.
          • When Gousha still made maps, the state map of Minnesota included a huge non-existent bay along the north shore of Lake Superior between Duluth and Grand Marais. (It was obviously fake. Highway 61 ran over the 10-mile opening of the bay rather than skirting around its fictional shoreline.) No matter how many people complained, they never corrected the error.
        • Amusingly, United States courts have ruled that copyright traps are not, themselves, copyrightable, because to let them be so could a produce a Logic Bomb situation where an error in listing facts (which themselves are not copyrightable) might result in copying a "false fact" which itself would violate copyright.
      • Similarly, dictionaries, encyclopedias and other reference works may include fictitious entries intended as copyright traps. For instance, in 2005 the The New Oxford American Dictionary included an entry for the non-existent word "esquivalience", defined as "the willful avoidance of one's official responsibilities", as an explicit copyright trap.
      • Betamax and VHS used security services like Macrovision to prevent piracy for movies and shows. Copying a Betamax or VHS tape would make the copy unwatchable by scrambling the screen. In modern VCRs (since 1997) and all DVD recorders, they have a chip-in to detect that it's copy-protected and would stop the recording, And leaves you with an error screen that reads things like Recording Error!: This program is not allowed to be recorded! The first movie to have a copy-protected home video release was the crime drama The Cotton Club.
      • Copy-Protection on Laserdisc, DVD, and Blu-Ray had been quite common for many movies and shows to prevent viewers from making bootleg copies.
      1. There are ways to get around the four-computer limit, terms and conditions with your cable modem provider and/or willingness to spend on better/extra hardware permitting
      2. Wally Bear and the NO! Gang - Nintendo NES - Manual
      3. Neo Fuji: "go go logo"
      4. Hackers leave PS3 security in tatters
      5. Emulating the game does not set it off unless you're using a really shitty emulator.
      6. Why not just download the game on the same system in background and transfer it over later, since Steam has excellent backup/restore functions? Steam boneheadedly suspends all downloads automatically when launching a game, and will keep downloads suspended until the game is closed. You can force Steam to resume downloading after launching the game, but some drivers (i.e. NVidia version 250 or higher drivers in certain SLI configurations) freezes up the system for a few seconds when task switching in and out of some full-screen games, making this a major annoyance for people with said configuration. And no, there is no known way to tell Steam to not suspend downloads when a game is launched at the moment
      7. Denuvo Really Does Cripple PC Gaming Performance
      8. David Braben was the game's lead programmer
      9. This is probably due to the copy protection itself actually setting some key variables that are initialized to such absurd values, not unlike the Slylandro Probe and Starbase thing that attempts to convince players to go to the Starbase first.
      10. Bolded text is not present in DS, DSi, or WII manuals.