Israeli anti-piracy system could be solution for U.S. software makers

Software companies are demanding more effective solutions to the loss of income from piracy.The problem of software and computer games piracy is growing proportionally to the proliferation of computers, with losses to software and games development companies reaching $15 billion …

Software companies are demanding more effective solutions to the loss of income from piracy.The problem of software and computer games piracy is growing proportionally to the proliferation of computers, with losses to software and games development companies reaching $15 billion in 2000.

Many attempts have been made to solve the problem of piracy. Microsoft recently announced a system that allows its Windows XP Office package to be installed three times, after which the code that allows users to install it is automatically removed.

Other solutions have been developed, including dongles – pieces of metal and plastic that have to be placed on the ports of computers before the software can be used. But these kinds of dongles have created additional problems because they don’t fit the ports of some computers.

Enter Doc-Witness, an 18-month-old startup based in Rosh-Ha’ayin, Israel. The company has a new product, called OpSecure, which is a kind of dongle – but it’s installed on the CD bearing the software instead of on the computer itself. Each Doc-Witness dongle contains a smart card to provide further verification of whether the user is authorized to run the software.

The fact that the Doc-Witness dongle is installed on the upper side of the CD should pose a problem by preventing it from communicating with the CD or DVD driver, which are installed on the lower side of the drive, but the company has developed a solution to get around the problem. Two holes are drilled in the CD, allowing a laser beam to penetrate the CD and read the dongle’s data.

OpSecure can do more than just read information. Doc-Witness said its system can differentiate between stamped and burnt information and also receives, stores, processes and transmits information, without having to alter either the CDs or the drivers.

Since the dongle contains memory that can be upgraded, it can also be used to store visitor information on hard disks, remembering the CD users’ specific data, according to the company. This means the CD can be shared among users, each of whose specific information is stored directly on the CD.

The dongle’s memory can also save games at specific points and its storage space can be used for other applications.

Doc-Witness said that while its dongle is more expensive than other
security products, the extra savings to the software and computer
games industries derived from greater security against copying will repay the cost of the investment.

The CD manufacturer will install the dongle, producing a CD slightly thicker than existing ones, but still capable of using standard CD players. Doc-Witness will add another layer that will hide the dongle from the user.

Doc-Witness completed a $1 million seed round from private investors in February 2002 and it is now holding its first multimillion financing round, said chief executive Amos Levit. The company’s business plan has a goal of releasing the initial product towards the end of 2002, ramping up to large-scale production with a partner by December, and breaking even by mid-2003.