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Copy Protected Audio CD

Posted on 2014-01-15
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Last Modified: 2014-01-25
I would like to find CD burner software that can burn copy protected audio files (.wav or mp3) onto a CD with an imbedded audio player.  With this I can burn CDs that I can give to others so that they can play the audio files, but not copy them.  Any ideas?  

It would be nice if it played on either a PC or a Mac, but it must play on a PC.  Password protected is fine as long as the audio files can be played without entering the password.
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Question by:iceboat
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by:Dave Baldwin
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You should realize that if I can play your music, I can copy it while it is playing.  Just like recording music off the radio.
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by:iceboat
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Yes, I realize that as an expert, you could do it.  I suspect, however, that a very small percentage of my user audience is capable of recording the audio to another file while it plays.  Simply copying files within a file explorer a much easier process, and this is what I wish to prevent.
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by:Dave Baldwin
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I honestly don't know of any way to do what you want to do.  Unless you can write a program to un-encrypt the files from the CD.  You would have to have a corresponding program to encrypt them in the first place.
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by:iceboat
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Yes, Dave, I think that you are on the right track.  I know of software (e.g. Nero) that can encrypt the files onto a data CD and requires the user to know the password that was used to encrypt the files when the CD was originally created.  Nero has a nice filename viewer that launches when you open the encrypted CD drive in an Explorer window.  So any user can see a list of the files on the CD, however, they are prompted for the password when they try to copy any of the listed files.  

I think a similar approach could be used, with the addition of an audio player software that is also placed on the encrypted disk which knows the encryption key and is therefore able to play the audio files without the user needing to know the password.

I suspect that such a program exists somewhere and was hoping someone in this forum knew the name or website where I should go to find it.  Thanks for your reply.
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by:Dave Baldwin
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I think that any player you put on that CD will have to be installed before it will run.
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iceboat earned 0 total points
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Ahaa!  Good point.  It looks like I'm headed the wrong direction.  I've tried another approach and it seems to give me what I need.  Instead of burning a CD, I have tried burning a DVD-Audio.  This format has encryption built in but does not require a password to play the audio files.  I am going to test it on a few CD players to see how well it works.  I know there are several software programs that will copy DVDs, but it seems to eliminate the simple file copy and CD ripping techniques.  I was not able to play the DVD-Audio in iTunes, that is OK for my application.  

To answer your earlier question, the audio files I am protecting are a testing and therapy protocol for children with reading problems and auditory processing disorders.  

I will let  you know the results of my tests on various CD players.
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by:Insignificant Volunteer
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What you need is an audio player that is completely self-contained and takes all of its its settings from a preconfigured settings file (*.ini, *.cfg, etc) at runtime, and you also need it set so that it does not need to write back to the settings file on the CD.  Some "portable" software actually has a line right at the top of its INI file like this to prevent it from writing any altered settings like window size/position back to the settings file when it closes:
AutoSave=0

Of course, ANY program run on a Windows computer is going to leave some traces of its presence in the registry, log files, or maybe even temp files, but you need one that does not actually register itself and create new registry settings for its later use.  There are loads of "portable" programs that will run happily from a USB Flash Drive whilst using their own self-contained resources, but a USB Flash Drive is a Read and Write medium.  One way that you might be able to determine whether a program run from a Flash Drive writes back to the medium is to flick the write protection lock on it, or to make the configuration file Read-Only and see if there is an error or a new settings file is created.

How about just converting your WAV or MP3 files to another less known audio file type like OGG or FLAC and then have VLCPlayer (or some other player that can run from CD if it can't) on the CD.  A CD Interface isn't hard to create and there are a number of free or cheap CD Menu editors out there that make the job easy without requiring any programming skills (eg. http://cdinterface.sourceforge.net/)

You could experiment by making the folder on the CD with the audio files, and perhaps the files themselves, hidden so that casual users with Windows default settings would not be able to see the files.

A lot of people don't even know what a file extension is, and the problem would be if OGG or FLAC is already associated with a program on the user's computer and they therefore saw the files as usable audio files to copy from the CD.  Some media players may happily load and play files without an extension and just determine the encoding from the content and file headers.  If so, files without extensions and given numeric names may not attract attention without a familiar icon, but the interface would obviously have to show more friendly names and point them to the respective audio files.

If I were doing this I would probably use a retail product like AutoPlay Media Studio by IndigoRose where your content is all embedded and protected:
http://www.indigorose.com/products/autoplay-media-studio/
http://www.indigorose.com/products/autoplay-media-studio/features/visual-interface-objects/
http://www.indigorose.com/products/autoplay-media-studio/features/multimedia-formats/
http://www.indigorose.com/products/autoplay-media-studio/frequently-asked-questions/
I would probably convert the audio to something like SWF and play it back through an embedded Flash Loader.
The limitation is that the content will only play on Windows, not Mac.

In a similar vein you would be able to create an HTML-based interface with links to audio files, or embedded Flash content, and then pack the whole lot up into a single self-contained and protected EXE file for distribution on CD:
http://www.htmlexe.com/Home
http://www.htmlexe.com/compiled-websites
http://www.htmlexe.com/Help/mediafiles

I have some fairly old versions of AutoPlay Media Studio and HTML Executable, so I wouldn't really be able to test what features are available in the current releases.

MS Office PowerPoint (up to 2003 anyway) has a Pack and Go option that exports the content into a redistributable set of files suitable for CD and with its own integrated PowerPoint Viewer, but the problem with PowerPoint is that you can only usually embed audio files up to a certain size, and above that it has to link to an external file which may expose it.

Of course, the more complicated you get the more likely it is that security restrictions on recent versions of Windows will block some content from running off the CD.  Certainly autorun and autoplay are likely to be disabled, so the user has to then open Windows Explorer and double-click on what should look to them to be the suitably named EXE in the root.

If any of my musings seem worthy of further investigation then let us know and I will be able to look back through some of my old multimedia players and notes and also perhaps experiment with some of the Portable Apps to see if any can run from a Read-Only medium after being configured on a hard drive or USB stick.  They have quite a few multimedia players like this:
http://portableapps.com/apps/music_video/xmplay_portable
http://portableapps.com/apps/music_video/vlc_portable
http://portableapps.com/apps/music_video
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Author Closing Comment

by:iceboat
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Thank you David and Bill for your insightful suggestions.  You have helped me realize the benefits of using DVD-Audio with its built in encryption.  In testing this solution, I found that the DVD-Audio disc played on most disc players except for the old boombox style players that are not capable of reading the DVD format.  I do want the disc to play on CD/DVD players, not just computers, so putting software on a CD would not work for me.   The DVD-Audio worked fine in the CD player in my car and on my stereo.  It worked on all of my PCs and laptops.  I like the fact that iTunes cannot read it, as this helps protect the content.  Thanks for your input.
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by:Insignificant Volunteer
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Thank you iceboat.  I'm glad to see that you worked out an appropriate solution for your needs.
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