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SCMS - Serial Copy Management System
By:Bruce Bahlmann
Christine Martz
A Digital Audio Tape (DAT) format subcode which controls direct digital copies as well as limit the number of copies that can be made from copies by inserting a copy-protect message or bit when a digital copy of a digital master recording is made. Once SCMS copy-protect flag is in the subcode of a tape or medium, no subsequent copies can be made from that tape or medium. SCMS does not limit the number of first-generation copies made from a digital master.

a copy protection scheme that prevents the illegal production of multiple generations of digital copies from a copyright-protected original. The SCMS copy protection scheme is used by Compact Disk-Recordable (CD-R) media and recorders called 'Digital Audio for Consumers'. Making a single copy for personal use by an owner of a Digital Audio Home Recorders is allowed. The SCMS scheme limits unauthorized copies of intellectual property: music owned by recording companies or musicians.

CD recorders that comply with these requirements use built in software that monitors information on the CD-R and either allows it to be written to or rejects it. If the device sees the copy protection coding it identifies the disc as "Digital Audio for Consumers" and recording starts. If it doesn't see the code, the CD-R is rejected. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) insisted on this system and it has been adopted by manufacturers of discs and recoding devices. Royalties are paid by the manufacturers to the recording industry for each CD-R sold.

An original is indicated by a copy bit which exists on an original CD and is placed on a recording at a frequency of 75 frames per second and is toggled on, off or between on and off depending on the appropriate copying strategies in each case. An original that is subject to copyright protection has the copy bit toggled to a continuous 'high' state and only one copy is allowed for personal use. For discs that have no copyright restrictions, the copy bit is toggled to off, or a 'low' state and there are no restrictions on how many copies can be made. An original that has been copied from a copy protected original disc is toggled every 5 frames between on and off and this copy is an SCMS original and no further digital copying is allowed.

To comply with copyright legislation in some countries, Digital Audio Home Recorders will only record to CD-R and Compact Disk-ReWriteable (CD-RW) discs that bear an appropriate 'audio' logo and these discs are subject to levies which are payable to the relevant copyright protection associations.

Other Related Definitions for SCMS
“…In essence, it prevents more than one generation of digital copying. It is implemented through information that is added to the stream of data that contains the music when one makes a digital copy (a "clone"). When making an analog copy only the music is transferred so there is no SCMS, and copying is totally unrestricted. Decks considered "professional" -- usually more expensive and with pro features, such as balanced XLR input/output -- are exempt from needing SCMS.” [minidisc.org]

“…This nefarious little "feature" was designed by the ever-paranoid record labels to prevent evil-doers from digitally cloning CDs. Usually found on the S/PDIF ports of "consumer" (was there ever REALLY such a thing?) and "semi-pro" DAT recorders, SCMS is a bit flagging system that prevents digital copies from being made of digital copies. This means you can make as many digital copies of your original DAT tapes as you like, but you cannot digitally make copies of any of those copies. Beware of SCMS if you are sending backup DAT copies of your master tapes to a CD duplicator, or a collaborator. They may not be able to digitally transfer your work to another tape or media!” [Sweetwater Sound Inc.]

“…All digital audio recorders like the DAT, DCC and mini-disc recorders, are equipped with the SCMS (Serial Copy Management Systems) to prevent consumers from making illegal copies of copyright protected material [2]. Using this system, a consumer can make digital copies of any digital source. However, such a copy can not be duplicated further using storage devices equipped with this protection method. The copy-prohibit-bits occur frequently in the data stream at fixed intervals.” [G.C. Langelaar - hitech-projects.com]

“…Most of us have recorded a cassette tape of our favorite songs from other tapes and CDs. Some of us may have recorded from CD to DAT, or used a home CD recorder to copy an audio CD. But we noticed in that case that we couldn't copy the DAT to another DAT. This is because DAT recorders are equipped with the Serial Copy Management System (SCMS), a copy-protection technology whose implementation on DAT recordings is mandated by Chapter 10 of the Copyright Act of 1976. This 1992 addition to the Copyright Act, titled "Digital Audio Recording Devices and Media, " and generally referred to as the Audio Home Recording Act (AHRA), was added to establish copyright structures for DAT. It's unclear whether the authors of the Act had recordable CD in mind; however, the wording of the Act could cover CD-Recordable drives and media in certain circumstances.” [Robert A. Starrett - Digital Producer]
Links Related to SCMS

What is SCMS? - Detailed explanation of SCMS.
Copying Music to CD - The Right, the Wrong, and the Law.
Privacy and Intellectual Property - Legal Issues Related to Peer-To-Peer File Sharing Over the Internet.
Technical Resources for SCMS

U.S. Copyright Law
The Federal Anti-Bootleg Statute
The Audio Home Recording Act
Products and Solutions for SCMS

Other SCMS Related Products

More Information About SCMS
Used and New SCMS for Sale

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