Anti piracy products help prevent, but may not completely stop, the unauthorized duplication of intellectual property. This commonly includes movies, audio recordings and computer software. Without some way to prevent the copying of this material, some individuals will duplicate it either for personal use without compensating the creator, or for the purposes of selling the property for their own financial gain. This severely damages the owner's chances of receiving proper compensation.
In the case of movies and audio recordings, anti piracy software may allow certain pieces to be recorded. The images and sounds, however, will often be so distorted on the pirated copy that it will be rendered meaningless and worthless for most people. There may be cases when anti piracy software will allow a certain amount of duplication, such as to make a backup copy in case the original becomes damaged, but many do not.
Anti piracy software is also usually embedded into other types of software programs. Often, these programs have taken years and a substantial amount of of money to develop. Without some means of protection, that investment could easily be lost through because of software piracy. Therefore, anti piracy products are seen as a key to helping the developer realize a return on the investment.
There are a number of ways this software can protect a piece of software. First, many support a password authorization. Without the proper password, or product key, the software will not perform with all its features or, depending on the product, may not perform at all. This helps protect against pirated software by making sure the user has a valid key. Second, the files can be encrypted in a way that makes it very hard to "reverse engineer." This means it becomes very difficult to bypass any license requirements needed.
The use of anti piracy software is not without some controversy. Owners of copies of computer software, movies and CDs say they should be allowed to make backup recordings of what they have in case the originals get lost or damaged. The recording and software industries argue they have a right to protect intellectual property from being pirated and made available to the masses for free or a highly reduced rate. Laws detailing the rights each of these groups have in regards to the use of anti piracy products are different in each country. Thus, without a global standard, the industries may find themselves at a disadvantage in certain countries with more lax standards regarding piracy.