SCMS stands for Serial Copy Management System. SCMS was an early form of the Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology that we see today. It was used primarily with digital audio tapes. It was created after the invention of DAT and DAT recorders but it was also used with MiniDisc and DCC players and recorders. It works by flagging all the copies made as a copy, making sure that any further copying is impossible from a duplicated recording. However, it does not protect against making unlimited copies from a master.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the trade group which represents the record industry in the United States of America, had a lot to do with the development of SCMS. The trade organization had threatened to hamper the future of DAT technology with lawsuits against the electronics companies producing the hardware that could easily allow a third party to breach copyright. SCMS was the result of the dispute between the tech companies and the trade group.
It is interesting to note that because of the RIAA's lawsuit threads, low-cost digital recorders didn't become readily available or widespread before SCMS. The trade group claimed that if this happened, it would lead to widespread piracy and it lobbied government to make laws that would have a drastic effect on the technology. However, the RIAA's tactics backfired and the legal proposals never made it out of committee. Still, the trade group persisted with legal threats against companies planning to produce low-cost DAT hardware.
When the Audio Home Recording Act was passed, the RIAA and the tech firms reached a compromise which saw the implementation of SCMS and a tax levy added to the price of blank media.
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