There was some little off-topic discussion about what stays in title, so I rather moving it here.
The simpler part: we all can agree that preservation of floppies would be piece of cake if all they would be in regular formats, without special , nonstandard written sections. Then ST, MSA format would be enough in case of Atari ST.
But, as in real life, thanx to unfair people (and here I mean not only costumers, but ...) there is need for measures preventing so called thefts.
Like we need to lock our homes, cars. Bad thing is that it costs time and money, and who pays it ? Not criminals, but ordinary, working people, who respects others property.
Is copying some SW without permission theft ? Usual answer of publishers is: yes. But that is just no good enough. Theft is when original owner will stay without stolen goodie. Copying is not that. Of course, it is still illegal, unfair and so on. But saying that company A lost 2M dollars because pirates spread 100000 copies of SW priced 20 dollars is stupid. We all know that they would never sell so much - this is just an imaginary example. Maybe they should price it lower, and then would earn more at the end. Or just made better game. This was not justifying of piracy, but most of people will rather buy original with manual, some extras if it is fairly priced, good quality - what myself did many tiems, despite being from not rich area.
So, they started to copy protect SW. It was gradual process, starting with very simple, may say primitive protections like hiding files. And as in real life, criminals were always faster, and found a way to copy it. After some time, publishers realized that only good protection is such, what can not be written with some regular Atari ST on floppies. Of course, pirates solved that quickly with so called cracking. The answer was adding checksums, every possible CPU tricks and like to prevent tracing of SW - actually to prevent changing of copy protection checking code.
Most known copy protection designer is Rob Northen. Here I need to add something interesting, according to what I read from his numerous interviews: he never criticized loudly crackers, pirates. I have impression that he was in some way thankful for their "work" - that allowed him to earn nice money
Inded, his code protections were very good, but pirates, craclers learned quickly how to pass them.
So, at the end there is no SW what wasn't cracked. Except maybe Crown of the Creation ?
In other words, whole copy protection is questionable. Was it worth of all money and time invested in ? I have no answer, should kknow much more details. Interesting is that Atari almost never used any copy protection - maybe that's why company bankrupted
Just kidding, of course.
So, there is, were discussions about what is real floppy preservation - in case of commercial SW, mostly games. Usually, people involved in says that only full copy, holding complete protection is that. All other is crap - is what can hear often too.
But, and back to written above - most of copy protection is dome by specialized firms, people - what is well visible if you look little in floppy images with some Hex viewer (and I did it a lot) . So, copy protection is actually not part of SW. It is part of release. This is most visible in case of Copylock on regular FAT12 floppy. Copy protection self is only 1 special sector, placed at unused sector in 2nd FAT, what can not be copied with Atari. But more important is protection of code - and that is done by R.N. . Process was described by him - basically you needed to put his encrypted code somewhere in your SW, with unique key, what is then used in duplicators. By time, it evolved, as coders added more sophisticated ways, checksums and like. That gone too far in some cases, by me - delayed protections were usually without any text, just machine crashed. So, owner of original was not aware is it damage of original floppy, bug in SW or HW ... As said, always fair people is who get harmed.
I will try to describe it with example: there is paper with some printed text on. We want to digitize it. So using scanner or camera. Then it is digitized. But file size is huge, while users want only to read text. So, we perform OCR - and getting short textual file instead some BMP. JPG. That would be eq. of some ST floppy image file. While JPG would be something like IPF. BMP something like raw flux image.
And which one is real preservation ? It matters on taste and intentions. If you just want to read txt, then ASCII, Unicode format is OK.
If want to see original shape of letters use BMP. but JPG does the same. Just at price of some generalization - will not hold similar or same parts separately (compression).
But truth is that none of above is real copy of that paper with text. You need to make accurate physical copy of it. And that's just not possible today. Can do something close, but will cost plenty of money. Who will spend it, just to have exact same paper ?
So, the real question is: what we want with that image - image, because it is all we do in digital era. Who wants to use SW will not care about copy protections. Who likes floppy technology will want protection preserved too. At price of larger image.
Copy protections make problems not only in imaging and optional later writing on floppies. but in running of SW, often. It may run significantly slower - some perform test(s) over and over again. It is not rare that right protection part will go bad on some original (myself have 2 of such). and then it works not, while SW self is OK.
May be interesting to talk about what is proper format for not copyprotected SW. Ijor says that should do Pasti images of such too. That may be OK in case of people with low knowledge about floppies. But my opinion is that it is best to do ordinary ST image, with good SW, what will give error message if some part is not well readable. When all is OK, just zip, rar that file, and spread - latest is best guarantee that it will preserve it for long, long time
For more, some maintenance from time to time is required.