Do Consumers Need Govt. Protection From DRM? It’s on the Agenda at FTC Conference

Last September’s controversial release of Spore demonstrated the extent to which digital rights management (DRM) has become a wedge issue between game publishers and game consumers.

Might the government step in on the side of consumers?

That’s difficult to say, but we note that the Federal Trade Commission will hold a town hall conference on DRM issues in Seattle on March 25th. The event will be co-hosted by the Technology Law and Public Policy Clinic at the University of Washington School of Law.

The FTC is currently recruiting panelists and hasn’t yet finalized topics. Here’s the preliminary agenda:

  • Opening remarks
  • Demonstrations of DRM-related technology
  • Panel discussions regarding burdens on, and benefits for, consumers, and other market and legal issues involving DRM
  • Review of industry best practices
  • Consideration of the need for government involvement to better protect consumers.

That last bullet point is pretty interesting, especially in light of the FTC’s mission:

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them.

Game consumers have been complaining loudly about DRM and lately even filing class-action lawsuits over the issue. Publishers who employ DRM routinely cite game software piracy as the reason.

Those interested in serving as panelists or suggesting topics for discussion should contact the FTC at by January 30, 2009. An FTC press release offers these guidelines:

Interested parties should include both a statement detailing their expertise on the issues to be addressed at the Town Hall, and complete contact information. The Commission will select panelists based on their expertise and on the need to represent a range of views.

Those with a view may also submit written comments or original research until January 30, 2009 to this URL. The town hall meeting is free and open to the public. Pre-registration is not required. It will be webcast live on the FTC website.

Thanks to: GP reader Steve Augustino

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  1. MIKE says:

    Begin forwarded message:
    Date: April 4, 2009 12:08:39 AM CDT

    Dear Sir,

    I am a patron of U.S. Library of Congress talking book program.  This is a program that supplies library books to the disabled.  Since I have a background in computer science I have anticipated the introduction of digital talking books for decades.  The thought of having access to a library of books and magazines without bulky equipment was a dream.  Imagine being able to get on a plane and enjoy books without a collection of large tape boxes and cassette player (I think the TSA suspects they contain C4 sometimes)!  Play my books on my computer, iPod, or other device that I own.

    Well that day is at hand—-  NOT.  It seems the Library of Congress (NLS) has decided that we are all pirates.  You guessed it– the books all have a DRM built into them that stops you from playing them on anything but a few devices.  Those are the machines the library is suppose to have and does not due to funding. A third party machine which looks fragile, costs a few hundred bucks and is obsolete in my judgement, and a few odd mp3 players.  No Windows, Macintosh, Linux, iPod, or other mp3 player.

    Aside from a profit motive, why do they need a DRM?  Well lets see.  The talking book program has used two basic media types to distribute there books– records and 4 track tapes.  While neither has a DRM the tapes are easiest to pirate.  High speed reproduction units have been available for decades to anyone who wished to pay a modest price.  Talking Books  could have been converted to standard stereo cassettes, DVD, or CD.  Modifying a standard cassette player to a 4 track unit takes a little time but can be done (about two hours, if your good with a soldering iron and have the parts).  You see all cassette have four tracks.  Two tracks per "side" for left and right channels.  But third party four track players have been available for a long time.  So where is this massive supply of pirated tapes?  Talking Books from the Library of Congress on tape have been available for since about 1973.  We should have had a tidal wave of pirated books.  Perhaps the publishers are afraid that digital talking books are to easy to distribute that they will see this tidal wave from the disable community? That can’t be it, since I read that some publishers are dropping the DRM they had on commercial books.  ITunes has recently dropped the DRM on much of what they sale.

    So, what is happening with our tax supported NLS (National Library Service)/Library of Congress?

    Instead of following the International Daisy Consortium recommendations  they created there own little profit center for a few companies.  Daisy players do not use a DRM and are plentiful. Daisy Consortium has renounced the use of DRMs.  This has also cost the American tax payer millions in development costs and eventual distribution of the reader to everyone (when and if the funding is available) in the talking book program.  Many of us would have been happy with devices we already own, negating the need to supply some of us with one, saving money, and creating a larger supply for those who can’t use third party devices like the iPod.

    So, why discriminate against a minority that only wants equal access to what everybody else has–  books.  I suppose this could lead to such horrible things as independents, an education or an educated set of voters.

    Do we need help?  You bet.  I have written to congress people and received nothing in return– silence.  They may think this is a small request on the part of one person.  If they do, they are wrong!  Discussions on various boards across the Web are abundant.  The DRM used is a NIST standard.  I plan on calling to localize the standard used by NLS (National Library Service) for purposes of development.  It my hope that the open source community or or someone at Apple will lend some assistance.  But I am not going to hold my breath.

    Thank you,

    Michael McNeese
    Flora, Ms.

  2. Jfed says:

    Saying the free market will support slavery is so misleading it is actually quite gross.

    It did in the US until Congress abolished it in 1865.  Would it have ended on its own?  Maybe.  But sometimes it takes a law to drop the hammer that ends the pain.

    Slavery still exists in many parts of the world today, apparently there is still a market for it.

    Before Godwin’s Law tags in, I’ll just say that while I certainly don’t want government running my life any more than it already does, the flip side is that I want enforceable laws that protect me and my fellows as well.  That’s the tradeoff.

    DRM isn’t a new issue, and consumers feel they aren’t being heard by manufacturers, so perhaps it’s just high time it gets klieg-lighted so everyone knows where the boundaries are so we can proceed instead of tread water.

  3. TJLK says:

    Laissez-faire economics DO WORK.

    Free Markets work, mainstream economic theories continue to proove to be misleading and inefficient.  Most economists aren’t even familiar with the Austrian school of economics, I doubt most even know what it is.  But its the only thing that predicted the great depression, and the current recession we are currently in.

    Saying the free market will support slavery is so misleading it is actually quite gross.  Having a society that has a free market and having a society that allows people to own other people are two entirely different things.  Trying to tie the two together is insanely irresponsible.  I’m confident in knowing whoever said it was a dishonest human.

    The way the United States handles its money right now will bring it on its knees.  All empires end because of economic reasons, this is going to simply be another example of such.  What we are seeing today is how empires fail.  Take notes.


  4. halfcuban says:

    The reality is the number of people who know about these issues, or even who know that Securom is responsible for nuking their computer, is probably very small in comparison to the units sold of many of the most notorious DRM’ed games. In fact, thats the POINT of rootkits; you DON’T know what messed things up because it intentionally hides itself. IF Securom, and other DRM schemes, were above the board, they wouldn’t have to do this.

    That said, as seen by the threat of Broadcast Flags, when major hardware and software providers collude in an attempt to corner the market on digital distribution by requiring everyone to use a specific form of DRM, its obvious that only governments are going to step in. Are you going to mass produce flag violating TV’s out of your garage? No.

    The reality is that the consolidation of the people who make, distribute, and create the hardware media is played on makes it near impossible for any "private" solution to work. Vertical monopolies are not only blatantly unfair to consumers, but also harm innovation, locking out anyone whom is not willing to toe the line. The only entities with the power to break such arrangements are government entities such as the FCC and the FTC.

    Net Neutrality is a slightly different beast than DRM’s, because, unless you have a spare couple billion around, no l33t dude is going to build an alternative physical infrastructure for itnernet communications. Let’s be realistic; the pipes that are down right now have to be kept neutral, because theres no viable way to substitute for them.

  5. Jfed says:

    Now, we all know that some incredibly stupid DRM systems (SecuROM) CAN harm your system and that is an issue.

    This is exactly what consumers need to be protected from, not DRM that does no harm and is made clear up front prior to purchase so potential buyers can make an informed choice.

    But publishers insisting on using stuff like Securom do neither and worse, continuing to use it despite complaints, pleas, letters, emails, etc. from their paying customers, obviously aren’t feeling any obligation to alleviate the issues.  I’ve passed on many games I might’ve bought this past year because I know enough of issues with DRM to research before I buy.  Too many others don’t.

    Moreover – publishers like EA know full well by now that Securom can cause technical issues for people who buy their games.  Having that knowledge, for them to continue to use it yet not warn buyers beforehand of such potential issues, are they not then engaging in deceptive practices?  Securom cannot be divorced from the game when purchased, so are they not also misrepresenting the product by neglecting to mention it comes bound up w/a known bad actor like Securom?  By selling a product that contains software that can and does alter the function of a computer, that is made by a third party with which the purchaser has no contract, and only for the benefit of the seller and the possible detriment of the purchaser (like not mentioning how many activations are given for a game with such limitations enabled), combined with the above are they not now approaching outright fraud?

    And if that undocumented third party software does indeed create technical problems for a paying customer, software that is KNOWN to have such possible effects, are they then not guilty of selling a defective overall product?

    Devs want to protect and be judged only on the game they made, but that’s not what people are buying – they’re buying a product that includes more than that game.  From a purchaser’s point of view, you cannot have it all ways.  Your game, great or awful, means nothing when DRM is the obstacle to purchase.  It’s all or nothing for the purchaser, and once a customer feels cheated or mistreated by decisions to use invasive, overreaching, or pointlessly restricting DRM, you don’t deserve their return business.

    You surreptitiously screw with their computers to do it, you’ve made yourself a lovely bed of fail with complimentary Sporings, lawsuits and government scrutiny on the side. 

    The only thing remotely amusing about all this is that they expected anything different than exactly what is happening.

  6. TheEggplant says:

    Good Grief~

    As someone who’s name I can’t remeber once said, "The free-market will support slavery if you let it." Laissez-faire economics does not work.

    While I personally would prefer a grass-roots effort to get major publisher attention, the fact that a government agency is actually willing to listen to its citizens (you know they ones who are actually in charge of this country) is heartening.


    ——————————————————————————————————————————— Hookers and Ice Cream aren’t free.

  7. GameTrades says:

    Not a fair comparison at all.

    Does DRM prevent the users from experiencing the game in the manner the developer intended?  No.  Are they making false claims as to the contents of the game and experience?  No.  What unfair business practice does DRM in games employ?  None I can think of.

    There is absolutly no need for government oversight on this.

    You may not like the DRM a publisher uses, you may find it to be a hassle, etc.  But, so long as you can play the game they sold you, how are they harming the consumer?  If the publisher sold you a game for a Windows PC and then said, after the fact, "Oh, I’m sorry, that only works on HP branded PCs with our DRM.", then that is a valid concern and there is already recourse in the law (in the US) to address this.

    Again, not a fan of DRM, but I think people are overstating the proposed "damage" it does.

  8. GameTrades says:

    That’s not the point, even if it may be true.

    The point is that it should be up to the developer to decide how their product is distributed.  If the developer does not want to take advantage of that word of mouth, it should be their decision.  While not a huge fan of DRM, I understand why content creators seek some protection.

    As for the issue of DRM and useability, if the game works on your PC, under the proposed specs on the box, and it does not effect any other software on your system, then what is the problem?  Now, we all know that some incredibly stupid DRM systems (SecuROM) CAN harm your system and that is an issue.  But, in general, if the game works as intended on your system, in the way the developers intended it to work, what’s the problem?

    If you don’t like the DRM a given publisher uses, don’t buy their product and let them know why.

    And, BTW, you use DRM laden systems every day.  Your DirectTV box, cable box, mobile phone, etc. all use hardware based DRM and encryption. How many of you are pissed off when you can’t remove your sat box smartcard and use it at a friend’s house? Or on another sat system?

    Again, not a huge fan of DRM, but can appreciate why publishers use it. 


  9. Jfed says:

    @Mirikat:  Thanks for making that point.  A lot of us nerdling around on the interwebs take for granted what we’ve learned about DRM, but you’re right – there’s a heckalotta people who have no idea what’s going onto their comps when they buy and run a game.  And it’s what made me so angry in the first place when I saw TS2 players buying new drives to replace ones disabled by Securom over a year ago – because they had no idea Securom even existed, let alone that it could be responsible for affecting their drive software.

    And that rather important information had to be badgered out of EA.

  10. Mirrikat says:

     Interesting point here.

    Why I’m not saying that Piracy is good… I’m sure that a small portion of it helps to create buzz about a game/product. A pirate may tell all his friends that a game is great and to try it out. and maybe 9/10 go and pirate that game.. but 1 person is honest and goes and purchases the game. THen those other 9 tell 10 more of their friends and sure enough some more games get sold.

    I honestly belive that people who pirate the games probably wern’t goign to buy it in the first place. I dont really think its a lost sale…

  11. Mirrikat says:

     The problem here is… that while we all know what DRM is and can do the average consumer DOESNT KNOW, and is ill informed. Seriously… go out today and ask a non-computer nerd "Do you know what DRM is?"

    These companies are basically taking advantage of ill informed people. Look at it this way: 

    Many herbal supplements claim pretty wild things, and luckily the FDA forces them to put "This message has not been aproved by the FDA. This product is not intended to Diagnose, treat or prevent any disease". Thats because without that warning even more people could be persuaded by unfair business practice that take advantage of ill-informed people.

    Now I understand that medicine and video games are completly differnt.

    This conference is the government asking people what it should do considering this subject. Its not a conference where they start the regulation, just a meeting to determine rather or not regulation is needed. IF you are so against government regulation then go to teh meeting, write your congressman, and get involved with the government, let them know that you dont want this particular thing regulated. Dont QQ on forums.

  12. the1jeffy says:

    Because despite this invasive DRM, gamers still go out in droves to buy the game.  Sure, Spore’s numbers might have been off a tad, but as long as EA turns a profit, things won’t change.  Show me one instance where people said, "Forget it, DRM = No Sale."  Typically it’s all crying and moaning on the internet and then still buying.  That tactic is the one that works, "Sooooooo well."

    True boycotts are hard to pull off in modern times, because the US consumer base has been coddled, and the fast paced market doesn’t allow for pre-planning.  But simply put, as long as you bought Spore and didn’t complain until you got your money back (and then not played the game in any other way), you are a part of the PROBLEM.

    If DRM makes the game unplayable, and the retailer won’t take the game back, call the company and complain until they allow you to return the disc for a refund.  Every EULA that I’ve read has a clause stating that their maximum liability is the retail cost of the game – for that reason.

    But no, gamer consumers (and Net Nuetrality folks, too) just want help from the FTC (or FCC) instead of taking care of business themselves.

    ~~All Knowledge is Worth Having~~

  13. Mirrikat says:

     Thanks, You summed up what I was trying to say better then I did (I was tired when I posted that) and Insanejedi missed the whole point.

  14. Wolvenmoon says:

    A lot of stink raised about this, here’s my two cents if anyone’s still reading.

    I think the government intervention on behalf of hte copyright holding corporations to allow this kind of stuff (The DMCA) was DEAD wrong. Coincidentally enough, the DMCA was signed into law and put into effect within months of the dot com bubble burst. While I don’t think this directly caused it, I believe it had a playing part in it.

    Now we have the pro-IP act to contend with. Modchippers are being persecuted as federal criminals (if I remember right), piracy is at an all time high, and the U.S. is, not counting other industries, hemmoraging out all its software industry-which is all we really have left, as our hardware production is long gone.

    We still set standards in technology. The eye is still on us for a time longer. The only way to stay in the spotlight for the forseeable future is to throw this DRM BS away, like a live grenade, and start giving a reason to keep software development in the U.S., oh, say like not being sued by companies that have obscure patents on even more obscure algorithms.

    Removing DRM is the first step to turning the industry back around. Otherwise all we have to look forward to is software out of asia, and open source.

    Neither is a good option, neither provides jobs for the U.S., neither stimulates our economy, one actually drains it. Who was once the richest man in the world, that got there by fairly legitimate means (not shady government dealings like the telecom operator in mexico), had, at the peak of his domination in the mid 90s, a person high up in his employment say…

    "We’d rather have them pirating our software than buying someone else’s."

    Lo and behold, as that attitude has changed, so has the demand for other operating systems.


  15. Spartan says:

    For something this important is if Hal does not attend, I would really have to question the purpose of the ECA. This would be one of the very few things I would consider a no-brainer for the ECA expense wise.



    "The most difficult pain a man can suffer is to have knowledge of much and power over little" – Herodotus

  16. hellfire7885 says:

    Because that’s worked sooooo well so far.


    Look so logn as piracy rates are anything but absolute zero, game comopanies are going to continue ot justify DRM with every "lost sale", so honestyl, I doubt it matters.

  17. E. Zachary Knight says:

    But they are a little different. Movies are restricted to licensed players. They have a certificate chack that makes sure that the player the disk is in can decode the encryption. Once that is verified it plays the movie. THe movie doesn’t install anything on you computer. If you want to watch movies on your computer, you by a licensed DVD playing software.

    Music has very little DRM. The only DRM found in music anymore is on MP3. Apple is very upfront about their DRM and people who buy through iTunes know they will not be able to play it on any other device. Same for Microsoft and Yahoo.

    So their DRM functions as expected with no software installed that the users don’t know about. THeir DRM does not have the tendancy to break people’s computers. Their DRM is disclosed to their buyers.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
    MySpace Page:
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    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  18. E. Zachary Knight says:

    Knowing Sony, they probably dropped DRM solely because it would have been too costly and time consuming to do all that testing and monitoring.

    I would like to see that happen more often.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
    MySpace Page:
    Facebook Page:

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  19. Jfed says:

    That could be coming, who knows.

    This outlines the case/s against Sony BMG a few years ago for the invasive and damaging rootkit DRM they used on music CDs:

    From the FAQ on that linked page:

    Does the settlement do anything to prevent similar problems from happening again?

    Yes. If Sony BMG decides to use DRM in the future, it must have that software tested for security vulnerabilities by a third party, ensure that the DRM does not install without explicit permission, and provide ready access to an uninstaller. If a security problem is found after the software is released, Sony BMG is required to notify security experts and work with them to address the problem quickly. In addition, Sony BMG must adequately disclose the nature and function of the software to music buyers BEFORE they buy. Because of the settlement, these terms will be a court order, which Sony BMG must obey or be held in contempt.

    Bold mine.  Sony BMG has lately dropped DRM altogether from its music offerings.

    Of course music’s a different type of product (people expect to be able to share it when they buy it).  I don’t expect that from video games and was fine with cd checks or anti-copy that stayed on the game disk, like a lot of others I’d guess.  But installing drivers, blacklisters, hidden folders and undeleteable registry entries, DRM that operates outside of the confines of a disk or program and can alter the function of a computer without the user’s knowledge or consent – that’s just not on, I don’t care what the excuse.

    I don’t understand why anyone would defend that kind of practice when it’s not any good for them as a paying customer.  *shrug*

  20. insanejedi says:

    But at what point is "enough" or "all" the information someone needs? And it’s not fraud if it is part of the EULA that "we are going to put DRM on your computer". Deceptive? Maybe, because 99% of people never read the EULA. Misrepresentation? No. The Spore shown in commercials is the same Spore shown on commercial retail shelves they just don’t explicitly tell you that DRM is on your computer. It’s like hidden phone bills, it’s legal, but it also sucks.

  21. hellfire7885 says:

    Sony and EA are going to fill this meeting even faster than Comcast fileld that Net Neutrality meeting.

  22. Brett Schenker says:

    As you were so nice to ask twice, most of the staff will be at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, but we’ve been talking to get folks up to Seattle to be involved, as this is an important issue for gamers and their perspective should be represented.

    Brett Schenker

    Online Advocacy Manager

    the ECA

  23. Jfed says:

    @insanejedi:  Hard to buy (or not buy) something that you haven’t been given all the information you need about it before shelling out.  Why wouldn’t I use something I purposely bought?  That’s why I bought it.

    Sounds like you’re trying to excuse fraud, deceptive practice, or at least misrepresentation of a product.



  24. axiomatic says:

    If companies want to use DRM thats fine. But I wont buy anything with DRM on it so if a comapny wants my money, there had better not be DRM. In effect companies who use DRM actually hurt themselves. The cost of impementing the DRM and the loss of consumers in "the court of public opinion" should be more than enough to deter the use of DRM. In fact I think a manager at a company who employs DRM as a protection should have a "pay for performance" clause added to thir contract so when the product tanks due to DRM consumer revolt, so does that managers salary. 😉

    Side note: DRM using ROOTKITS is the real threat. Rootkits should be illegal. Any company who uses one and does not have a rootkit removal tool should have a class action suit against them pronto.

  25. Mr. Stodern says:

    Activations limited to anything from purchase onwards? Completely unnacceptable.

    Agreed. Game devs and publishers need to stop treating their product like Microsoft treats its software.

  26. Mr. Stodern says:

    The DRM issue is one I feel can be handled by us consumers much better than by the government.

    We really just need to vote with our wallets on this one.

  27. Larington says:

    Personally, I’m only really against the overly restrictive elements of DRM:

    CD checks? No problemo.

    Online activation of online games or online activation from a digital distribution service like Steam? No problemo.

    Activations limited to less than 5 attempts in one day? Risky, but I can let it slide, since its unlikely that someone would try to install a game more than 5 times in a day, unless its been badly made which is the developers fault anyway. (I’m also assuming here that a patch is kept ready for release 3 years after the game was put on shelves that strips out the activation requirement – Just in case the company later goes bust and the activation server goes walkies)

    Activations limited to anything from purchase onwards? Completely unnacceptable.


    Conversely, I’m unimpressed with people who over-react to the mention of securom. Remember that theres different versions of the DRM tool, yes, theres the activation limit ones which I am just as against as anyone else, but theres also a disc check only version (Used in Fallout 3 & Oblivion for example) which isn’t all that intrusive.

  28. Monte says:

    That anaology does not work… the rating is there on the box and as such the manufacturing IS making an effort to warn the consumer of the contents BEFORE purchase… by not disclosing the DRM info on the box the plublisher isn’t making an effort at all. Mother who do not check the game rating on the box can only blame themselves, but the consumer can’t be blamed for not being able to check information that was not readily available

    Furtharmore, many retailers carry a policy that if you open the game box it is non refundable… it’s an understandable policy because there are games that do not require you to keep the disk in the computer and thus you could install the game and throw out the disk  (or in this case try to return the disk, get your money back, and thus get a free game)… Ofcourse which retailers do this is not readily known… so by including that no-refund policy in their EULA the publisher are effectively trying to limit your ability to return the game should you not agree to the terms. Cause really, their is not a single point to make such a no-refund policy

    you can not read the EULA for a particular game until after opening the box and thus not until after the game has been rendered unrefundable. And you can not play the game until you agree to the terms… this is really unfair business practices… at the very least the publisher should make sure that it can honor any returns a consumer might want to make in the event that they do not agree to the terms… though DRM is something that should be adressed on the box; unlike the EULA, DRM information could fit on the side of the box or something

  29. Yuuri says:

    But there are "lemon laws" to protect consumers from bad products. If you happen to get a lemon, you can take it back for one that isn’t. The problem with some DRM’s is that it makes ALL of the products with it a "lemon" so you can’t take it back to get one that isn’t a "lemon".

  30. Ashkihyena says:

    "I don’t think DRM has ever killed a kitten, puppy, or baby so where’s the need to regulate it?"

    It might as well, its nearly killed off several computers.  As for EA, yeah, I like them, but I don’t like them treating their customers like criminals, while the criminals get pirated versions, versions that don’t have the crappy computer spyware/destructive DRM.

    DRM is bad, particularly SecuRom, and not only that, but SecuRom does not work, does not work at all, so there’s no reason for it to be on software.

  31. DarkSaber says:

    I skipped to the end, so I don;t know if anyone asked this, but is the ECA going to be putting a representative forward for the panel, or is Hal busy going after easier ways to get his name in the press again?


    I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

  32. insanejedi says:

    For you using the actual device itself, it’s your fault that your using a bad device or bad software. If i bought a Scion from Toyota, it’s THEIR fault that its a crappy car, but it’s MY fault for driving it because I have the CHOICE to drive it or not. You don’t have to use whatever you bought, you have no obligation of using whatever you have bought, if you think it’s bad, do not use it.

    Sure I like EA in spots, but I argue in favour of EA here because no one else really is. Someone here has to take the initiative of Devil’s Advocate. I don’t think EA’s all good though, I dont like their DRM practices but I can also understand why they use them, I don’t think their effective but I can also understand why they use them, and I certainly do not like their download service. And similarly I do not think they are as bad as everyone make them out to be. They made huge expansion pack level content packs for Burnout Paradise entirely for free, they let developers take their time with products, i’ve heard nothing but praise for the EA partners programs from big developer cats like Gabe Newell and John Carmack, and the software their releasing reccently is original and interesting like Dead Space and Mirror’s Edge.

  33. Jfed says:

    DRM is like a lock on your shoes that you have to punch in a code every time you use it, frustrating? Yes. Is it the manufactures fault for you using it? no. Will it kill you? no. Do you have a choice in buying it? Yes.

    If not the manufacturer’s fault, then…whose?  Publishers put bad DRM on software that only negatively affects paying customers then have the nerve to call it piracy prevention, no one else.

    And it’s apparent that you heart EA, that’s okay, you’re allowed, but I’m allowed to hope they never go into the footwear business.  Tho twould be lulzy…

  34. Jfed says:

     And I belive all DRM is disclosed in the EULA and TOS, and refunding policies of a game is not the responsibility of the publisher…

    Please do produce the TOS or EULA that fully discloses, names, documents, details DRM software including any conflicts, technical issues, solutions and also which parties are responsible for manufacturing, producing, maintaining, supporting any type of DRM that comes with a PC game.

    We’ll wait.

  35. Jfed says:

    I have every right to tell EA that a product they sold to me was defective or damaging, especially when they did not disclose the defective or damaging parts of the product, or even the potential for those undisclosed parts to cause conflicts or problems, to me before I bought that product.

    And sure, the market will work eventually, but that of the damage already done?  You could venture that if there were established legal guidelines that regulated the stealth installation of technologies like Securom, we might not be having this conversation at all and go back to just complaining about gamecode bugs.



  36. insanejedi says:

    That’s the same as mothers complaining about violent video games to decreased degree of 1. Instead of doing reasearch on the internet, they can just read the box if it says M-rated on it with content lables. And what do we discover on GP? They didin’t read the M-rated lable and now are asking for regulation on all these violent video games because they didin’t do their reasearch. And I belive all DRM is disclosed in the EULA and TOS, and refunding policies of a game is not the responsibility of the publisher, it’s on Gamestop or whatever store you bought it if from. Not EA or Actiblizzard or whomever else. Do you still have the choice to install the game or not? Yes. Stop feeling powerless, you made the mistake of not doing your reasearch and it’s through your own voulentary right that you either install the game or quit what your doing.

    I belive there is no regulation on music CDs saying if there is DRM, or DVDs saying there is DRM, why should games suddenly have DRM lables?

  37. insanejedi says:

    I don’t think DRM has ever killed a kitten, puppy, or baby so where’s the need to regulate it? This is not HFCS or Aspertain or trans and saturated fats , or how much mercury is in your piece of Salman. DRM is like a lock on your shoes that you have to punch in a code every time you use it, frustrating? Yes. Is it the manufactures fault for you using it? no. Will it kill you? no. Do you have a choice in buying it? Yes.

    I find some of these comment hypocritical to the whole government regulation should not intrude on violent videogames. You always tell whomever is complaining about it, don’t buy your kids M-rated games, you guys are even more savvy and you need the government to change your games so it aquires to whatever standards you have. Don’t want violent video games? Don’t buy M-rated games, don’t want DRM? Don’t buy games with DRM. It’s the samething and you shoulden’t ask the government to help your purchasing decisions.

  38. insanejedi says:

    You guys realize we live in a free-market economy right? With that, you can buy anything you please, so government control is not really necessary neither is it "good". if you want EA to stop using DRM, then employ the dollar vote tactic and don’t buy the game, and also send a letter to EA saying "I did not buy this game because of *blank*"

    Do not in any curcumstances steal the game instead, because what EA will see is a random act of crime towards their game not related to the actual sales.

    Dont want DRM? Don’t play Spore or Fallout or whatever, don’t buy the game. There are other companies to buy games from and thats to your descression to what you buy. You have no right to tell EA or whatever other companies using DRM what they should be doing, and if you don’t like what their doing, don’t buy their games, simple as that. Wan’t to play the newest EA game like Dead Space? Tough.

  39. Mirrikat says:

     I think absolutely that all DRM should at least be posted on the box. The only way to find out if a game as DRM is to buy it, or to look up online… but we shouldn’t be forced to do research like that just to find out. IF I went to the store and bought a game right now, took it home, opened it, and began installing it; even if hte DRM was in the EULA/TOS its too late! I’ve already opened the box and game, so even if I dont agree to the EULA/TOS I cant just take it back to the store and get a refund.

    This is basically forceing people to agree to a contract which content’s are unknown until purchased.


    I mean, if Toyota said this to you "Hey, I’ll sell you this brand new car for $16,000 but there is a contract inside that you agree to if you buy the car, but you cant see whats on the contract" Would you buy it? It could say crazy shit like "Only 1 person may use this car, if another person wants to use it they must purchase another car or a license to use it from us."

  40. Mirrikat says:

     I live in Seattle, I think I’ll go to this.

    Dennis, Any news on if Hal Halpin will be attending?

  41. Ashkihyena says:

    Normally, I’m not really huge on Government invovlement when it ocmes to video games, but here, I could make the exception since DRM is bad, very bad.

  42. TJLK says:

    It is another instance where Government takes control of the situation.  Add this into the extremely long list of other instances and we are getting dangerously close to being comfortable with government having a say in nearly every aspect of our lives.  If government isn’t involved yet, it should stay that way.  The consumers can handle this.

  43. TJLK says:

    So not wanting the government to have a say over how the game industry does business is the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard?

    I’m sorry you feel that way but I simply believe in small government and little government interference because if you look at history(FCC, FTC, Federal Reserve, CIA, Public Education, any other government body) the government lacks efficiency and productivity.  Government often makes issues worse.  Furthermore inviting government into issues such as this is going to make them feel welcome in other issues we might not want them to be involved in.  You can’t pick and choose, when government gets a little bit of a foothold they are only going to go forward, never taking a step back.

    All that is really besides the main point which is the game industry can handle this one on its own.  You have to trust in the Developers, Publishers, Retailers, Consumers and ultimately the market in general(which relys mostly on the consumer imo).  If consumesr wish to kill SecuROM then we can do it on our own by negatively impacting the bank accounts of the developers, publishers and retailers.  Look at what the consumer did to Spore.  When it came packed with SecuROM it got annihilated on Amazon and when people see a 1 star rating on a new game they aren’t going to buy it.  If a game isn’t selling for a particular reason and the consumer is complaining about it then it is only a matter of time before they start removing that issue from their games.  Protecting your company from piracy is good but not at the expense of unit sales.

    When your talking about situations that actually harm the consumers hardware, such as disabling drives, then I still say don’t get the government involved.  Sue the shit out of the company and leave it at that.  If you buy a peice of hardware or software that does damage to your property and there is no warning of such on the product doing the harm I’d say you have a damn good case and you’ll likely have company.  What should you do? Talk to others with the same problem and a few lawyers.

    So I think its fine that you believe my opinion is ‘stupid’.  But I have to disagree with it.  The Government is notorious for screwing things up and not representing the truth of the matter.  They respond to public outcry more than factual instances and that turns me away from them.  If you want to trust the government to make choices for you and you want to depend on them to protect you thats all on you.  I personally enjoy freedom and independence so I shy away from government constantly.  Government has no place in the market and no place in entertainment.  PERIOD.

  44. Bennett Beeny says:

    Government intervening for us against DRM is hardly ‘having a say in every aspect of our lives’.  There are some good reasons to have government, and the best reason (perhaps other than maintaining a fire department) is to help the little guy against big business interests.

    Of course there’s no guarantee the government won’t side with big business on this one – after all, the corporations will describe their customers as, at best, ethically suspect, and at worst thieves and pirates.  The folks in government, who mostly don’t know a computer from a calculator, will believe them.

  45. Derovius says:

     This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, you want companies to have free reign in regards to how they treat people? Do you understand how fundamentally dangerous that is?

     $20 says this guy is American, the only nation where the word government sends waves of dread and whispers of communism. The US would be face down in the water by now if their government wasn’t steering things for their citizenry.

  46. Jfed says:

    I’m not so sure, after seeing the deaf ear about invasive and problematic DRM turned to the customer base over the past year especially.

    I don’t care for the idea that the gov’t. should regulate all either, but when Sony’s Securom started disabling drives for TheSims2 players in Sept. 07, and the following shrug and point to Sony reaction from EA showed no relief or change of plan, I looked for consumer laws or rules or anything that might give players any kind of recourse and had no luck finding any.  Just the non-disclosure part of the deal was disturbing enough, but the tech problems (that continue to this day) were and are outrageous.

    The market (and lawsuits) can and should determine what is good for the consumer, and the pace of such change can be glacial, but I do feel that a line needs to be drawn in the law for DRM, or any kind of extraneous program/utility included with software you purchase, that gives consumers back their right to know what’s being put on their personal property *prior* to that purchase. 

    Standards for DRM would also be nice, violations of which carry steep fines and parameters that are easy to understand for all involved.  And most importantly – keep the consumer in mind.  The FTC has some of its own cases to fall back on:  Sony’s CD rootkit and (again Sony’s) collection of personal information from minors very recently. 

    Online stores that use proprietary DRM on purchases should be required by law to provide unlocking utilities for their customers when/if they decide to shut down or go dark so that the intergrity of what people bought from them is maintained.

    A stickier issue, that might not be addressed for this particular topic, is what does a customer actually own when they buy a copy (and they’re ALL copies) of software, and also fair use rights granted by copyright law in the US.  How far does a TOS or EULA go?  Do we sign away rights granted to us by US law when we install something with a contract we cannot see before we buy?

    I don’t know whether a conference can answer or address all these (and other) issues that swirl about DRM in general, but I do feel that the consumer is the odd man out these days and needs far more consideration than has been given.  It’s unfortunate that publishers need to be boycotted, sued, or taken to task by a government authority to listen to what customers have been telling them for years, but asbestos use wasn’t regulated by the government until 1971, and it was a known killer for nearly a hundred years until then.  Collusion and obsfucation kept it quiet.  It took an IRS agent performing probate on John Manville’s estate to expose it after he died of asbestos related cancer.

    DRM doesn’t kill anything but sales, fun, and consumer confidence, but there are times when a government must and should step in to do what it’s supposed to do and protect the welfare of its citizens.  The trick is to do it constructively.

    I share your qualms there, but anything to put software publishers on notice about their DRM decisions is welcome in the consumer quarter right about now.

  47. TJLK says:


    I’m not a fan of DRM by any means but government intervention seems just as much out of line as the DRM.  Actually I’m more against government intervention than DRM…

    Why exactly does government think it should have a say in every aspect of our lives?  I’m pretty sure consumers can handle this one.  This simply makes the problem worse.

  48. Zero Beat says:

    Someone should merge your reply and the guy you replied to into one comment and send it to them.

    DRM hurting the economy would definitely get them on our side.


    "That’s not ironic. That’s justice."

  49. Jfed says:

    Thanks for the link, Brett.  I’d add my two cents and suggest that EULAs should not exceed the length of anyone’s arm, leg, nor the height of the nearest small child.  😉

  50. Derovius says:

     I don’t understand this statement, you expect people to invest when major banking institutions are literally out of money? Thank whatever deity you worship that there has yet to be any mass panic as people try and salvage their vapour-liquidity from said banks, only to find it doesn’t physically exist anymore.

  51. Mirrikat says:

     YOu say at the very bottom here that it kills "Consumer confidence" Well… low consumer confidence damages the economy but limiting spending and investing. Look how the low consumer confidence now has damaged teh economy (Even further then the initial collapse)

  52. Geoff says:

    Oh, I’m with you on that.  Game companies should perform better QA. 

    But they don’t.  QA is the most expendable of all the departments.  The majority of QA testers are temps.  They go from 500 or more employees during peek to, like, less than 100 afterwards.  That’s a whole lot of trained, possibly talented employees that are just kicked out.  You’d also be surprised (and probably disgusted) with how many bugs are written off as Will Not Fix.

    As one of my friends from there use to say, "Our department’s title is BS.  We don’t assure quality."


    Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cook-book! Little Red Cook-book!

  53. Jfed says:

    Take Sims two, there were quite a few people who installed one of the expansions, just to have the DRM in that expansion conflict with the DRM on other expansions and disabling both. How as that not caught before release?

    Because they didn’t test it, I’d bet.  I wish I’d saved the link, likely now deleted, or screenshot the post (regret!), but the head developer for TS2 outright stated that BonVoyage, the first TS2 expansion released using Securom v7.3xx, wasn’t tested w/Securom after they’d finished it up – they relied on ‘reports from other games that use it’.  It’s one reason why EA devs/personnel were so slow to understand or react; they had to go to Sony for answers.

    /end anecdote that I wish I could back up with a link.  🙁

  54. E. Zachary Knight says:

    I do believe that more thorough testing is needed in all computer software. Including games and DRM. By testing DRM, it should fall on the DRM producers to test it to insure that the software will not harm people’s pc’s. Sure it is near impossible to test on every possible configuration, btu they can test enough to get a feel for how it might react in certain situations.

    Take Sims two, there were quite a few people who installed one of the expansions, just to have the DRM in that expansion conflict with the DRM on other expansions and disabling both. How as that not caught before release?

    THe Time money quality excuse is just that. Just because game companies choose to ignore good QA, does not make it right.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
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    E. Zachary Knight
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  55. GoodRobotUs says:

    Good to hear, and thanks for replying 🙂

    I know the ECA adopts the stance that overly-restrictive DRM can be harmful to a users experience, so it is good to know they will be trying to give their input, like most users, I’m not against DRM or a companies’ rights to protect their IP.

    My own opinion is that any form of DRM which may, though no fault of my own, render my game unplayable in the future is not a good form of DRM, any kind of online verification is a time bomb for the game, especially in the current economic climate, it’s unfair to expect people to spend money on something that in 6 months time may be rendered unplayable due to bad financial choices by the company that you bought it from. Yes people can choose not to buy something, but there’s a difference between consumer choice and playing Russian Roullette over a company’s financial health.

    At the very least, there needs to be some sort of clarification of what would happen if a company that  used online verification DID go under, I’ve heard lots of ‘probably’ and ‘most likely’, but I’m not aware if there is any actual defences in place to protect the customers of such companies in that event.

  56. Brett Schenker says:

    Most of the ECA staff will be at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, but we’ve been talking about popping up to Seattle to be involved, as we feel it’s an important issue for gamers and would like to see that perspective represented.

    Brett Schenker

    Online Advocacy Manager

    the ECA

  57. T5 says:

    One should hope that the ECA is about empowering consumers, not the government.  As many have said the solution here lies in the free market.  Spore is a great example here people wnated the game not the DRM so it was pirated to an insane degree. 

  58. GoodRobotUs says:

    I’m just hoping the ECA is considering getting its foot in the door for this, sounds like something that is almost exactly up their street.

  59. Pierre-Olivier says:

    I agree with you there.

    I personally had no problems with current DRM (maybe I’m just lucky, but Securom didn’t had much effects after I installed Bioshock), but I recognise it as a serious issue (I had an old version of StarForce with my copy of Obscure and I had to use a crack to make it run on Vista, since the StarForce version was too old to be used). Fortunately, here in Québec, there are some protections for consumers. For instance, simply stating on the box that online activation is required isn’t enough. In that case, there would be enough ground for at least a refund and (if you’re willing to push that far) a lawsuit. I heard a story about a father who unwittingly bought an MMORPG without knowing that there were monthly fees. Since the fees weren’t written anywhere on the box (the two rectangles with tiny writings saying that an online connection is required were judged insufficient), that man could ask for a refund, even if he opened the box (since you HAD to open the box to know that there was monthly fees).

  60. Geoff says:

    "Right now, DRM is not tested sufficiently enough to prevent harm to consumer’s PCs. I think it should be. DRM should have strict testing guidelines imposed to prevent problems faced in the past."

    Having worked in the QA department for a couple of companies, almost exclusively with PCs while I was at Activision, I have to say that’s an impossibility.  I’m not saying it’s a bad opinion, just not an informed one.

    The biggest obstacle is hardware.  There are so many different hardware configurations that there’s no way to test every single one of them.  A PC gamer could have the latest in tech or could still be using a 5, hell, a 10 year-old DVD drive.  Add drivers, OSs, and other programs into the mix and you’re asking for A LOT of testing.

    And testing costs money.  Here, I’ll give you an example as I’ve always wanted to explain this to other gamers.

    There is the "Triangle of QA".  Basically take a sheet of paper, draw a triangle, and then label one of the corners "Quality".  Label the next one with "Time" and the third one with "Cost".  Now beneath the triangle write "You only get two".

    The idea is that if you want a Quality product quickly (Time), you have to sacrifice Cost by paying out-the-ass for lots of employees with lots of overtime.  If you wanted a Quality product with a low Cost, you must sacrifice Time since you’ll be working with a limited amount of employees and trying not to pay overtime.  If you want a cheap product out the door quickly, Quality is sacrificed due to lack of proper time to test it.

    Now there’s an old saying related to business, "time equals money".  Game producers try to follow this mantra almost to the letter.  So guess which corner of the Triangle gets sacrificed 9 out of 10 times?  (Here’s a hint: all of your games have bugs in them.  All of them.)

    Game companies would balk and scream and rage if they were forced to test DRM until it causes no issues.  It would cut too much into their profits.  They have some legit concern since, as I stated above, it’s practically impossible for them to test all of the hardware.  Most likely than not they would just stop making PC games.

    And then the pirates would just switch to consoles.  And we’d have to deal with all of this shiat again, only with console games.


    Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cook-book! Little Red Cook-book!

  61. Derovius says:

    "I don’t think the current state of DRM is as bad as it could be (see MaskedPixelante’s post above) it is still bad. "

     Generalist statement: I could say the same thing about anything. "The war is not that bad, people could be dying faster", "Taxes aren’t that bad, atleast you’re seeing something back eventually".

    "Right now there is no requirement to disclose any included DRM. I think there should be. Everything installed by the software should be disclosed on the box for everyone to see."

     The fact that this should even be worth mentioning is disturbing. Why hide this fact at all?

    "Right now, DRM is not tested sufficiently enough to prevent harm to consumer’s PCs. I think it should be. DRM should have strict testing guidelines imposed to prevent problems faced in the past."

     By whom? For whom? DRM seems to be pretty exclusive to the PC market, and as we all know, PC are as varied as their users. How do you test every single possible case? What is considered a good sample seeing as the former is impossible?

  62. E. Zachary Knight says:

    I don’t think the current state of DRM is as bad as it could be (see MaskedPixelante’s post above) it is still bad.

    Right now there is no requirement to disclose any included DRM. I think there should be. Everything installed by the software should be disclosed on the box for everyone to see.

    Right now, DRM is not tested sufficiently enough to prevent harm to consumer’s PCs. I think it should be. DRM should have strict testing guidelines imposed to prevent problems faced in the past.

    Right now, DRM is overly restrictive in its implementation. If you can watch a movie in any DVD player or listen to a CD in any CD player, why can’t you play a computer game on any PC for as long as I own the game.

    Video game software is not the same as Commercial software (think Adobe or MS Office). It should not be treated as such. It should be treated as entertainment just as movies and music are. Commercial software is licensed to produce commercial goods that can be resold. Games are not. Games are a private use entertainment package. Commercial software is intitled to using DRM to restrict the number of PCs allowed to have it installed on as well as the number of times it can be installed. Games shouldn’t.

    Since this is about DRM, I won’t go into EULAs and TOSs and their problems.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
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    E. Zachary Knight
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  63. Monte says:

    Y’know i can’t remember clearly from the last time i installed abode on my computer, but i was fairly certain that there was an option to customize the install instead of installing everything and from there you could uncheck such programs… though like i said, i can’t remeber since it’s been like half a year since the last time i had to install those programs

  64. Alex says:

    Spore was pirated to an insane degree but that’s got nothing to do with anything when you consider that Spore still sold very well indeed. Most people just pirated the game anyway even after buying legit copies so that they wouldn’t have the DRM on their systems. And those people sacrificed one of the core features of the game by doing so.

    I’m not under the affluence of incohol as some thinkle peep I am. I’m not half as thunk as you might drink. I fool so feelish I don’t know who is me, and the drunker I stand here, the longer I get.

  65. DarkSaber says:

    Tell Mr. Halpin there will be press there and I’m sure he’ll be there like a shot!


    I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

  66. GoodRobotUs says:

    Maybe so, but it’s still something the ECA ought to be getting involved in, even if it is not to adopt a stance at the start, but merely to voice the opinions of their consumers on both sides of the divide.

    After all, I was under the impression that representing consumer interests was the purpose of the ECA.

  67. lordlundar says:

    That’s what I was thinking when I read this. I wouldn’t put it past them, considering most publishers are about as ethical.

  68. Derovius says:

     So… you’re against big brother unless its to your benefit. How are you any better then the companies in question?

  69. MaskedPixelante says:

    SOMEONE related to this should step in and say "OK, THIS is how much DRM you’re allowed to use." Otherwise, say hello to 1 install per game, mandatory reactivation every day, and one week of access before you have to beg them for another install.

    —You are likely to be eaten by a Grue.

  70. Neo_DrKefka says:

    I more or less agree Goverment shouldn’t stay involved with buisness but however we do need regulation. 8 years of tax benefits so they can employ more people only to hold onto that money and shipped jobs overseas have not helped us and I am a big Bush guy or was rather.

    The Goverment should be stepping in making sure we are protected

  71. DeepThorn says:

    And additional software tied to the game should be as easy if not easier to uninstall than the game.  If any of you deal with Adobe products, when I upgrade they keep installing Bridge or Cue or some stupid program with it that I never agreed to install.  So I think across the board, everything being installed should be at attention of the user in a list of what is being installed. 

    IE: Sims 2 – Apartment Life

    -Sims 2 Apartment Life game
    -Updates to character builder or whatever if so
    -Whatever else if anything else

    Beyond that, I agree with Masked.

    You buy a movie and can watch it on any DVD player, and if you are having a party, you can link your DVD player to your cable connection and have it play on all the TV’s in your house.  Like a horror movie costume party.  That way people can watch the movie or hang out, or kinda do both.  (Wow, okay, I like that idea…  I have a new party to have now.)

    All in all, you bought the damn thing, and should have the ability to use it in the way you desire as long as you are not breaking the law, which is what DRM is suppose to protect against instead of second hand market sales.  If a household buys a game, and they have a computer for mom, dad, brother, and sister, plus an additional computer, and they all want to play the game, I do not see why they should even be required to buy more than one copy of the game, but with CD keys, they already do.  So they should stick to raping people in that manor, because that was abuse enough.

    Nido Web Flash Tutorials AS2 and AS3 Tutorials for anyone interested.
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  72. MaskedPixelante says:

    People who buy PC games should be allowed to install them an infinite number of times on an infinite number of computers. Computers die, they get upgraded, stuff happens that causes the need for us to uninstall the games that have install limits. It’s not like on a console, where they don’t fail on a similar level to the PCs. We want to have our games, not an extended rental like we’re getting from EA now.

    You have every right to protect your sales, but it’s just bad customer relations for you to have us beg for more install slots.

    —You are likely to be eaten by a Grue.

  73. Spartan says:

    If they can somehow manage to make DRM illegal or at least guarantee a full refund for infected purchased products then my faith in government will be somewhat restored.


    "The most difficult pain a man can suffer is to have knowledge of much and power over little" – Herodotus

  74. Neo_DrKefka says:

    What they need is a big flat label for DRM like the Tabacco companies are forced to use. DRM, can wipe or disable drives at will. We need a warning label

  75. Geoff says:

    Ugh, was suppose to be a reply to Brokenscope’s comment.


    Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cook-book! Little Red Cook-book!

  76. Geoff says:

    That’s unfortunately a valid concern.  Game companies aren’t the "rebels" of the technology industry anymore like in the early 90’s, their a mainstream corporate business now.  With such prestige comes scumy tactics.

    Legit customers will always buy, pirates will also find a way to get it for free.  Always.  I don’t mind companies trying to protect their products so long as it doesn’t imped the legit use by legit customers.  Companies don’t want to hear it, but those that really want to get it for free are going to get it for free, period.

    Gaming companies and DRM apologists will cry about loss of sales (which is only theoretical) and throw the word "theft" or "steal" around a lot (both of these terms are inaccurate when it comes to the law) but that doesn’t excuse the practice of treating each customer like a potential criminal.


    Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cook-book! Little Red Cook-book!

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