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First Person Shooters (Games) Security

Valve Cracks Down on 20,000 Users 1942

Posted by michael
from the third-degree-burns dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Valve have disabled 20,000 steam user accounts belonging to users who have been caught using a pirated version of the game, or have attempted to use a cdkey to bypass the securom protection found on the retail version of the game. The Steam Forums have been swamped with people now claiming they are unable to play, many claiming they have had their accounts disabled for no reason. A Valve spokesman says, 'The number of people who actually had bought HL2 and used the CD key cheat was VERY small. VERY small. Most people just tried to rip off the game and not bother buying it.'" People are discovering that when you buy any product that is subject to "activation", you haven't really bought anything.
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Valve Cracks Down on 20,000 Users

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  • You're wrong. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) * <sexwithanimals@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:54PM (#10900205) Homepage
    You have purchased something. A license to play the game on the terms and conditions that are told to you by the company.

    If you violate the terms and conditions, the company can suspend or revoke your license to play the game.

    They do not owe a refund to you if you decided to violate the agreement.
    • Re:You're wrong. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:59PM (#10900294)
      Is this license agreement on the box in a place where I can view it before I purchase it? Not the last time I checked.
      • Re:You're wrong. (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        So you believe you'd have no problems buying a game and then using someone else's CD key? Hah!

        And yes, the box DOES state that you have to have a working account on their Steam network.

        Fact of the matter is, there's no excuse to pirate this game, and Valve took the logical step that they can to protect their property. Don't even try to front like you've got any ethical ground to stand on.
        • Re:You're wrong. (Score:5, Informative)

          by realdpk (116490) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:31PM (#10900791) Homepage Journal
          "And yes, the box DOES state that you have to have a working account on their Steam network."

          This is a lie. It says you have to have an Internet connection.
        • Re:You're wrong. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by horza (87255) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @07:27PM (#10905052) Homepage
          So you believe you'd have no problems buying a game and then using someone else's CD key? Hah!

          Uh? I do this with friends all the time with Half Life 1. We've bought more copies than we have people that play it. What's the problem?

          Fact of the matter is, there's no excuse to pirate this game, and Valve took the logical step that they can to protect their property. Don't even try to front like you've got any ethical ground to stand on.

          How is using someone else's CD key pirating the game if you've bought an original copy?

          The fact is that Valve have messed up big time. I don't know how they could throw away so much goodwill that they bought with HL1. Everyone who has bought HL2 will want to go online at some point, at which point they will need a valid key. What morons are still left in the software industry that haven't learned:
          * don't require the CD in the drive - much as your precious software is *your* baby, we have several hundred other bits of software just as important to us stacked all over the house
          * no hardware dongles - again, your software isn't the only one we use. Can you imagine trying to plug a dozen dongles into one parallel port, ignoring the usual screwing up of the printer
          * no online activation - we don't all have Internet, and those of us that do don't trust being able to connect to servers. Steam sucks, I've lost count of the number of times I couldn't access CS for days at a time.

          I'm going to hold off buying HL2 for a few months, and if they don't change their tune then I'm sure a new title will come out I can purchase instead.

          Phillip.
      • Re:You're wrong. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) * <sexwithanimals@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:03PM (#10900365) Homepage
        You agree to it before you download it via steam. If you purchase the box, read the EULA and still disagree with it, click "I Disagree" and call Valve saying you disagree with their EULA and would like a full refund for the game. You can send them the game and they will refund the purchase price.

        Stores will not accept returns, but the company who put out the product usually will.

        Also, check your local laws. Stores in MA cannot have a "No Refunds" policy, because that is against state laws. Also, they cannot turn down a refund within 30 days of the purchase date.. but that's again in MA.
        • by shuz (706678) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:23PM (#10900673) Homepage Journal
          In Minnesota you have 3 days to return any item, in it original purchased condition, to the place of purchase and recieve a 100% refund. One exception to this rule that I know of opened software cannot be returned in Minnesota under any circumstances.
        • Re:You're wrong. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by AviLazar (741826) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @02:13PM (#10901455) Journal
          Actually, most states have that law. Most people do not realize it. The laws are also "dummy" laws - which means they cannot be waived no matter what sign is posted, or document you sign. Stores just try and "freighten" you by acting like the store knows best. In all reality - just grow a back-bone, know your rights, and stand up for yourself....within minutes the manager will refund you fully.
          Another great thing to do is - buy with your credit card - you get plenty of protection. My mom's fiancee bought a laptop through Dell - didn't use it - but was able to return it two months later for a full refund due to his AMEX card...
          Just a side note, I live in PA -A
          • Re:You're wrong. (Score:5, Interesting)

            by DarkZero (516460) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @04:28PM (#10903293)
            Another great thing to do is - buy with your credit card - you get plenty of protection. My mom's fiancee bought a laptop through Dell - didn't use it - but was able to return it two months later for a full refund due to his AMEX card...

            Correction: Do not buy with "your credit card". Buy with "your American Express card". American Express is notorious in retail stores because they defend you more than any other credit card company and even let you charge back a transaction to the store and keep the item (even if it's a large one) if you claim that they didn't let you return it. This includes items that are specifically marked "Open Box -- Final Sale" or "Last One -- Final Sale", because American Express apparently doesn't believe in such things.

            Unfortunately, that's also why not everyone carries American Express, as well as why many people that I know have told me that they pay a premium for American Express in comparison to their other cards.
        • Re:You're wrong. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by DM9290 (797337) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @03:41PM (#10902662) Journal
          You can send them the game and they will refund the purchase price.

          Once you have notified them that they are breeching the original sales agreement at a minimum they can refund the purchase price, pay you damages for wasting your time, and come and retrieve their product at their own expense within a reasonable period of time (probably 10 days) or else you are in your rights to simply throw the product in the garbage and still get your money back.

          Alternatively you can also file a civil suit for misleading advertising and sue for actual and punitive damages. And just once I wish someone would.

          This notion that a software developer can sell you something and retain a residual right to change the terms of the agreement merely by offering you your money back is not supported in law.

          This type of activity is generally called extortion.

          You could even take the retailer to court as they are a party to the crime. The court merely needs to find that the retailer knew (or ought to have known) that the packaging was misleading and then the retailer is liable because the retailer knowingly displayed the misleading advertising.

      • Re:You're wrong. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Lisandro (799651) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:06PM (#10900398)
        Is this license agreement on the box in a place where I can view it before I purchase it? Not the last time I checked.

        This is where the line is drawn; you simply don't know the licence details before buying. As far as you know, as a consumer, you're buying a boxed game which you expect to own, to do whatever you want with it. Sell it, play it, sit on it, burn it with gasoline. Can you even return the game if you don't accept the licence?

        Michael put it with little subtlety, but he's right. You buy something and you have absolutely zero control on how it works, when it works and for how long. Hence, you don't really own it. This is fine if you're buying the game online via Steam, where the licence should be agreed on before the purchase. Not for a boxed game.
        • Re:You're wrong. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by router (28432) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [r.a]> on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:25PM (#10900707) Homepage Journal
          I won't even looked at HL2 because of this. I read their "policy" on that forum and it basically sounds like if you screw up, they cancel your account for a year or five. Why anyone would put up with that I don't know, paying 50$ for a game that, if their servers crash, or someone bought copied and returned to the store, or they make a mistake AT ALL, cancels your ability to play it sounds like idiocy to me. It seems like it should be a pleasant diversion not some fscked up nightmare of registration servers and copied CD keys. Maybe I don't understand the new math, but aren't we customers? Why would anyone put up with this crap?

          andy
          • Re:You're wrong. (Score:4, Insightful)

            by dr.badass (25287) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @05:21PM (#10903818) Homepage
            Why would anyone put up with this crap?

            People put up with it because the likelyhood that there will be an authentication problem is very small. Less than the chance of having some kind of hardware incompatability or glitch; something PC gamers already deal with all of the time, and gladly.

            Remember, the people that Valve is cracking down on are people who are too cheap to buy the game. They aren't customers, and Valve has little incentive to treat them as though they were.
    • Re:You're wrong. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by stecoop (759508) * on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:59PM (#10900302) Journal
      Your correct but this reminds me of the Registration backlash against TurboTax 2002. TurboTax lost market share due to having to contact the TurboTax server to get authentication for the tax product. People know that software companies fade over the years and to have something so important tied to a company that may not be there one day turned many customers off to the product. Many sought alternative ETax solutions. And as any license issue, Money talks louder than the Pen.

      Now am I expecting people to associate the longevity of a game with the required longevity of tax returns? Of course not but I was thinking about purchasing HL2 but I think I'll pass until the dust settles instead of the risk/hassle of the validation scheme.
      • TurboTax (Score:5, Interesting)

        by dr_db (202135) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:24PM (#10900679)
        I saw the other reply getting modded into the dirt, and decided to reply here :-)

        Up in Canada, the product is QuickTax (same company). I was trying to print out some tax returns for a exparte court visit (exparte meaning does not require proper service). So I find out late Friday afternoon that it's going to be a Monday morning epsisode in court, and I require tax returns. I have all my tax returns on cd, not printed, because, hey, I own the software.

        I got 1999 printed, but not 2000, 2001 or 2002. Why? Because I had installed the software on an older, now dead and gone machine, previously when I did the original fucking returns. So their 'activation' detected that it was a new machine and prevented me from installing and printing out my returns. I attempted to call their amazing technical support, but because it was out of tax season, it was 9-5 Monday to Friday, or in my time zone, 10-6. So basically, they expect someone to make personal calls from work.

        I ended up calling Revenue Canada and having someone pick up summary returns while I delayed in court. Thank you Intuit, for worrying that I might be trying to redo a 3 year old tax return. If you are going to disable shit, allow people to at least PRINT OUT WHAT THEY ALREADY HAVE and kill the ability to make a new return, or something more useful than that. And it would be nice if you would reply to emails too.

        I use XP, simply because it came with my laptop. I do not use Office XP or later, or other software that requires *activation* unless I can now absolutely avoid it. After all, how are you supposed to ensure the company you are buying from will remain in business in case you need to reinstall. And for all you linux zealots that are going to attack me on the using Windows statement - piss off. I develop software for the predominant platform so I can feed my kids.

        • Re:TurboTax (Score:5, Informative)

          by peragrin (659227) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @02:08PM (#10901364)
          Save yourself now.
          Either purchase or steal the full version of Adobe Acrobat, or any other software that allows you to print PDF's.

          All of my tax returns get printed to PDF's then to paper as nessecary. I don't normally keep the paper copies around for more than a year, but it's easy to keep an encrypted zip file contianing those precious documents.

          People laugh at PDF's but they are really convient, and can be read over long periods of time without dealing with MSFT's change the format per minor version games.
    • Re:You're wrong. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mordors9 (665662)
      I can understand people downloading warez and playing the games (not saying I agree with it, just saying I can understand why they do it). But I can not imagine the balls required to complain because the company has instituted protections that they can not get around.
    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:12PM (#10900490)
      You can't just dictate whatever terms you want to people. They'd like ot pretend you have a contract with them. No, sorry, it's not. A contract requires an exchange of things (goods, money, whatever) and requires both parties to agree and sign. Saying "You agree by opening the box" isn't valid. Also contracts must be open to negoation. If you are leasing an apartment and disagree with a clause in the lease, you can strike it out, inital the change, and send it back to the management company. They are not required to accept these changes, but they have to negotiate it.

      EULAs try and do many things that are just unenforaceble. Basically they want the best of both worlds. They want it to be a physical good when it suits them, but a licensed product when it suits them. Doesn't work that way. When you sell a product on the shelf, with no contract signing, you are selling a good. Things like the doctrine of first sale apply, even if you write an EULA that says they don't.

      This is different from something like an MMORPG. Here there are two parts: the good and the service. The game they sell you is a good, and you are welcome to keep it, even if you never use it online. Their servers, however, are a service, you pay for the right to use them. Being a service, they can put restrictions on that without a contract, since if you don't like it, you are free not to use the service.

      Think if the logic Valve applied here was applied to a physical good, like a dishwasher. You go and pay for it up front, no contract, and take it home. Then, one day, it stops working so you call for warentee service. They say "Oh no, it's not broken, we just deactivated it. See you violated your license for using it, so we are turning it off. You'll need to go buy another one if you want to use it."

      That's how stupid this shit with the software is. It's not a service, it's a good. You are purchasing it with the expecation that oyu are able to use it as such. You can use it in any way you like, reverse engineer it, resell it, whatever. All you can't do is make a copy of it, or a derivitive work. Those are copyright infringement.

      Either way, I hope it blows up in their face. I can gaurentee I will not be buying a copy as a result. I'll stay with the Unreal Engine series, as Epic aren't assholes about things like this. Likewise, I'm recommending to all my friends that they do not purchase it.

      Should such a time come when Valve wises up and gets rid of this retarded protection, I'll reconsider, but at this point, there's no way they are getting my money.
      • by Eric Savage (28245) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:50PM (#10901106) Homepage
        You can't just dictate whatever terms you want to people. They'd like ot pretend you have a contract with them. No, sorry, it's not. A contract requires an exchange of things (goods, money, whatever) and requires both parties to agree and sign. Saying "You agree by opening the box" isn't valid. Also contracts must be open to negoation. If you are leasing an apartment and disagree with a clause in the lease, you can strike it out, inital the change, and send it back to the management company. They are not required to accept these changes, but they have to negotiate it.

        IANAL, but one of the first things taught in Business Law 101 is how basic contracts work. There is no requirement to offer, accept, or negotiate a contract. If I make an offer, you are certainly allowed to make a counter-offer (what I assume you mean by negotiating) but now my original offer is void. Also signing is not required for contracts, only certain types of contracts.

        If you buy a piece of software, and it says that you agree to whatever terms by opening it (and purchasing it, which you have already done), then the deal is complete when you open it. If the terms are not available before you open it, obviously nothing is binding. These days its more often done as part of the installation. If you change the terms of a lease and send it back, you are correct that they do not have to accept it, but they also don't have to ever talk to you again (or accept a subsequent unmodified lease that you send them, since its now void).
        • by Samrobb (12731) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @02:28PM (#10901672) Homepage Journal

          Maybe you can answer a question for me, then:

          If I buy a book, I can then sell it to someone else. Doctrine of first sale, correct?

          If I buy HL2, but *don't* install it, I can then sell it to someone else. Again, doctrine of first sale. At this point, it's a product that I own; there is no licensing agreement, no contract entered into, etc.

          If I buy HL2, and *do* install it, then Valve (and other companies) argue that I've entered into a contract with them. As part of that contract, I have *lost* something - my ability to resell the product. I cannot sell my copy of HL2 to someone else without Valve's permission. Well, I guess I can still sell it - but because of the issue of registration, that particular copy of HL2 is worthless now, to anyone but me.

          Here's my question: how can Valve sell me something that is obviously a product, a physical good, something that can be resold and treated by law exactly as if it were book or a car or an iPod... but which later is somehow redefined or transformed into a license?

          It's as if the law considered a car a "product" only so long as you didn't start the engine; but as soon as you actually get behind the wheel and put the key in the ignition, you no longer *own* a car, but instead now have a "license" to drive that one particular instance of a car.

    • Re:You're wrong. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by learn fast (824724) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:18PM (#10900587)
      Here's where you're wrong:

      If you violate the terms and conditions, the company can suspend or revoke your license to play the game.

      This should actually say:

      If * the company says that * you violated the terms and conditions, the company can suspend or revoke your license to play the game.

      Whether or not you violated the terms and conditions is not at all relevant.
  • CD hack? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Izago909 (637084) * <tauisgod@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:54PM (#10900211)
    Is there a way to disable the "feature" that forces me to load the CD every time I want to play the game? And will doing so get me banned? Why can't steam disable this annoying problem after we activate our game and prove to them that we bought it? At least there is a hack for Doom 3 and other newer games that disable the CD check without getting you banned from the network.
    • Re:CD hack? (Score:5, Informative)

      by RomSteady (533144) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:56PM (#10900247) Homepage Journal
      From what I understand, if you uninstall Half-Life 2 after activating it on Steam, then install off of Steam, you won't have to use your media anymore.

      Admittedly, you'll have to download quite a bit of data and it's a pain in the rump and it might not work after their next patch, but that's what's been going around the message boards.
    • Re:CD hack? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Mr. Cancelled (572486) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:08PM (#10900430)
      I think that's the only real issue here.

      The problem's not that people are pirating the game -It's a problem, don't misunderstand, but the issue of legitimate purchasers being locked out of the game because they chose to circumvent the game's CD requirements.

      IMHO, it's perfectly alright to bypass such protection on a legally purchased copy of the game. For instance, I downloaded such a hack to circumvent the protection on Civ III for the PC, which required that a CD be inserted to play, and which I had purchased at Best Buy. BTW, the hack works great!

      And Valve has a right to 'lock out' customers stealing the game, but they enter a grey area of legality when they lock out legitimate purchasers who simply want to avoid the annoying CD checks on their legal copy of the game.

      I think this is going to be a growing problem as game programmers get wise to the hacks and cracks that are put online almost simultaneously with the game releases. The ideal solution would be one in which the purchaser controls where and how they use the product for which they've paid money, while preventing unauthorized users from doing the same. Valve seems to have nailed a lot of actual piracy with the method they've chosen to use, but they've also impacted some legitimate users as well.

      Interestingly enough, gamers on the Mac (Yes, there are a few!) don't have as many problems with this kinda protection since they can have store and mount CD images directly off their hard drive. When I play Civ on the Mac, I simply have to click the CD image of the game, mount it as a disk image, and bang!, the game thinks I've inserted the CD. Too bad PC users don't also have this option. It's also too bad that more games are not released for the Mac. The G5's ready, but the gaming company's still don't see it as a viable game platform. 8(
      • Re:CD hack? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:17PM (#10900574)
        Too bad PC users don't also have this [disc images]option


        Actually, PC people do have this option using software such as Alcohol or Daemon Tools (which is free for private use). This is why the newer CD checks refuse to allow you to run if you have these programs installed. In fact, I've heard of cases where the game refuses to run if you have Nero, a very popular CD/DVD burning package and rumors of games which won't work if you have a burner attached. If the Mac ever takes off, you can kiss your disc images goodbye or find a www.MacGameCopyWorld.com.

      • Re:CD hack? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by harrkev (623093) <kfmsd.harrelsonfamily@org> on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:24PM (#10900697) Homepage
        The ideal solution would be one in which the purchaser controls where and how they use the product for which they've paid money, while preventing unauthorized users from doing the same. Valve seems to have nailed a lot of actual piracy with the method they've chosen to use, but they've also impacted some legitimate users as well.

        Actually, the ideal solution would be for everybody to be honest and buy the games that they play! But instead, people have the attitude that they have the RIGHT to have something that they have not paid for. This leads to a few possible outcomes.

        1) The company does nothing. They loose sales. Bad for them.

        2) The company builds in DRM. This causes consumers to complain. Bad for us.

        3) In addition to the DRM, the company lobbies for laws cracking down on "copy technology." Of course, these are a "BFG-900" which, in addition to having some affect on the pirates, has the side-effect of causing a lot of collateral damage do the honest consumer. Bad for us.

        4) The company does what Valve did and disables cracks. The is another "BFG-9000" which hurts the pirates, but also causes some collateral damage to a few honest users. Users complain, bad for us. They also get a black eye in their reputation. Bad for them.

        In short, if they do nothing, they are screwed. If they do something, everybody complains and they may be screwed (depends on how much people complain).

        To those who pirate games: If you don't like DRM and the DMCA, look in the mirror for the reason that we are stuck with those. If you want to change the world, start with the only person that you CAN control: yourself.
        • Re:CD hack? (Score:5, Informative)

          by hyphz (179185) * on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:36PM (#10900860)
          > But instead, people have the attitude that
          > they have the RIGHT to have something that
          > they have not paid for.

          Let me clarify something here.

          I bought HL2 via Steam. I now have a copy of activated, legal HL2 on my machine. It doesn't need a CD to run (which is good, because since I bought via Steam, I don't have one)

          Now those people who went and bought the CD had to do the Steam activation *and* put the CD in the drive.

          Arguing that they're "stealing" and "ripping off Valve" by CD-cracking the retail version ignores the fact that Valve are quite happy for people to play with the online activation only, since Steam purchasers are doing just that.

  • by Cloud K (125581) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:55PM (#10900222)
    For some reason I thought that said 'scrotum protection'. I always did say anti-piracy measures were a load of bollocks.
  • It's still fair (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bigman2003 (671309) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:55PM (#10900230) Homepage
    I know that a lot of people will have huge problems with this.

    I still don't see why though- most people knew about Steam going in (everyone who tried to use the crack knew about Steam).

    Someday, circumventing copy protection won't be seen as a white-hat activity. But it will be seen as people trying to cheat others out of compensation for their work.
    • Re:It's still fair (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Kenja (541830) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:58PM (#10900278)
      "Someday, circumventing copy protection won't be seen as a white-hat activity. But it will be seen as people trying to cheat others out of compensation for their work."

      How is trying to bypass a broekn and buggy overzellous copy protection system AFTER I've payed money for the prodyct cheating anyone out of compensation for their work? Downloading the game witout paying for it would qualify, but getting their spyware off my computer seems like a good thing to me.

    • Before the DMCA, I did it all the time. I do not own a big harddrive for no reason. One of the reasons to have it is that I can do a full install of all the games I get (though these days most games require a full install). I want to install it, put the CD back in the box, and not worry about it. It seems really stupid to me to have to give it a CD so it can do a little check just to let me play. Hence, I'd crack the game so that it would just run.

      Of course that's not legal anymore, than's to the DMCA, but
  • cd key? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by demonbug (309515) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:56PM (#10900246) Journal
    I can understand someone who bought a real copy of the game using a no-cd crack so they don't have to have the CD in all the time (I do this for most of my games - I HATE having to swap CDs all the time), but using a cracked CD key? There really doesn't seem to be an excuse for this.
  • by Soulfarmer (607565) * on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:57PM (#10900256) Homepage Journal
    I wonder all the hassle about the activation. My Steam-version of HL2 worked fine from the preload to the ending credits. It serves them right to have accounts banned if you tried to use pirated cdkey etc.

    Although I wonder also why would anyone use their OWN account to try playing a game they didn't pay for. And the version I know of, pirated I mean, doesn't need the activation at all...
  • I'm torn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dougnaka (631080) * on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:57PM (#10900260) Homepage Journal
    I got the transgaming notice that I can download the latest with special half life 2 support, and I love all the half life games to date, but I like to buy games that I can *keep* and *own* and play on normally accepted terms. This scares me more and more away from buying the game.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:57PM (#10900265)
    ...that they have no clue how many legit customers were affected.
  • michael: STFU (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JohnGrahamCumming (684871) * <slashdotNO@SPAMjgc.org> on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:58PM (#10900272) Homepage Journal
    Just don't post crappy editorial comments like this:

    > People are discovering that when you buy any
    > product that is subject to "activation", you
    > haven't really bought anything.

    OK? That's the stupidest thing I've read on /. in a long time; so Valve decided that to attempt to crack down on piracy (and it's not as if we haven't seen lots of leaked games) they would force "activation" of the product, even for single player use. Boo hoo, and now some people got caught trying to stiff Valve. Cry me a river. Valve is a for-profit business selling a piece of closed-source software.

    In other news, michael buys car and is shocked to discover must buy gas for it continue working.

    John.

    • by chill (34294) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:09PM (#10900442) Journal
      That's the stupidest thing I've read on /. in a long time;...

      Then you don't read /. a lot. I've seen a LOT stupider things written on /. Damn, that one wasn't even in the Top 10. :-)

      -Charles
    • Re:michael: STFU (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:13PM (#10900499)
      Valve is a for-profit business selling a piece of closed-source software Valve isn't selling any software, they're selling the license. If Valve goes away, or the Steam servers die, or they decide to drop support for HL2 in a few years what then? I can still play my legally purchased copy of Quake and even Half-Life, but I know 10 years from now I most likely won't be able to go back and replay HL2. Michael's comment was perfectly valid. When you buy HL2 you're not purchasing anything tangible. Frankly I'm shocked at how many geeks I know who are OK with the fact that their $60 game will expire at some point in the future.
      • Re:michael: STFU (Score:5, Insightful)

        by over_exposed (623791) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:24PM (#10900688) Homepage
        Story contents aside, why wouldn't michael just post that IN THE FORUM? I think the objection here essentially lies in his ego being so large to think that his opinion is so important that it needs to be in the article text as opposed to posting a comment like us underlings get to do. Forget about Half-Life, forget about steam - the editors are abusing their privilages by posting their personal comments where they don't belong.
    • Re:michael: STFU (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Xemoka (536420)
      >In other news, michael buys car and is shocked to discover must buy gas for it continue working.

      Except this isn't like buying gas, buying gas would be a MMO(RPG) however in this case, people buy a product to only find out that they dont really have full rights to what they purchased.
      In reality it would be more like:

      In other news, michael buys a car, tries to take the govenor off and finds out that FORD (who he bought it from) says he can no longer drive it, and pushes a little button at head office to
    • Re:michael: STFU (Score:4, Informative)

      by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:22PM (#10900660)
      > People are discovering that when you buy any
      > product that is subject to "activation", you
      > haven't really bought anything.

      OK? That's the stupidest thing I've read on /. in a long time;


      No, actually what you wrote is the stupidest thing you've read on /. in a long time.

      The vast majority of the population have no clue about how digital restriction management can be used to take away something that they think they own. Whether they "stole" it or not does not matter here.

      What matters is that more than 50,000 people just learned that their continued use of a product that they thought they owned (after all, they have posession of it, like a car) is in constant jeopordy of someone pressing the big red stop button.

      Should Valve go under and their steam network be turned off, all legit purchasers of half-life2 will be in the exact same situation that these suspected pirates are today. People who paid for divx dvds are in the same boat already, they just weren't widespread enough for the lesson to make an impact.

      Maybe this time the lesson will have an impact, especially on the teenagers of today who will be the ones who have to live in the DRM-ruled world the copyright cartel envisions. Maybe the fact that people have paid money for something that could disappear in an instant leaving them no recourse, will sink in enough on these kids that they will decide that the next product, be it music from the iTunes store or WMV-HD DVDs with "phone-home" DRM or the entire MS "Trusted Computing" baloney is not worth their money.

      A free market requires education and Michael's comment is exactly the kind of education that the masses need to avoid a DRM-ruled world.
  • by ivan256 (17499) * on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:58PM (#10900280)
    So, you try to pirate Half-Life 2, and they lock you out from playing it... That's all well and good. But if you've got other products you've legitimately purchased through Steam you can no longer access those either because you tried to pirate Half-Life 2? That sounds like a great reason to never use Steam. If you ever do something they disapprove of with one of Valve's products you could lose access to hundreds of dollars of software that is completely unrelated.

    Why aren't they just blocking those users from Half-Life 2 instead of revoking (shall we say "stealing" since they like to mis-use the word too) ligitemately purchased licenses for other products too?
    • by jdreed1024 (443938) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @02:13PM (#10901445)
      Why aren't they just blocking those users from Half-Life 2 instead of revoking (shall we say "stealing" since they like to mis-use the word too) ligitemately purchased licenses for other products too?

      More importantly, why aren't more people telling this company to fuck off? When TurboTax tried the activation bullshit, there was a huge public outcry, people applied for refunds in droves (and got them in states where the laws allow them), and rushed to H&R Block's TaxCut. TurboTax got the message big time and took out a full page ad in the NY Times and other major newspapers apologizing for the incident and as a result TurboTax for this year has no activation required.

      Of course, I can answer my own question: because there are other ways to do your taxes, but Half-Life 2 is shiny and game addicts need their fix. If you hate a company's product, you shouldn't support them. People need to be stronger and stop buying movies and DVDs and software that impose restrictions. Only then will the companies wake up.

  • by MooseByte (751829) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:59PM (#10900299)

    "A Valve spokesman says, 'The number of people who actually had bought HL2 and used the CD key cheat was VERY small."

    So how draconian are they being? Is that "VERY small" number of users being excluded from the blacklist? Or did they trigger some End Game transgression of the EULA by even trying the CD key cheat?

    If the latter, that would SERIOUSLY suck.

  • by DroopyStonx (683090) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:59PM (#10900304)
    Why is this such a big deal?

    Go on usenet, find the appropriate cracks. Enjoy. The end.

    See how easy that was?
  • HL2 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dewke (44893) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:01PM (#10900331)
    I bought Half Life through steam and was pleasantly surprised by how smoothly it went. I was expecting a nightmarish problem judging by Valve's earlier problems with network security.

    However, regarding activation. Maybe if so many people in the "community" weren't so busy pirating the games Valve wouldn't need to go through these hoops.

    What I'm more concerned about overall is, what happens when people have their steam accounts stolen? How is Valve going to deal with that. I could probably use Visa to get my $59 back, but what a tremendous pain in the ass.
  • Activation sux... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sefert (723060) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:04PM (#10900380)
    I bought HL2 the day it came out. The steam servers were so swamped that it took me over 2 hours to get the damn thing activated. Frankly, I do find the idea of being treated like a potential criminal every time I launch the game offensive. It's like having a store run a criminal record check every time you wander in to buy something. I'm not going to argue about the license - Valve certainly does have a right to protect their interests, but I'll certainly think twice once I see any product using Steam as a prerequisite to using it. They can do what they like, and me and my money just won't get involved. (btw - the post above about still needing the damn CD is right - what the hell for? If anything good could have come out of Steam it would have been able to stop having to swap CD's back and forth).
  • by Assmasher (456699) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:05PM (#10900392) Journal
    I'm glad that Valve is 'cracking skulls.' Mess with the bull and you get the horns buddy.

    In all seriousness, Valve is an intelligent company and has most assuredly been very careful about this. Of course there are going to be mistakes, but out of 20,000 warez a**holes there's probably only a very VERY (to quote Valve) few people who actually purchased the game and then for some reason went out and grabbed a key generator when they didn't need one.

    That's very likely 20,000 less cheating bastards at Counter-Strike Source (leaving on a few million to deal with.)
  • Future Install? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by don_carnage (145494) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:05PM (#10900393) Homepage

    So, what happens in 5 or 10 years when you want to play the game and can't install it on a new machine because Steam is gone or has been replaced? I understand their attempt to thwart piracy, but perhaps they should try a different approach. Perhaps innocent until proven guilty?

  • The $100 Question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jackstraw2323 (730834) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:05PM (#10900394)
    What happens if I buy the game on ebay that somebody already played. Will steam not allow me since it's already registered to the previous user? More importantly what happens when VU shuts down valve and steam B/C profit margins aren't high enough or some other BS reason, and there are no servers to validate my copy? I don't want to buy a game that might not work in a few years.
  • Refunds (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nharmon (97591) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:07PM (#10900421) Homepage
    They are disabling accounts, thus effectively preventing people to play the legal games they did buy. So, is Valve obligated to provide refunds to users who cannot access their previously purchased games.

    I mean, if I sell you a car, and you come into my house and steal my laptop, I don't get to take back my car and laptop and keep the money.
  • by dark-br (473115) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:10PM (#10900462) Homepage
    and it's still working ok... Am I lucky or it's only a question of time?

    Anyone else still playing with... err... pirated HL2?

    (And don't give me that crap "oh, bad you, pirate! go sit on a corner". Hurl the first stone those who have NEVER pirated a piece of software!)

  • by Kymermosst (33885) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:11PM (#10900478) Journal
    People are discovering that when you buy any product that is subject to "activation", you haven't really bought anything.

    Companies are discovering that people will routinely and casually avoid paying for their products or for the use of their services whenever it is easy to avoid such payment.

    Similarly, people routinely and casually avoid stopping at stop signs and using their turn signals.
  • Who? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by paul248 (536459) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:14PM (#10900527) Homepage
    I can't seem to figure out who Valve is actually banning? If somebody has a pirated version of the game, then they don't even have a Steam account to ban in the first place, because the cracked version bypasses Steam!

    Are they only banning people who actually paid for the game and used a no-cd crack? That's just retarded; It stops the legitimate users but does nothing about the pirates.
    • Re:Who? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by retro128 (318602) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:55PM (#10901179)
      Precisely. I would like to know exactly what criteria Valve used to figure out who to ban. I bought the retail version and was considering installing a No-CD crack to avoid having to put the disc in when I want to play...I guess not anymore!

      Assuming I did and I got banned...I paid $60 for the game after tax, and just like that Vavle decides they can pull the rug out from under me because I don't want to have to find the damned CD when I want to play? That is utter BS. And let's remember this is the software industry, things can change overnight. Valve could close down one day (anyone remember Sierra?) and what happens then? I'm not allowed to play the game anymore? What happens if Steam gets hacked and my key gets stolen? Is their bot going to auto disable me? I respect that Valve is trying to limit piracy, as is the right of any software publisher, but Steam is going overboard. I feel I haven't paid for jack, and that Valve controls when I can play the game which I shelled out this money for.

      I had no idea how evil Steam was before I bought HL2, but you had better believe it will be the last game I buy or play that uses it or a similar activation scheme. The sad thing is I'm willing to bet that other software manufacturers will see how much money Valve is raking in because of it and adopt a similar scheme, or maybe even license Steam itself. Oh well, I've given up TV and movies, how much harder can video games be?

      At least I'll have the time to do more Linux hacking or go back to the occasional classic with DOSBox [sourceforge.net] :)
  • Boo hoo.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Chicane-UK (455253) <chicane-uk@ntlworld. c o m> on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:15PM (#10900542) Homepage
    I've pirated a few games in my time.. and when a patch comes out and when I am no longer allowed to play it over the net because I am out of date, or they move to make some restriction that stops the juwarez monkeys from playing their game I don't bitch about it.. I accept it as the flip side to being able to play the game early or for free. Tough shit if I was too cheap to fork out the money for it!

    Kudos to Valve for having the balls to try and tackle the root cause of the problem.. combine cutting out the publisher and a pretty darn secure way of delivering games to people and we might yet actually see a reduction in game prices. They are hopefully setting the trend - combine that with not needing the CD to play the game either, and you have a winning combination IMHO. Not quite sure whats gonna happen though if my broadband net connection goes off for some reason?

    For the record I purchased the bronze package (cheapass I know.. never mind) about 10 minutes after Steam pricing packages were made available, and then at about 30 seconds past 'zero hour' when they were supposed to have enabled the HL2 authentication servers I closed and reopened Steam, unlocked HL2 and was playing in about 10 minutes.

    The game is awesome. I finished it this weekend and loved every minute of it.. those who haven't tried it thanks to some irrational fear of Steam or something really need to get over it and try it out.. you ARE missing out by not playing this game. Its the new benchmark quite frankly.
  • by randomaxe (673239) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:16PM (#10900551)
    People are discovering that when you buy any product that is subject to "activation", you haven't really bought anything.

    Not true, not true!

    If you buy the Half Life 2 Collector's Edition, you get a shirt!
  • by MoFoQ (584566) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:20PM (#10900632)
    if activation is required, then why annoy end-users, aka the source of cash-flow for future projects with an ineffective method of protection such as SecuROM. Hell, a majority of those so-called protection schemes are the cause of so many incompatibilities and game crashes.

    Besides, it's probably for Valve for them to drop SecuROM as it's pointless and it costs them money (I believe a percentage of their profits is taken for it's use). If activation is required, why bother and pay for a third-party protection scheme when your in-house developed method works especially when the third-party method can annoy users AND potentially cause bugs?

    Annoying loyal, paying customers is like the BestBuy economics; it'll hurt you in the long run more than it'll help you in any parallel universe.
  • by RocketScientist (15198) * on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:20PM (#10900638)
    You said "People are discovering that when you buy any product that is subject to "activation", you haven't really bought anything." OK, let's play this game "You bought a product license, you haven't really bought anything". That's not a true statement: You buy the right to use the product, which is the good you paid for. It may not be the good you THOUGHT you paid for, but then again, you do read the end-user licenses, right? All product activation does is enforce the license. Oops...you don't want license enforcement. That's fine. Find another game then. The market will decide if this technology is a good idea or not.

    Umm...more likely, people are discovering when they steal a product with product activation, they haven't stolen anything useful. And later, when they try to cheat playing Counter-Strike, they'll find they can't play anymore. All in all, I don't see the problem here. I quit playing CS a long time ago because of the repeated wallhacks and other cheats, even though I found the game very entertaining. Part of the license compliance that's enforced by Steam is also enforcing anti-cheat measures. I'm 100% in favor of features that keep the playing field honest. And if it gives the guys at Valve more money, well, as far as I'm concerned they've earned it.

    Unlike the vast majority of the people here who don't like Steam, I actually do believe in giving people money for what they produce. I think people deserve to be compensated for their work. I don't think you have the right to deprive people who want compensation for their work of that compensation. And I think the "but I don't like swapping CD's" argument is thin, at best, and more likely it's an outright lie. It's a stupid argument all the way around. If you want to listen to a CD while you play the game, CD-ROM drives are what, $20? Here's a nickel, kid, buy a real computer.

    • by Godeke (32895) * on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @02:57PM (#10902076)
      I would agree with many of your statements. I have not bought Half Life 2 and will not buy it because of a prior experience with activation based gaming. I dropped a small amount to Real when they came out with Real Arcade. I downloaded a small number of games and played them off and on. Finally, the computer failed and I replaced it. Tossed the old drive in the new machine and found the games didn't work. Called Real and they told me to get bent (short form). Turned out that the games are hardware locked and replacing your hardware invalidated all game purchases. (This was near the product launch, have no idea if it is still so daconian.

      So yes: you "bought" a license. Live with the terms. And vote with your wallet, hopefully *before* you get burned.

      In my opinion, however, the posters statement you quote is a true statement. You didn't buy anything, you *rented* it, and there is a big difference between buying and renting. People should be aware of that difference. A sticker on the box of HL2 that says "you can play this game until: (we go out of business|decide you can't|want to force an upgraded version on you)" would make that a bit more clear.
  • by jayhawk88 (160512) <jayhawk88@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:24PM (#10900689)
    People are discovering that when you buy any product that is subject to "activation", you haven't really bought anything.

    What the hell do you expect them to do then Michael? Is Valve just supposed to put up with tens of thousands of people playing their game without paying for it? So does this mean I can find some way to hack the Slashdot premium membership database and just start giving away premium memberships to whomever wants one? Would that be OK with you?

    I understand that activation probably isn't the best method to handle this problem, but right now what's the better solution? This isn't some enterprise-level database you can just open source and start charging for support. Nobody needs a maintenance contract for HL2. A company like Valve has to try and keep their product from being blatently stolen.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @02:18PM (#10901513)
    I will not purchase HalfLife 2 at this point. I had intended on purchasing it in a few weeks (after a system upgrade). This Steam thing puts all the cards in the hands of Valve. If they miss identify behaviour on your part, they can literally "unsell" hundreds of dollars of software in the blink of an eye. Now, of course, they will not refund your purchases, they will gladly keep that. I do not condone the theft and use of Valve's software, but I also am getting really tired about the "terms and conditions" that companies are giving themselves. Software should be treated no differently than any other form of purchase. Companies should not be able to give themselves super-judge powers, that in the blink of an eye can undo all purchases which have been done with that company. Kick the illegal software out, most certainly. But also kicking out legally purchased software, is not right.
  • by D. Book (534411) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @02:32PM (#10901724)
    The trouble with product activation is that it's implemented in such a painless and convenient way (in the majority of cases, where it works properly) that people fail to see this process for what it actually is: repeatedly asking permission from the manufacturer to use the product you purchased, after you purchased it. It seems the process is too automatic, too obscure not only for Joe User, but surprisingly, technically literate Slashdot readers who you'd normally expect to understand abstract threats to their freedom.

    Perhaps if people had to actually speak to the company and say the words, "could you please activate my software?" and say it a few more times for other software packages, and a few more times after reinstallation, it might hit home. Perhaps if they had to wait on hold for thirty minutes, desperately seeking permission to use the software they purchased, it might sink in. Perhaps if, in a fit of nostalgia they decide to reinstall an old game only to be dismayed they can't play it because the activation system no longer works and no patch is available, they will get the message.

    Indeed, whenever I've had to phone Microsoft to activate Windows XP, or Intuit/Reckon to activate Quicken, it's not the annoyance of being put through a five minute exchange of serial codes that sticks in my mind, but the more profound emotion of resentment of being put in that situation in the first place. I resent having to obediently request permission to use something I'd spent hundreds of dollars on. I resent having to repeatedly ask permission during the life of the product, according to criteria set by the company. I resent not knowing if I'll still be able to use the software a few years down the track. I resent that many of my friends, who paid nothing for their pirated/cracked copies, don't have to suffer the same indignities or worry about such things.

    The most important issue about activation is not whether it's convenient or inconvient, but the way it fundamentally changes the relationship between the customer and a company selling proprietary software. For the life of the product, the customer is now dependent on the company to repeatedly affirm the most basic right of any software user. Not to peak at the software's source code or modify it, but simply to run the program they purchased legitimately.

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