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EA Hit By Class-Action Suit Over Spore DRM 538

Posted by Soulskill
from the was-it-worth-the-hassle? dept.
The ever-growing unrest caused by the DRM involved with EA's launch of Spore came to a head on Monday. A woman named Melissa Thomas filed a class-action lawsuit against EA for their inclusion of the SecuROM copy-protection software with Spore. This comes after protests of the game's DRM ranged from a bombardment of poor Amazon reviews to in-game designs decrying EA and its policies. Some of those policies were eased, but EA has also threatened to ban players for even discussing SecuROM on their forums. The court documents (PDF) allege: "What purchasers are not told is that, included in the purchase, installation, and operation of Spore is a second, undisclosed program. The name of the second program is SecuROM ... Consumers are given no control, rights, or options over SecuROM. ... Electronic Arts intentionally did not disclose to any such purchasers that the Spore game disk also possessed a second, hidden program which secretly installed to the command and control center of the computer."
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EA Hit By Class-Action Suit Over Spore DRM

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  • Undisclosed? (Score:2, Informative)

    by fractic (1178341) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:09PM (#25141703)
    While I despise DRM, I'm quite sure that the EULA mentions secuROM. Of course Melissa Thomas, like most people, didn't bother to actually read it before agreeing to it.
  • The "Ban" (Score:5, Informative)

    by The Moof (859402) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:09PM (#25141711)
    The ban in question is on EA's forums, not from the game.
  • Re:The "Ban" (Score:5, Informative)

    by X-Kal (861125) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:14PM (#25141803)
    That's not entirely true, it seems. http://forum.spore.com/jforum/posts/list/3869.page [spore.com]
    "Please do not continue to post theses thread or you account may be at risk of banning which in some cases would mean you would need to buy a new copy to play Spore."
    The text is in red, and it looks like the post has been edited. It's a shame that Spore's forums won't let you see who made the edit, however. It would be nice if we could see, without a doubt, that it was edited by a moderator.
  • Re:The "Ban" (Score:2, Informative)

    by Rossman (593924) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:16PM (#25141851) Homepage
    Actually, the article quotes the Forum moderator: "Please do not continue to post these threads or you account may be at risk of banning, which in some cases would mean you would need to buy a new copy to play Spore." That sounds like an in-game ban, not a forum ban, to me.
  • by MaXMC (138127) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:21PM (#25141943) Homepage

    They use the game's login for the forum...

  • Re:The "Ban" (Score:3, Informative)

    by The Moof (859402) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:23PM (#25141973)
    Kotaku covered the same thing, and debunked it here [kotaku.com].
    And Here's the page in a thread [spore.com] where the guy posting your thread (jpfrostfox) said he screwed up, with the forum moderator (sporemasterladym) trying to do damage control.
  • Re:BS (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dutch Gun (899105) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:24PM (#25141993)

    What a BS summary of the article. I generally don't RTFA but this time I did, and it revealed a seedy-as-I've-ever-seen summary. People aren't getting banned for talking about DRM. They are being banned for being jackasses when they talk about DRM.

    Correct. It's way too sensationalist. The moderator (who was obviously just fed up but spoke out of line) was threatening to ban people for starting flame wars on the forums, but the official response:

    "We are happy to support healthy exchanges on the forums. And people will only get banned for breaking the rules. Discussing DRM is not breaking the rules - and as long as it is a civil conversation, it's cool with us," said "Maxislucky".

    Much less dramatic, no? I know DRM is nasty, but any sort of credibility of news reporting is lost when this happens. Maybe I'm becoming more aware of it, or maybe it's happening more and more. It's hard to say...

  • Re:EA has lost me (Score:3, Informative)

    by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew@noSPam.gmail.com> on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:26PM (#25142033) Homepage Journal

    I think you are confused. Spore is $60. There is even a collector's edition which is like $90. The creature creator is one aspect of that game, and they sell the limited creator creator for $10, which is in effect paying $10 to have a demo of the actual product.

  • Re:Undisclosed? (Score:5, Informative)

    by east coast (590680) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:27PM (#25142049)
    Spore's EULA [gametreeonline.com].

    Granted, I think it's sad that users of a game need to go over a EULA to feel good about their purchase but I guess that is the nature of the beast today.
  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:30PM (#25142111) Homepage Journal

    It worked in the eighties. The major game writing software houses had DRM, the indies didn't. The indies were ironically the guys like Carmak and Broussard who were putting out shareware and are now running the big game companies.

    "Don't trust anyone over 25" - Cory Doctorow ;)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:39PM (#25142289)

    I believe that quote originally came from Abbie Hoffman - maybe Jerry Rubin - but definitely not Cory Doctorow

  • Re:Wrong word (Score:3, Informative)

    by scubamage (727538) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:49PM (#25142455)
    Usually in a case like this the defense will point that out and attempt to get a dismissal. The judge will respond in kind, "this was an error in form, but the defense understands what meaning was meant to be expressed." - or something like that. Basically the judge tells the defense not to quibble over a grammatical error, since the meaning is spelled out throughout the entire complaint numerous times. Trying to get a dismissal based on a single error in word choice would be a non-sequitor because it doesn't follow the facts of the case.
  • Re:Undisclosed? (Score:3, Informative)

    by spire3661 (1038968) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:50PM (#25142475) Journal
    'Making something public' is not even the close to the same as full legal disclosure on the retail box.
  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:54PM (#25142563) Homepage Journal

    We geezers said "don't trust anybody over 30". Doctorow took it and used it in the book Little Brother. The hippie reference is cited in his novel; the protagonist is a seventeen year old geek, and his social studies teacher gives a history lesson about the hippies. "Don't trust anyone over 25" was the name of an illegal rock concert in the novel.

    I since found out that it's true, never trust anone over 30. But don't trust anyone under 31, either.

    Little Brother is a great book, I highly recommend it.

  • Re:Undisclosed? (Score:4, Informative)

    by lantastik (877247) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @05:25PM (#25143173)

    Why isn't this on EA's website?
    http://www.ea.com/global/legal/legalnotice.jsp [ea.com]

    Absolutely no mention on the Spore website:
    http://www.google.com/search?q=site:www.spore.com+securom&sourceid=navclient-ff&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1B3GGGL_enUS238US238 [google.com]

    If you want to read what EA's explanation of SecuROM is from their support page, you can do so here [ea.com]. It includes information on how to remove SecuROM [ea.com] from your computer. Strangely, they make no mention of whether the removal process will disable the game.

    All that being said, I don't imagine this lawsuit will make it very far. However, the policy that you can't return the software after it's been opened seems pretty criminal to me. The EULA should be included on the OUTSIDE of the box or a link to the EULA on the web that you can read before you open the software.

  • by Govno (779519) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @05:33PM (#25143309)
    Where is a store that will let me return an opened software package for a full refund? I'll shop there exclusively from now on.
  • by Moraelin (679338) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @05:52PM (#25143595) Journal

    To be honnest, I've seen a pretty strong message happen at least once.

    The German version of Victoria, as shipped, didn't even work. At all. On any computer. It bombed out with a script syntax error, right when you tried to start the campaign. Nothing blamable on video drivers, hardware configuration, etc. It just couldn't work on any computer, because a keyword in the script didn't match the keywords that the game engine recognized.

    The German publisher pointed fingers at the devs. The devs pointed fingers at the publisher. Apparently both said that somehow an older beta version had been taken as the gold disk, but none of the two felt it was their job to do anything about it.

    Most retailers dropped that game like a hot potato. Within a day or two of release, it had been simply pulled off the shelves.

    I don't know if they actually gave the disks back to the publisher (probably), but here's the fun part: they don't even have to. You may have learned that the capitalism model is that the merchant buys cheap from the manufacturer, and gives it more expensive to you for a profit. Forget about that crap. There's a whole bunch of markets, from groceries to computer games, where it just doesn't work that way.

    How it really works, at least for major retailers, is that you essentially the rent shelf space for your stuff from the retailer. If it doesn't sell, the retailer doesn't pay you a cent for those unsold copies. In fact, the retailer still makes a profit even if you didn't sell a single copy. If the retailer just pulls that stuff off the shelves and sends you your boxes / DVD cases back, you're shafted. They just denied you the use of their shelf space.

    To get an idea of how important retailers are, E3 was originally conceived as a way to woo major retailers into carrying the publishers' stuff. Or, better yet, see the raging debate about AO ratings in the USA, whose root cause is really one single retailer: Wall-Mart won't let AO titles on their shelves. If they did, the whole "OMG, we're censored if we can't get a T rating for our gore-fest" debate would fizzle right there and then.

    I think it's a pretty strong message they can get to the publishes. They don't even have to go talk to the publisher. Just send them their boxes back in a truck, with a document that says "because of disproportionate returns." That's it. Any publisher will listen, when essentially you're the one with your foot on their oxygen line.

    And yes, there have been a few who insisted that they're so high and mighty, that the retailers should listen to them. They're all bankrupt by now.

  • by sexconker (1179573) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @06:42PM (#25144319)

    Dispute the charge on your credit card.
    You paid for something and got nothing.

  • by UncleTogie (1004853) * on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @06:42PM (#25144321) Homepage Journal

    There are a lot of good games that don't sell as well as they should.

    No kidding. I've heard through the grapevine that Duke Nukem Forever hasn't even sold one copy yet!

  • by tompaulco (629533) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @06:46PM (#25144365) Homepage Journal
    Unless I read wrong and my google search says otherwise, they are taking Securerom out of Spore. I don't know if mine had SecureRom or not. I had heard that Spore's SecureRom would not even let you play if it detected a ISO loader on the system. I have or at least had at the time Daemon Tools, but Spore loaded and played just fine. I didn't even have to have the CD in the drive to play it. Now I haven't tried anything like making a copy of the game and installing from that, but then I have never done that with any other game either.
    Also, I got lucky in that the Spore patch wouldn't load on my computer, it just sits there spinning forever saying it is patching files. However, this turns out to be a good thing as about 1/3 of people's games are dead in the water after the patch.
  • by Omestes (471991) <omestes@gmail.CURIEcom minus physicist> on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @06:48PM (#25144399) Homepage Journal

    Try Isis and Mastodon (Meshuggah if you lean harder), and if you think lyrics are superfluous, try bands such as Pelican and Russian Circles, and on the more silent side Red Sparowes and Grails.

    Last.fm is your friend when it comes to discovering new things, as long as your taste isn't too popular (when the Beatles and Radiohead become suggestions for everything).

  • Re:Undisclosed? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Bobartig (61456) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @07:12PM (#25144727) Homepage

    A PC gamer mag did an article about this years ago, where they bought several current PC titles from a variety of publishers, then tried to return them stating that they disagreed with the EULA.

    Several companies (I recall Blizzard being one of them) sent them refunds after they sent their original something or other back. So, it is possible, at least it was a few years ago.

  • by rahvin112 (446269) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @08:23PM (#25145421)

    You people that keep saying boycotts don't work have no idea what a boycott is. A boycott isn't not buying a product. As an example let me give you a historical reference to a few boycotts. When you boycott something you don't just not purchase it. What you do is not buy the product, tell everyone else not to buy the product and why, and create as much publicity for the boycott as you can.

    In the old days before everyone ranting in their basement at their computer screen a boycott involved two things. Not buying the product and making a sign that you then took and stood in front of a store with and explained to shoppers what you were boycotting and why. When the southern Baptists announced their boycott of Disney for giving benefits to same sex couples they didn't just stop going to Disney parks and buying Disney movies and products they made a bunch of signs and picketed in front of Disney World, called the press so they reported on it AND then picketed for months in front of the property. They also leafleted and got in front of the media at every opportunity.

    So lets summarize. It's not a boycott unless their is publicity and your Mother is talking to her friends about it over the weekly Bridge game. Without broad publicity a boycott is nothing more than a change in purchase habits and is meaningless. It's not a Boycott if the CEO of the company doesn't know WHY you stopped buying products.

    So all you people that keep saying boycotts don't work, you either don't know what a boycott is or you don't understand what's needed to make it a boycott. Properly executed boycotts are often highly successful, only in situations where succumbing to the boycott demands would cost more customers will the boycott fail.

  • by Original Replica (908688) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @09:00PM (#25145797) Journal
    Didn't the Sony rootkit thing get cleared up primarily because of a series of class action lawsuits? [arstechnica.com] Boycotts are a rather blunt instrument to use to try to express something like "This game is good, but the DRM sucks", by simply not buying the message is indistinguishable from "This game sucks." A lawsuit very specifically names the issue and is sure to be communicated precisely to the upper management.
  • by sortius_nod (1080919) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @09:25PM (#25145929) Homepage

    It's not a unique game. It's just like every other life/city/god sim you can think of. The game isn't that great.

    Piracy SHOULDN'T be the answer. Invasive DRM is as bad, if not worse, than poorly programed game.

    If anyone remembers FADE they'd know what truly fucked copy protection is. I had an original version of both Operation Flashpoint and the first expansion pack. I loved it. Until fade kicked in. I bought the game, but Codemasters FADE system decided that I wasn't. Gameplay degraded to the level where it was impossible to play.

    I boycotted Codemasters for ages, didn't help. It was only when FADE received enough (almost any customer with ability to write) complaints that it was canned.

    I for one refuse to buy this game due to the intrusive DRM. While I'm no Valve fanboy, I REALLY like Steam. It's the ultimate DRM without being fucked about it.

    True, you need a decent internet connection, and need to be prepared for it to crash occasionally, but at least it doesn't fuck with the rest of my computer. I can reinstall windows on a different drive to the install and just run it. No install, nothing. It just works.

    I can backup my games to disc, I can take them to a friend's house, install them, play them. Hell, even leave them installed and let the friend play when I'm not on.

  • by Polybius (743489) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @09:27PM (#25145939)
    Also try Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Explosions in the Sky, Kinski and Talkdemonic

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