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EA Releases DRM License Deactivation Tool 226

Posted by Soulskill
from the baby-steps dept.
Dr_Barnowl writes "Electronic Arts has posted a SecuROM de-authorization management tool. Once downloaded, the tool will search your drives for EA games infested with the draconian online DRM system, and help you download their respective individual de-activation tools. This isn't a perfect solution, since it's still possible to run out of activations in the event of hardware failure or other source of data loss, but since the announcement that this particular DRM system will be dropped for The Sims 3 , it would seem that EA has had a minor epiphany about DRM." I'm sure EA's hand was forced in part by the FTC's recent warning against deceptive DRM practices. Hal Halpin of the Entertainment Consumers Association commented further on the issue, suggesting to developers that such measures need to be displayed on game boxes, and that standardization of EULAs could be next on the list.
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EA Releases DRM License Deactivation Tool

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  • by Smidge207 (1278042) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @03:45PM (#27406531) Journal

    *sigh* Here we go again. Seriously, a code is the most simplistic and effective means of copy protection. One key = one install. Simple as that.

    If you implement measures, that online / LAN multiplay is restricted to valid and unique CD-keys and executables cannot be cracked easily is one of the most reasonable methods to balance between players and publishers available.

    It serves the following purposes:
    - prevent non-paying customers from using unpaid-for online servers
    - (inofficially) let people (via keygens) rather freely test-drive the full software, offline on their own machine with the option to buy a key and make your installation legit and online-enabled in seconds.
    - ban detected cheaters from online play and introduce a financial risk to cheating (you have to buy a new key when you're caught) which deters non-hardcore cheaters from trying
    - prevent mass copying of your software: if the same key is encountered online in the thousands, disable the key
    - all this encourages defined and responsible ownership of the software: if you give out your key, you possibly cannot play online anymore

    - and inofficially: limit the resale-value of a used key: as a buyer, you cannot be sure if the key is not banned for cheating or shared with the entire school/workplace of the reseller.

    I don't know of people who been hindered from doing legit things with their paid-for software because of a cd-key. But I know several people who "test-drove" dozens of pirated games with a keygen who found out the game was so crappy that even downloading it was a waste of money and time.

    =Smidge=

  • by SuiteSisterMary (123932) <slebrun@noSPAm.gmail.com> on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @03:48PM (#27406583) Journal

    Does this also remove the other aspects of SecureROM, other than just 'number of installs?' Like the whole 'Hey, you have Nero installed! Therefore, you can't run this game! How dare you have standard computer equipment like a CD burner installed in your computer!'

  • by Smidge207 (1278042) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @03:57PM (#27406735) Journal

    They'd be unilaterally agreeing to the terms of the EULA, while right now it is unclear if a EULA is even binding at all.

    All right, well, I love the concept, but it doesn't make it clear to the user what they can and can't do with the work. If the statement doesn't grant a license, then any copying, distributing or modifying the work would violate copyright. If the statement is intended to imply that certain uses of the material are permitted without violating copyright, it is hard to determine where the line is. Out of curiosity, I would love to see people reply in the comments with what they think would and wouldn't be permitted under the EULA. Which of the following do you think would be permitted under the proposed license:

    1. Use of the software;

    2. Copying the software;

    3. Distributing copies to other people;

    4. Making modifications and derivative works of the software for your own use;

    5. Making modifications and derivative works to sell to other people?

    I realize the example was intended to make a point, but I think it would be useful to build on the idea and create a short EULA that is respectful to users and includes a little more detail about what the author expects the user to be able to do with the material.

    =Smidge=

  • by Anachragnome (1008495) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @04:03PM (#27406849)

    Heroes of Might and Magic 3 was my first experience with SecuROM. It disabled my CD burner...permanently. EA owes me $55 for that one.

    In total, SecuROM has been the demise of three of my drives. There was no way to determine whether or not a game had it back then, so it was hit and miss. SecuROM, or EA, owe me approx. $150 for disabled drives over the last 12 years or so.

    Since I NEVER expect to receive a buck from them in compensation, I protect my drives instead. I stopped BUYING THEIR GAMES. And every one that I bought in the past, I have since downloaded cracked versions and use them instead.

    Is that what you wanted, EA?

    Drop SecuROM, entirely, or you've still lost a customer.

  • by Shihar (153932) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @04:32PM (#27407345)

    I am a pretty avid game buyer. I got out of college, got a job, and suddenly found tossing out a couple hundred on video games occasionally wasn't a large expense. If I see a game that I want, I generally just buy it.

    I skipped over Red Alert 3 and Spore.

    Those are two games that I normally would have not thought twice about buying. I like video games, and they are not such a big expense for me where I have to spend much time thinking about if I want to buy it or not, but in the case of those two games I took a pass because of DRM. I can merrily ignore DRM if it doesn't affect me. Limited licenses, crippling applications installed onto my computer, nice big loop holes for security breaches? Thanks. I'll pass. Video games are nice, but not worth crippling my computer or supporting that kind of anti-consumer behavior.

    EA needed to be taught a lesson and hopefully they learned it. Spore had the most crippling DRM of all times and was the most pirated game of all times. Pssst... EA... DRM doesn't stop pirates. It sure does piss off people who on a normal day would hand you a sweat wad of cash without thinking twice.

  • by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @04:54PM (#27407729)

    I recently installed some industrial software who's installation/licensing scheme struck me as incredibly brilliant.

    They don't care how many machines you have, or even how many machines you install the software on. What they care about is that you are only ever using one instance of the software at a time, because that is the license you payed for.

    To accomplish this, they use a 2-part licensing scheme that is based on an original license authorization, and a randomly generated key created upon installation. To transfer the authorization, you have to have the key generated by the software on the computer you want to transfer to first, then you can use it to generate a NEW authorization on the old machine. Generating a new authorization re-creates the original machine's key, breaking the authorization there, so a new transfer is required in order to use it again.

    You can move it around all you want, you can even operate off of two machines if you want, you just have to re-authorize it each time. Also, because it's just a standard licensing scheme and not some crazy copy protection, it doesn't break any functionality.

    Most people would find this reasonable, I think, and sure it's breakable, but the market for such a crack should be reduced, and if done well that's a hard system to circumvent. I think so anyway, I could be wrong.

  • by corsec67 (627446) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @05:03PM (#27407849) Homepage Journal

    The question is simple, the answer could be very complex.

    You could package the game with some tangible thing that has value, like a figurine, or something that isn't digital.

    Offer support, some kind of online services, etc.

    DRM is adding code to the game that is designed to be defective, to fail unless certain conditions are met. That is making your game less likely to work, and indeed making a cracked version of the game more valuable to some people.

    DRM will not affect the people who aren't going to pay anyways, since they will use the cracked version. DRM will not affect the people who satisfy the requirements for the DRM to work. The people who have a complex situation will be hurt by DRM, and could be less likely to buy your game, since it might fail for them. Then there are the people who want to casually borrow the game, is your DRM going to stop them without too much collateral damage; will it make them want to pay instead of getting a cracked version?

  • by FishWithAHammer (957772) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @05:27PM (#27408213)

    I actually thought of something interesting.

    A key system that does phone home--but does the validation on the user side. If the key's not legitimate, i.e. a keygen result, it won't be in the server database, though the game still unlocks. It doesn't change the game at all, but instead displays a message that more or less says only "I know this key isn't legitimate, but I'm going to let you play the game anyway." Let the versions unlocked with this, just keep the "Register This Copy" button on the homepage. (I plan to do registration through PayPal, built straight into the game, in the first place, if somebody wants to bypass the need to go input the key themselves the first time--so they can still go get a legitimate copy if they want.)

    Could be workable. I doubt a pirate is likely to spend any time cracking it when all they have to do is sit through a "do you really want to just steal this game?" message before being allowed in.

  • by orclevegam (940336) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @05:46PM (#27408513) Journal

    I have no interest in having my work valued at zero unless you "feel like it." I can just as easily not release it.

    Having never seen or played your game (to my knowledge) I currently value it at zero. Even if I had seen it (and even played it), I'd probably still value it at or around zero, sorry, but that's just the way things go with a free market. No one is guaranteed success, and just because you wrote a game does not intrinsically mean it has value to everyone nor more importantly that it has the same value to anyone. Now, I can sympathize with you, I'm a programmer and I do like to think that what I make has value and that people are willing to pay for it, however the onus is on me to convince the public that my software is worth paying for, and no amount of DRM is going to do that for even half of the public.

    Your potential market for any piece of software can be broken down into a number of categories and various things you do will effect exactly how that breakdown occurs. The categories are as follows:

    • Doesn't even know about your software
    • Is aware of your software but not interested in it
    • Is aware of your software but values it at less than what you're asking for it
    • Is aware of your software and values it at more than what you're asking for it

    Now, on the topic of that third category (Is aware of your software but values it at less than what you're asking for it) this is where your pirates come from. It's important to note that some people will value your software at or very close to zero and will therefore never pay for it no matter what you do, so some of these people might as well be considered lost sales no matter what. Your job is to try to maximize sales to all categories and this is accomplished in a number of ways. In the case of categories 1 and 2 (don't know and not interested respectively) advertising and demos (either full or partial) go a long way towards shifting these two into groups 3 and 4. Group 4 is essentially sold already, all you need to do with them is keep shipping a quality product that works well and doesn't hassle the paying customer. Group 3 is the problem group. Your options to win them over are to lower your prices, or convince them that your product has more value in it (demos, and various incentives are a great way to do this as the demo gets them actually interacting with your product and able to more fully evaluate it, and the incentives are effectively added to the value of the base product).

  • by david_thornley (598059) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @06:00PM (#27408655)

    I don't understand this. How does installing on a second machine break authorization on the first? Either you'd need the first machine available to authorize the second, or you'd have to be connected to the net every time you started the program. Otherwise, there's no way to stop somebody from taking the first computer, putting it somewhere without a net connection, and using the software while it's authorized on the second machine.

    The first alternative suggests that you're SOL if the first machine breaks too badly, or is stolen, or otherwise lost. The second assumes that the software will never be used without a net connection. This may be acceptable for industrial software (although it's quite possible for only the internet access to be down, nothing else), but it's a very bad assumption for consumer software. If I load a game on my laptop to go to the cabin, and when I get there I can't play it, I'm going to be upset.

    It also suggests that there's no way to lock down a machine for the software: somebody could accidentally break your authorization. In a large business, there will be checks and procedures to stop this, but that's not the case for consumer software.

    If you're selling software for $100K or so, you can provide plenty of help to offset any inconvenience. If you're selling for $39.99 in stores, one customer with a difficult authorization problem is either an angry ex-customer, or a way to blow the profits on several sales.

    There's also the fact that DRM won't stop a determined cracker, and so you can expect cracked copies of any popular program to show up on TPB real fast.

    The reality is that DRM won't stop software from being distributed without authorization on a very large basis, and it has the potential to mess up the paying customer. It has not worked in general, and it isn't going to work now.

  • by RiotingPacifist (1228016) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @06:12PM (#27408789)

    you have 2 major problems:
    1) Offline DRM is COMPLETELY flawed, the only way you can even get close to working drm is if you offer legitimate users something reasonable in exchange for connecting to your servers. A good online game play experience, downloadable content (cheep/free or even full priced), etc, all allow you to offer legitimate customers benefits while excluding those without keys.
    2) You *come across* as a bit of an asshole, if you want people to pay for something they can get for free, stop talking

    I create for me, but if you're going to receive utility from it, I expect to be compensated.

    If you created it for YOU, what are we* compensating you for?
    Bandwidth? No the .torrent lets us takes care of that
    Support? well you could only give that to legit customers

    given that you have already made the game for yourself. you can do one of the following:
    1) keep it, make $0.00
    2) release it at a reasonable price point, forget about drm make some money, but be expected to support it for that money
    3) open source it and ask for donations (probably make very little, but you don't need to support anything)

    p.s given your low opinion of the game (assuming nobody would pay for it if they had the choice) and lack of enthusiasm (if you thought it was something truly great, you'd care a bit more about getting it out there and less about making money off it), i honestly think it makes very little difference which choice you make as you'll be sourly disappointed by the returns on any of them.

  • by Jabbrwokk (1015725) <[grant.j.warkentin] [at] [gmail.com]> on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @06:12PM (#27408797) Homepage Journal

    The Witcher [wikipedia.org] (original, not the Enhanced Edition) shipped with a CD-Key that most people thought was useless. It allowed you to register your game with publisher Atari and get... not much.

    However, the studio later released an Enhanced Edition, which added more cutscenes, more dialogue, more quests, two side-missions that stand alone from the main game, the official soundtrack, a CD of music inspired by the game and a "making-of" DVD. All this stuff was available for purchase; but the best part is the studio and Atari made all the new content available FOR FREE DOWNLOAD to all the owners of the original game who had registered their games using those previously mostly-useless CD keys.

    The content could not be installed without keys. Of course pirates could just download cracked versions of the enhanced editions, but that's a humongous download, six gigs-plus and I doubt casual copiers would bother. Offering all that content free to confirmed, legitimate owners of the original edition wasn't just a nice thing to do, it was also a good incentive to have a legitimate copy of the game.

    There were some problems in Canada - the bilingual manual was printed without keys. [arstechnica.com] Oops. I'm one of the people who bought the original game and was stoked when I learned about the new content - only to flip through every page in the manual and find there was no fucking key. Good one, hope the proof-reader got fired for that. However, Atari support was pretty good, I filed a key request and two weeks later was happily slaying drowners with my silver sword - enhanced edition style.

    Anyway, this might be a copy-protection scheme worth considering - downloadable content available only for legitimate, registered owners. I don't know how this would work with your game, but for me in my example, I thought it worked great (except for that shitty Polish download server they decided to use to release the enhanced edition content. Good idea, bad execution - make it EASY for customers to get the good stuff and they'll be less likely to visit TPB.)

  • by FishWithAHammer (957772) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @06:24PM (#27409003)

    If it's not connected, yes, that would be the plan. "I can't verify if this was a legal key; if you'd like to verify later--you don't have to, but I'd appreciate it--please click here. If you aren't a legal purchaser, enjoy the game, but please consider registering on the front page."

  • by calmofthestorm (1344385) on Wednesday April 01, 2009 @09:08AM (#27414865)

    Oh please. Quite a few of us who choose to make use of the GPL do so to /protect/ our work from what we consider to be exploitation. To me, if someone takes my code, integrates it directly into a product, and makes money from it, I've been exploited. Yet anyone who uses it, even for profit, in its form is not. The GPL protects me from exploitation, something like the BSD license does not.

    This is of course my personal feeling. Like you, I care more about avoiding being exploited than profiting in any particular way, I just define it differently. So do the BSD communities, and other groups in the software world

    To put it another way, think of the GPL community as like another company out there. If you work for a standard, primarily closed-source, company, you can probably use any code from that company in your product as you see fit, but you are adding more code to the company codebase with what you create.

    I see GPL development as more or less equivalent to this. To accuse me of being selfish or of hoarding because I choose to require this contribution in kind for my work, yet not look at companies like Microsoft or Apple the same way, is simply hypocritical. I don't criticize Microsoft for not letting me steal the source code for some app of theirs and integrate it into mine. Who are they, then, to call my work "tainted" or "viral"?

    I doubt that many GPL people see it this way, though, that is, the parity between GPL and any other company.

It is wrong always, everywhere and for everyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. - W. K. Clifford, British philosopher, circa 1876

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