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EA Hit By Class-Action Suit Over Spore DRM 538

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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  • by jacquesm ( 154384 ) <> on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:04PM (#25141611) Homepage

    and do the same for any other DRM laden product, it'll teach the manufacturers quickly to stay away from DRM.

  • by Deathdonut ( 604275 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:09PM (#25141713)
    How exactly is the DRM portion of the install any different than any other part of the install? I hate heavy-handed DRM as much as the next guy, but to make a class action claim over this is as rediculous as expecting an MMO to refund half your money if you don't want the updater installed.
  • Re:Undisclosed? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:10PM (#25141723)

    And the EULA is printed on the outside of the box?

  • EA has lost me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:10PM (#25141725)
    I'm sure there are a lot of potential customers who, like me, didn't really know much about Spore, but did end up hearing a lot about how it's a pain-in-the-ass because of the DRM. As a result, I don't think I'll ever spend any money on this, since the lion's share of what I've heard is that it's tightly controlled.
  • by lymond01 ( 314120 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:11PM (#25141745)

    Boycotting is fine if you can manage the sacrifice yourself. But if you still want the game, but you would just rather not see malware attached in future editions, a suit works out better -- hits them, potentially, in the wallet due to the settlement and negative image portrayal.

  • Re:Undisclosed? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:12PM (#25141769)

    Can you read the EULA without purchasing and beginning the install process? No.

    Can you return the software after opening it, starting the install and then declining the EULA after seeing it uses securom? No.

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

    by AndyG314 ( 760442 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:12PM (#25141771) Homepage
    I'm sure they mention it in the ELUA, but that is AFTER the product is purchased. You have paid for the product and are then later given terms you must agree to or be unable to use the software, and in most cases also unable to get a refund. This is one of the big complaints about ELUA's that they add terms after the purchases of the product.
  • BS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by qoncept ( 599709 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:14PM (#25141793) Homepage
    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.
  • by HappySmileMan ( 1088123 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:15PM (#25141813)

    Problem is, every copy of a game they don't sell, they seem to blame on piracy, not their own worthless products.

  • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:16PM (#25141853)

    and do the same for any other DRM laden product, it'll teach the manufacturers quickly to stay away from DRM.

    Or, they'll drop PC gaming and just move to consoles, where the DRM is just a part of the platform (make no mistake, I enjoy console gaming, but DRM is completely seamless and transparent on a console). I fear the wrong lessons will be learned unless people are also very clear about *why* they are not purchasing a particular product. The flipside to this is to reward the companies who produce products DRM free PC games with your voting dollars (or euros, pounds, whatever).

  • by moderatorrater ( 1095745 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:18PM (#25141889)
    Especially with the way the Sony rootkit debacle went down. They're not identical situations, but they're similar enough to give one hope.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:19PM (#25141913)

    There should be more class action suits over similar malware [] inclusion.

  • Re:BS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ironwill96 ( 736883 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:20PM (#25141923) Homepage Journal

    Still, this raises another point. If they ban you from the forums, should they also be able to ban you from playing a game that you legally purchased?

    I know Spore has online sharing features to share the creatures people create, but other than that isn't it inherently a single-player game? This sets a bad precedent to stifle complaints by banning you from playing their game and making you fork over more money to the company. Sounds like another reason not to support EA's business practices by gracing them with my purchases.

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

    by Hyppy ( 74366 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:28PM (#25142067)

    No, but the EULA is displayed when you want to install the game

    Ohhhh, you mean the click-through "contract" that is only available for viewing AFTER the game is purchased and rendered non-returnable. Gotya.

    So, care to explain to me what I should do the next time I do not agree to an EULA? I prefer a solution that won't get me laughed out of a store or off the phone, if you could.

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

    by Hyppy ( 74366 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:31PM (#25142121)
    Some of us prefer to be able to play games we pay for for as long as we want. What happens when the validation servers are taken offline? Or when EA decides to decline your request for another install?
  • Re:Undisclosed? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MBGMorden ( 803437 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:33PM (#25142157)

    When you're installing it it's too late though. You generally don't pay for a project and THEN start going over the contract, and expecting a user to agree to the EULA AFTER paying for the software is the same thing.

    As to "making it public" - not everyone reads the press reviews on a game (or other software) before buying it. I myself normally do, but I know that on several occasions I've made impulse purchases and bought computer and/or console games that I'd never heard of before. Assassin's Creed and Bioshock for the 360 were close to that for me. I'd heard that were "good games", but aside from that I had never read any article or in depth piece on them before picking them up. Now there naturally are consequences to that: I might get a sucky, buggy game by doing that. That's an acceptable risk though. Consumers SHOULD however, not be subject to heavy DRM such as that in Spore, and they shouldn't have to read anything to verify that ahead of time. That's like putting poisoned soft drinks in a vending machine, and then leaving a stack of leaflets on the table across the room explaining that they're poisoned. Saying that the information was available just isn't going to cut it.

  • by grumbel ( 592662 ) <> on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:33PM (#25142169) Homepage

    The big problem is that boycotting doesn't really work, not only is there the problem that the publisher will conclude that piracy was the fault, not DRM, but there is also the problem that the publshier is often the one dictating the DRM not the developer, in fact the developers are often against it, but they can't really do much about it. And when boycotting the publisher means to also boycott the developers that I actually care about, then boycotting is often a not an option.

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

    by Ghost Hedgehog ( 814914 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:36PM (#25142213) Homepage Journal
    The EULA probably does not cover that secuROM stays on your harddrive, even after removal of Spore. This lawsuit might put EA into the position that it has to release some kind of removal tool. But even without the lawsuit I think EA should remove all Spore related software when you deinstall it.
  • Re:Undisclosed? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hyppy ( 74366 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:38PM (#25142249)
    You still have yet to present evidence that the EULA was accepted prior to the point at which the purchase became non-refundable.
  • by Hortensia Patel ( 101296 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:39PM (#25142281)

    Describing them explicitly as "rentals" might dissipate some ire on the limited-installs thing, but it would in no way excuse the practice of PERMANENTLY installing malware on the user's machine, which is what this suit is about.

  • by strabes ( 1075839 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:41PM (#25142311)
    If they start calling them rentals I won't be paying $50 for each game I "rent."
  • by geminidomino ( 614729 ) * on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:41PM (#25142319) Journal

    I wish they'd make an RPG. I've been hearing about Stardock for months and would love to become a customer... but I loathe RTSes.

  • by bwcbwc ( 601780 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:42PM (#25142337)

    Nah, I prefer going after them with the Computer Fraud and Abuse act or consumer laws in several states that prohibit installing software without explicit authorization (and burying it in a 20 screen EULA doesn't count) from the user. Lawyer fees add up a lot faster than lost sales.

  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:42PM (#25142339) Homepage

    While I hear what you're saying and I'm sure it's right on the personal level, it's not like EMI went to heaven when they started carrying iTunes plus DRM-free songs. Same with Amazon and all the others selling music from the big bands (and there's always emusic and the like but that's really a mainstream vs independent issue), the signals aren't exactly loud and clear that no DRM equals more profit. At least here on slashdot there's always someone complaining it's not FLAC at AllOfMp3 prices with a Linux client or somesuch. It's possible that the DRM companies are pissing in the common pool but if the DRM and DRM-free shops are hit equally hard then the message is just lost along with all the economic ups and downs, consumer trends and all that hits the industry as a whole. Plus people aren't exactly binary, some love their bands and hate DRM but still end up buying some things they simply "must have" and others not. Also album sales are notoriously difficult to predict, so a few percent here and there is completely drown out by the record being a hit or a flop anyway, it needs to be clear that DRM flops, no DRM tops. It's just not that clear and I don't think there's enough people with you to get that message across.

  • by MobileTatsu-NJG ( 946591 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:46PM (#25142407)

    and do the same for any other DRM laden product, it'll teach the manufacturers quickly to stay away from DRM.

    Note to everybody: This comes up in every single thread about DRM and it's always debunked in every single thread. Boycotting will not do anything to get a company to change its mind about DRM. Your lack of a purchase cannot be distinguished from a lack of interest, a pirated copy, or even a slow economy. Boycotting will never work with creative products like movies, music, or video games. It works on products such as Coca Cola. That's because the company can see a change in the average number of sales. With products like video games, a boycott cannot be measured.

    Please stop suggesting it. Please stop modding it up. It is not a solution. One-star reviews on Amazon worked, being silent did not. Shush.

  • by Ephemeriis ( 315124 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @04:49PM (#25142443)

    Problem is that boycotts don't really work that well anymore. Sure, I can boycott them... And maybe a couple dozen other people will too... But EA will still make plenty of money from the thousands and thousands of people who'll happily buy their products. And any loss in sales will simply be attributed to piracy.

    For a boycott to actually work you need to get enough people participating that it becomes impossible to ignore. And the vast majority of people these days just don't seem to care.

    A lawsuit, on the other hand, gets attention. EA will, at the very least, have to throw some money at some lawyers. Maybe they'll wind up settling out of court... Maybe there'll be a real judgement... But either way EA is going to have to at least respond to the accusations.

    And if it gets big enough, you might just see something about this on CNN on a slow news day. If EA got enough bad press we might even wind up with an effective boycott.

  • by orclevegam ( 940336 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @05:08PM (#25142835) Journal
    The DRM on consoles isn't like the DRM people are up in arms over on PCs. If you had a console game that you bought at the store, had to connect online whenever you played it, required you to install a piece of it to the hard drive, and only allowed you to uninstall/reinstall it 3 times before it would refuse to run, people would be talking about boycotting it as well. As it is, the downloadable content on some systems (*cough*Wii*cough*) being tied to a particular console already caused a bit of a ruckus, but at least once you downloaded it that was it, no more mucking about with DRM needed. There's DRM, and then there's DRM, and depending on exactly what flavor your talking about people have various levels of tolerance. We all know it largely doesn't work, but the more benign forms of it at least don't feel like a smack in the face combined with a pair of manacles, unlike the stuff coming out of EA these days. Someone already pointed out Stardock, and their excellent game Sins of a Solar Empire, and I'll just second that recommendation. I actually bought the game prior to finding out about their take on DRM, and I have to say I've been nothing but pleased with the game, and what little DRM it has in it, is the sort of thing all companies should be using (if they must use something).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @05:09PM (#25142859)

    The best music (IMO of course) was made in the 80's and 90's.

    Which is exactly why when you turn on any halfway successful radio station these days, you still often hear your old favorites from that time mixed in with the new crap. Sure, they're trying to fork the new crap on you, but they know you won't listen at all unless they play at least a little of the good stuff.

    Hell, Metallica hasn't put out a decent album since the self-titled release that had Enter Sandman on it, and even that was a bit of a sell-out album.

  • by ferat ( 971 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @05:12PM (#25142909) Homepage

    Buy and return it, explain why you are returning it. Shows that you had interest but are not willing to support the policies.

  • by doti ( 966971 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @05:16PM (#25142993) Homepage

    Why won't their parents teach them manners like they did back in my day.

    Now that is your generation fault.

  • by lysergic.acid ( 845423 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @05:17PM (#25143023) Homepage

    yea, but that was a social protest about segregation. the boycott was a very visible form of protest that drew media attention to the issue.

    whereas, not buying music isn't a visible form of protest. it's weight relies on economic sanctions rather than visibility. it doesn't promote public discourse about the issue of DRM. and the effect of the sanctions could simply be attributed to "piracy" by the pro-DRM camp.

    i'm still in support of boycotting major labels and companies who use DRM, but i don't think you can draw that analogy.

  • Boycotts are quiet (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nerdposeur ( 910128 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @05:17PM (#25143035) Journal

    A boycott says "I don't like what you're doing." A lawsuit says "I think what you're doing is (or should be) illegal." It's a much stronger - and more public - statement.

    Personally, I wouldn't get involved this one. But I hope they win. DRM on purchased products are anti-consumer.

  • by lupis42 ( 1048492 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @05:30PM (#25143261)
    That's illegal though. DMCA and all that. If you're going to have to break the law, why pay 50$ for the chance to do it?
  • by DahGhostfacedFiddlah ( 470393 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @05:38PM (#25143373)

    Boycotting is only effective if the companies know they're being boycotted. The only way it can work is if everyone who doesn't buy a game *because of the boycott* notify the company. Preferably by form letter, so they can see how much they're affected by an organized boycott.

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @05:46PM (#25143487)

    Courts have only upheld this in cases where they deem the EULA is reasonable.

    Essentially, a EULA in-package only holds up if a "reasonable" person would agree to it upon reading it.

    Reasonable does not imply average, so you also cannot use "the average user is stupid". Frankly, no reasonable user wants Malware on their computer, so if SecuROM can (reasonably) be shown to be Malware, the EULA should be deemed useless.

  • by daver00 ( 1336845 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @06:01PM (#25143735)

    I don't buy that argument about console DRM. Sure, its hard(er) to burn games on consoles but there is one stark difference with more or less all console games: I can eject my disc, take it to my mates house, pop it in his console and play it there. I can also re sell my used games and there is an avid market for this, hell the two biggest ps3 titles this year have been available for swap for "6 used ps2 games" at many stores around the place.

    DRM on the PC exists explicitly to prevent you from doing any of this. I don't see why. I don't see why you can re sell a console game and not a pc game? I don't see why you can share your console games with your friends and not your pc games? Plus there is little if any difference with the levels of piracy on consoles, I'm not exactly up to speed with current gen mod chipping but last gen was ridiculous. It was EASIER to pirate games on the ps2 and xbox than on a pc, if you got a mod chip, which everyone did, especially the non geeks. Seems everyone knew someone who would install that chip for $100, and everyone did it, and everyone had a stupidly large stack of ripped games.

    There is an elephant i nthe room that nobody seems to bring up in these debates. This DRM stuff is not about controlling piracy, this is about controlling your purchasing decisions. They should call it 'digital revenue mangement'.

  • by Tom ( 822 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @06:09PM (#25143845) Homepage Journal

    Economy 101: Boycotts do not work in a monopoly or oligopoly market.

    That's why boycotts on oil companies never worked and never changed anything - you can't just go and buy something else instead.

    If your options were "Spore with DRM" and "Spore without DRM", it would be easy to vote with your dollars. But your choice is "Spore with DRM" and "no Spore", which leaves you no choice that transports a message, because "no purchase" is not an event and thus does not trigger a response. Publicly saying you "would have bought, but reconsidered" as happens on Amazon, is the closest you get.

  • by WillAffleckUW ( 858324 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @06:12PM (#25143903) Homepage Journal

    You do realise that once you return the game, the store can't return games purchased to the publisher right?

    You're just fucking over EB and Gamestop because as far as EA is concerned they've made a sale.

    Not really. You're sending a very strong economic message to EB and Gamestop that they had better strongly fight for consumer rights or they will pay the price for allowing DRM games on their shelves.

    This is the power of the boycott - it magnifies the economic message manyfold, causing disruption up and down the economic food chain, and forcing quick action from many economic partners.

    The media then report that Store A in their city is seeing "unprecedented returns" of the games, causing the message to get even more strongly reinforced.

    There's consumerism. And there's economic warfare.

    You rarely get what you want by being a sheep, but by being a warrior you succeed far more often.

  • by somersault ( 912633 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @06:12PM (#25143917) Homepage Journal

    Unfortunately since Spore is quite a unique game, the only real alternative is really to pirate (or wait for the console version)!

  • by JustNiz ( 692889 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @07:08PM (#25144679)

    I think its more than reasonable for people to assume that the law would protect them from a commercially available product that is designed to subversively hurt them.

    If by design some software silently installs itself and modifies the operating system in any way purposely disadvantageous to the user without the users express permission, then it is absolutely the dictionary definition of malware, as in software with malicious intent.

    Why should there be a distinction between big companies doing it for commercial reasons or individual hackers doing it? Writers of malware apps should always be punished for unauthorised damage to other people's computer systems. period. Actually big companies should be much more strongly punished as it generally a much larger-scale crime, given the sheer number of users they infect.

    That British hacker who got into the pentagon to look for UFO evidence ended up facing extradition, jail time and enormous costs for supposed damage to a few systems, even though he didn't actually change anything. Why is it that EA who subversively plant malware on your PC that permanently occupies resources and damages your access rights can get away with it?

  • by nschubach ( 922175 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @07:41PM (#25145015) Journal

    It is DRM because it restricts me from running the application until I either re-install it or activate it. DRM by definition is Digital Copy protection. Google it if you don't trust me:
    DRM []

    DRM is tying the software to a hardware signature, as the sig.bin file does. It is generated off several key points of your system and if any of those change, it asks to re-validate. This is the same as the Windows Update DRM that prevents you from replacing every piece of hardware in your machine without having to re-validate your copy.

    It bothers me because they lie about not having DRM when it's pretty clear that they do. I cannot take my game files and copy them to my laptop for instance without having to activate it to run again. I also cannot re-install windows over top of my old installations without re-activating it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @07:42PM (#25145025)

    Unfortunately since Spore is quite a unique game, the only real alternative is really to pirate (or wait for the console version)!

    I know... how about the alternative of not playing it? It's not like playing the latest video games is an innate human right. You're not going to die because you had to skip out on a game that fucks up your computer. Get over it. There's nothing requiring you to play the latest crap spewed out by the "evil" corporations, other than your own greed.

    EA makes games with SecuROM. If you don't want to play games with SecuROM, don't play games made by EA. Unless you're some high up manager inside EA, you don't get decide how they make their games. It's really that simple.

    Obviously they should tell people the SecuROM is there, but it being there isn't an excuse for breaking the law.

  • by nschubach ( 922175 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @07:46PM (#25145077) Journal

    I am upset about being lied to. Plain and simple. This whole Bill of Gamer's Rights and no-DRM scheme they keep advertising sounds to me like blatant false advertising, deception or fraud. They are using this stance as a platform to sell more games and people are buying into it.

    I'd be 6000 times happier if they fessed up and actually stated that they use a very lenient or lax DRM instead of boldly saying they have none.

  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @08:49PM (#25145709) Journal

    "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."

    Nice. Shut up or we'll unilaterally take away the game that you bought. Captures the essence of DRM quite well.

  • by Original Replica ( 908688 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @09:16PM (#25145873) Journal
    Wait what? You can't measure a drop in sales of games but you can of Coke?

    Yeah. pretty much. You see Coca-cola and other products,like it have been around for some length of time and established a reasonably consistent market. When they get boycotted, that market share drops and Execs want to know why. With a product like Spore, there is no established market, it's a brand new product. So there is no market share to suddenly shrink, there is only a lack of sales beyond launch. Execs assume the Will Wright has lost his mojo, stop making sandbox games, and go back to cloneing WoW, Halo, and Madden.
  • by oracle128 ( 899787 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @10:47PM (#25146599)
    If people actually did boycott, instead of just succumbing to piracy and calling it a boycott, that wouldn't happen. That's the only reason boycotts don't work.
  • by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Wednesday September 24, 2008 @11:15PM (#25146799)

    Boycotting is fine if you can manage the sacrifice yourself. But if you still want the game, but you would just rather not see malware attached in future editions, a suit works out better -- hits them, potentially, in the wallet due to the settlement and negative image portrayal.

    So buy the game and download the cracked version and use that instead.

  • by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @12:32AM (#25147277) Homepage

    Well in this case it is EA who are stealing your copyright. Your right to sell the copyright licence you paid, bored with then game, EA are trying to steal your ability to sell it to someone else in the second hand market, exactly how disingenuous is this amazon web page [].

    As EA does not clearly indicate the limitations they enforce on resale on the cover, they should be subject to a class action law suit and pay the penalty.

  • by JD-1027 ( 726234 ) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @02:12PM (#25154635)
    I've never used my right to protest against the government. That doesn't mean it's not something we should constantly fight to keep.

Never worry about theory as long as the machinery does what it's supposed to do. -- R. A. Heinlein