Stuff I Say

DRM is “Totally and Undeniably Rad,” according to Bioware, NBC et al.

Posted in software, Uncategorized by 51future on May 8, 2008

Alright, so maybe I’m paraphrasing a bit here, but it’s not that far from what’s actually been said. A lot of DRM-related news has been coming down the pipe recently… Although its not really “news” in the sense of being new or novel. It’s really just more information on how companies are diligently coming up with even more invasive ways of harassing their paying customers.

Mass Effect and Spore are confirmed to have some shiny, new value-added DRM that uh… well… It phones home the first time you install (the games) and then every 10 days after that. If you attempt to install or play Mass Effect (a single-player game) on a computer without an internet connection:

Customer: Are you saying I’m not going to be able to play my perfectly legitimate purchased copy of the game, even the retail version, until I get permission?”

Bioware rep: That is correct.

The Slashdot comments on the Spore and Mass Effect DRM are pretty much par for the course as far as this sort of thing is concerned. Most of them tend to reflect a few simple truths:

    DRM is always about access control, not copy protection. CSS exists to prevent you from playing a movie in a region not approved by the studio, or from skipping past commercials. It does nothing to stop you from making a copy. The DRM in this game essentially forces the player to ask permission every time he wants to play the game he purchased.

    “Software-as-a-service,” a/k/a/ “software rental model”… translation: you never own anything – you pay and pay and pay and pay and pay, and if you stop paying, they turn off your rig. This is the holy grail for companies that don’t really feel like developing new software, or in updating their software with appealing new features that you might actually buy. They’ll just sell you the same thing for eternity.

    …increasingly, a hacked version turns out to be better than the genuine deal. They just work, anytime, anywhere, no questions asked. More than once, I’ve found myself downloading a hacked executable to run software that I bought and legitimately own, even in ways that wholly comply with the original license – e.g., because the activation server for some defunct app had been taken offline.

Personally, I’m not quite sure if the copy protection on Spore is anything to get up in arms about, given that the appeal of connecting to Spore’s servers sort of insures a lot of legal sales anyway. However, down the line, when we’ve got phones capable of running the full DirectX 10 version of Spore and I’m rockin’ my jetpack, I imagine that the DRM then could theoretically suck, given that I seriously doubt EA is going to keep up Spore’s official servers forever. I say theoretically, because it’s clear that this DRM is going to be cracked the day of, or potentially, in the weeks before the official release, like every other DRM scheme in recent memory.

Meanwhile, in the same vein, I caught wind of this article via Daring Fireball detailing why Apple is more expensive than Amazon.

Again, here it all comes down to control. Apple has it and the labels don’t, leading to a situation that is strangely reminiscent of our democratic primary…

The only—I repeat only—reason the labels allow competing stores to have DRM-free tracks is that it’s the only way to get music onto an iPod. Think about that for a moment: Apple’s dominance of the music player business is the actual reason you can buy a DRM-free track from Amazon. If anybody else had a substantial chunk of the player market, the labels would be busy trying to make the other player’s DRM the standard.

To wrap up the discussion, we have NBC Universal’s president of digital distribution Mr. J. B. Perrette reminding us of the benefits of DRM over at this New York Times article about Microsoft’s deal with NBC to try and build “filtering technology that allows for playback of legitimately purchased content versus non-legitimately purchased content” into their media devices.

Mr. Perrette said NBC understands the potential resistance. “In the short term, this will not win us a lot of friends,” he said. “In the long term, the consumer wants there to be quality premium-produced content, and in order for that to continue to be a viable business, there needs to be significant protection around it.”

Apparently Microsoft is a little wary of adding “features that consumers don’t like to its Zune products,” but is willing to take one for the team for the sake of… uh, who or what exactly? Poor little NBC?

As a counterpoint to all this, there are a few people out there who get it. Trent Reznor, for one.

Trent Reznor introduce[d] his latest album, The Slip, with a note that reads, “Thank you for your continued and loyal support over the years — this one’s on me.”

Go pick up The Slip (completely and utterly free) if you get a chance. It sounds great in Apple Lossless.

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2 Responses

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  1. c said, on May 10, 2008 at 8:34 am

    Thanks for the tip on the NIN album. The second half of it is very nice; I was surprised.

  2. Den said, on August 1, 2008 at 12:20 am

    You realize that part of the DRM for Spore limits you to 3 installs and that upgrading hardware, reinstalling the os, or even upgrading drivers might cause Securom to burn through one of your activations. Oh, and that customer service number you have to call…it isn’t toll free.


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