Saturday, April 24, 2010

DRM - The Other Other White Meat

Copyright protection has come in a wide variety of formats.  After all, companies need to protect their delicate profit margins, lest the gremlins who control their stock send them packing on their collective hineys.  Not that every company has stock that is owned, many just like being able to eat on a regular basis.

My favorite form of copy protection was the wonderful code wheels that came with the old gold box series of DnD games from the late 80's, early 90's.  It was insanely easy to crack of course, but I love the visceral thrill of turning the wheel and lining up the dwarven rune with the elvish rune and reading some stupid word like "dragon" and typing it into the interace.  Tasty!

Modern DMR though... yeah... that's a whole other story.  Apparently now companies expect that if you purchase their single player game, you'll be connected to the internet so they can verify you actually own it before you can even launch it.  Ubisoft has taken this approach and I believe they are now suffering from the very slings and arrows they have put up to guard their intellectual property.  Or scoliosis, one or the other.  But when their servers were torpedoed by hackers who performed a standard denial of service attack that prevented thousands of players from enjoying mindless hours of fun, the limitations of this particular setup were clearly revealed. 

This is going to become a continuing problem, too.  How many consoles now offer services that are tied to some sort of internet access?  How many games have you purchased that are playable online only, and would be inaccessible should your internet connection be severed or the servers be off line?  What happens when a company changes their terms of service, so what you were getting before you can no longer get, and what you once paid for is now a vast electronic paperweight? 

I understand intellectually the need for copy protection, just as I understand intellectually the need for speeding laws.  You are trying to control the actions of individuals who, for want of better terminology, are chronically stupid.  They want what they want, they want it NOW, and they will take whatever action is necessary to get it, whether it be posting file after file of a game on a usenet newsgroup to be recompiled and played by someone else who downloads it, or racing 85 mph in a 55 speed zone to get home a few minutes quicker so they can play that game they just downloaded. 

But when you start arresting people for driving the speed limit... then you've stepped over the line from copy protection into stomping on consumer rights.  When I purchase an item, I expect to have the right to use it for my own selfish pleasures as I deem fit, on whatever device it is supposed to work on.  I should even have the right to make multiple copies of it for my own personal use (not for distribution).  When you take away that simple right in order to stop those few who take advantage of the ease of digital distribution (a system that actually benefits you and your products), you are nothing but another corn hole.  Yeah, I said it... I just couldn't bring myself to use the other term for a burro. 

DRM needs to be seamless, easy and invisible at all times.  Because if its not, consumers are going to sit you down and drive a stake through your stock holding hearts if you keep it up.

Or switch to more fish.  It's better for you anyways.

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