Ubisoft's Use Of The (Star)Force Lands It In Court

from the wonder-what-defense-they'll-use? dept

Remember Starforce? The somewhat insecure makers of video game copy protection, who are often criticized for problems brought about by their copy protection system? It appears that someone finally got fed up enough with them to sue… However, they’re not suing Starforce (based in Russia), but video game maker Ubisoft for using Starforce’s copy protection, which they claim opens up huge security holes on computers without warning and without an easy way to remove the software. Remember, Starforce is also the same company that launched a silly publicity stunt contest to “prove” its software didn’t do any damage. In order to win the contest, you had to bring a PC (must still be under warranty) to their Moscow headquarters at your own expense — then install their software on their premises, and then prove that your CD/DVD drive no longer worked (only one of the various complaints some have had). If you failed, the company would publicly shame you on their website. And, of course, you only had a month and a half to show up at their office. Of course, at the end of that month and a half, when no one had shown up to take the “challenge,” the company announced that it was proof their software was fine. I wonder if that’s the defense Ubisoft will use in court. After all, it’s been “proven” that the software is fine.

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Ubisoft's Use Of The (Star)Force Lands It In Court”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Pat Bateman says:

Penny Arcade is lame

It is very invasive – it installs a driver which directly connects to the drive, not using any other Windows drivers. But I don’t think anyone has proven that it is destructive in any way.

The hacker community is just pissed that it’s working so well. Even though a relatively easy hack is to just disconnect your IDE drive and then mount an image of the game as usual, the hackers don’t consider that a “win” over StarForce.

I’m sure they will eventually prevail, but even when they do, I think this has proven that the technology is viable and worthwhile. Prior to StarForce, all the other copy protections were a total joke and hacked days after release.

Companies only need to protect their game for the first few critical months before the game hits the bargain bin. StarForce has succeeded in that way. After it is cracked, it may take only another revision to put the hackers at bay for another 9 months or so, but 9 months or so is all it needs to protect the product for.

demonsun (user link) says:

Re: Penny Arcade is lame

I lost BOTH of my cd/dvd drives to starforce, that damn driver kept stepping down the ide transfer speeds until both of them just stopped working, until I heard about the starforce copy protection that caused this in some instances, I didn’t have a clue about what happened, but lo,and behold, after I discovered that starforce was causing problems for some people, I looked on my system, and there it was, that little starforce driver, replacing the standard windows driver that should be there.

And all of this because I have cd image software that I use to test images of my cd’s before I send them off to be pressed.

“The hacker community is just pissed that it’s working so well. Even though a relatively easy hack is to just disconnect your IDE drive and then mount an image of the game as usual, the hackers don’t consider that a “win” over StarForce.”

Wow, unplugging the ide drives still doesn’t work, because of the way the driver works, the driver replaces the standard cd driver, which also happens to be the SAME driver that is used by most image emulators.

since then I have traced the root of many of the system instabilities that have occured unexplainedly, to the fact that a game that uses starforce was played on that system. my only recourse was to reinstall windows.

The biggest issue here is with the way this copy protection works, it doesn’t, in fact it cause more problems that generate bad publicity for the game publishers for using it, and ruins peoples computers. I don’t see other more effective copy protection strategies such as SecuROM, or SafeDisc causing these problems.


Zarun says:

TRue and maybe nOT

I have to admit, I’m dirt poor and don’t always get my software from the most legal sources. But despite my vested interest it did seem at first that Starforce’s hatred was sour grapes. All things considered, the software really did do what its purpose was and many of the games where “uncrackable,” at least for a while. But now it seems that time has proven Starforce does cause problems with CD ROMs and kills them slowly. In addition the “good” people at Starforce have again shown themselves to be no better than the “horrible criminal” pirates they have sworn to stop; Starforces’ ridicules contests and their crowing about the apparent victory. Their blatant encouragement of pirating a game from a company that refused to buy into their products. If the “problem” is as bad as the solution, then maybe its time to rethink the whole thing.

Anonymous Coward says:

I lost 2 dvd drives to Ubisoft/starforce, before I figured out what was really wrong (I just assumed the drive had failed as it DID get slower at writing over time) after I put in a new high speed dual layer drive it also failed before it burned it’s 25th DVD (I shoot, produce & dupe music videos for local bands)

Ubisoft’s was initally helpfull, however after many troubleshooting steps & backing them into a corner on the fact that the drives were actually damaged they decided to tell me that they never released the game with starforce on it and they had nothing to do with it, and I should contact Starforce for tech support.

It’s the _VERY_LAST_ time I EVER spend $ on a Ubisoft game.

Anonymous Coward says:

What worries me most is the fact that while (for example) US government apparently are publicly worried about Chinese Lenovo (Ex IBM) computers used for spying, they don’t do a thing to stop Russian made Starforce to be installed to millions of computers…

As starforce ain’t any new tool, i have to conlude that: Either they don’t know about the program (unlikely) or they *do*.. and the latter worries me quite a lot.

Kraki says:

Don't you dare restart my computer

I understand that companies want to protect their product. Starforce is coming out with a new version soon. In this new version if it detects ANYTHING it will restart your computer, without telling you. If you’ve got a game with the new starforce protection installed on your computer, you’re basically screwed.

Elzeard (user link) says:

Discover & Remove StarForce

I’ve only heard of this problem a bit before, but the problems described here make me nervous.

>>> How can I tell if StarForce is on my machine? How can I remove it if it’s there?

>>>Will Un-installing a SF protected game also reverse the driver swap?

I’ve mostly been playing MMO games for two years, which rely on Server-side protection and verification, so i doubt I’d have gotten StarForced recently.

>>>How long has it been in use?

>>>Is there a list of ‘infected’ games?

I believe the answers to these questions will be helpful to the whole community.

Raven D. says:

Hackers and Starforce

I must interject with some of the commentary and illusions surrounding this, considering this is just more than UBI it’s all companies using this and companies thinking of using it.

To get around star force is easy and there are plenty of programs that do such things. I will not mention them here, but they are out there, the IDE thing doesn’t really do it esp. on XP.

The protection is out there due to capitolist paranoia plain and simple. Passing the buck to “Hackers” is a lame attempt to ignore responcibility on the consumer and the game companies at large. The company making starforce should be ashamed and punished for their public actions, as well as the damage caused by their software, not some silly stupid contest which they knew that no one could do.

Consumers – Start telling these companies they are making crappy games by not buying them.

Companies – start making games worth something more than just the simple mindless 2 – 4 hours of game play.

Star Force – Your protection was beatin, your company needs punishment for their actions, and get over yourselves.

In order to “Hack” the game someone has to buy it. They get their over priced buck for poor quality. If a game is good enough, you will buy it irreguardless of if you have a “hacked” copy to show your support of the product. If it’s a waste as most games have been recently, with no re-playability or decent storyline, your very happy to uninstall and walk away glad you didn’t waste your money.

Saying anything more would just be long winded. I’ve made the point…

Elzeard (user link) says:


seems to have some useful info on StarForce.

>>> Includes list of ‘infected’ games.

Few of the listed games are “Top Ten” quality; only ‘King Kong’ and ‘Icewind Dale’ seemed to be rather popular. Most of the titles were unknown to me.

Dozens I recognized from bargain bins and Dollar stores. I did find two titles that I have bought at Big Lots for three bucks each, and I gave a big “Phew!” at the thought that I have not ever installed either of them.

I hope most of you will find the same sense of relief from knowing you don’t have that crippling driver.


WORNG! ! ! ! !

Gratefully, the Glop Homepage also has an easy method to discover if Starforce is installed, and Indeed I DO Have that infection.

> > > Gratefully again, at the end of the detection routine is a link to a removal tool.

So thats my next move.

This kind of thing usually needs a reboot, so I’ll close now, and if all goes well I’ll be back here soon.

Elzeard (user link) says:

And I’m back.

The Removal Tool has removed the StarForce drivers from my Device Manager listing. I should have taken note of the file names to see if they were also erased from the drive. You will probably want to do that if you do a lot of Burning or editting from optical disk sources.

It’s worth noting that the ‘Removal Tool’ is from the same folks that made StarForce.

Josh Tomaino (user link) says:

Games played...

I’ve purchased and played a variety of the games on the list using StarForce, including Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, as someone above noted that they wouldn’t buy it simply because it had StarForce software on it, and I can safely say I have noticed no problems with any of the games or my computer during or after installation and gameplay.

I think an overwhelming momentum has grown against them simply because they are fighting piracy, and doing an ok job at it- which, don’t deny it, scares anyone who relies on the pirated versions of games/software.

I didn’t notice any warnings saying that that software would be installed, unless it was at the bottom of that massive end-user-license-agreement, and would have liked to have known just to know. I just really don’t appreciate being force-fed piracy-protection programs wether it comes from DRM/music cd’s, or PC games- I’d just like to know.

Tony says:

Track Mania Nations

I have had problems with Starforce & I’m glad someone has decided enough is enough. Starforce installed as part of Track Mania Nations game, had I not read some reviews on this game I would not have known. What’s stupid is that the game is a free download!!! I was getting software problems when using an online poker game; this would hang and cause me to loose real hands and real money. I’m sure it was Starforce as I hadn’t had any problems previous to Track Mania Nations install. It should be illegal to place software like this on your computer without making you aware first!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Looks like I will be pirating Chaos Theory

I have been waiting for the game to go down in price before buying. However, now that I know it is using star force I will probably buy it, never unwrap it and install a ripped version from the net. At least then I will have purchased it legally AND not put my computer at risk.

Santa says:

Problems for the legitimate users.

I’ve had games (legally bought) using StarForce, which I could not play due to the protection system not recognising the original disc. One could of course solve this problem by downloading a no-cd/dvd crack. This solution though depends on someone to hack the game, and thus the game companies need the pirate society to help us legal customers play our games.

mousedmofo says:

It’s kinda like making it so the government won’t muslims into the country illegally while instead leaving the doors open for everybody else…

Why would you want something that doesn’t benefit you at all and in addition causes damage to your computer. Ironic how capitalism turned against us from an ex communist country…

This just makes people want to pirate more to get around having to install that crap. Of course it won’t affect all computers equally fast, but eventually it will screw em all up.

andrew non says:

I’ve been pirating games my whole life… but its not so sinister, as a 12 yearold you dont have $60 for a game… but if everyone in the class gets one game we have tons to play…

these days i still ‘pirate’. Starforce games tend to be inferior titles, but it hasnt caused me much trouble, not does it really deter me from pirating games that use it.

Just unplug you CD rom after you dump the image. All pirated games come with the cracks anyway.

But b4 you flame, I always delete games i dont want to buy within 24 hours. Demos are bias. Ive bought and play retail… CS:S, battlefield2, diablo2, warcraft3 and TFT, WOW and i dont play anything else 🙂

EX says:

StarForce truly does suck…no denying that…

And as for the pirating…well, I don’t think of pirating as all bad…many movies and shows I have downloaded, I have boughten soon after…so without the ‘bad’ copies floating around, some of these companies would never have gotten anything from me.

So, to wrap things up, I say:

Pirating doesn’t severely damage sales(even helps in some cases), but copy protection DOES severely hurt consumers.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...