Who Can You Sue When It's Your Own Copy Protection That Hurt Your Reputation?

from the sue-everyone! dept

Video game maker Ubisoft has a rather long history of employing crappy DRM (and then even using someone else’s code to crack their DRM when it caused problems for legitimate customers). However, this latest story involving a Ubisoft copy protection scheme may be the most bizarre. Chris Gruel writes in to let us know that Ubisoft is suing the CD duplicator firm it used to produce the video game Assassin’s Creed, claiming that employees from that firm were responsible for the game leaking to the internet. It appears they have pretty good evidence that this did, in fact, happen (the leak was traced to an IP address controlled by an employee of the firm, and a copy of the game was found at that employee’s home). So you can understand why they’d be upset about that (though, they had to realize that it would be pirated eventually).

However, here’s where the story gets bizarre. Because Ubisoft was afraid that this might happen, the pre-release copy it sent to the CD duplicator included (on purpose!) a bug that would crash the game partway through. That was the copy that the employee leaked, so Ubisoft is complaining that this leak harmed their reputation, because people claimed the game was really buggy and crashed. Try to keep this straight in your mind here. Ubisoft put their own (crude, yes) DRM on the game because they were afraid it would leak. The game was leaked, and the DRM acted exactly as intended, and thus Ubisoft’s reputation was harmed.

It makes you shake your head in wonder.

If Ubisoft had not included this DRM, then it would apparently have less to complain about. Thus, I think the only logical conclusion is that Ubisoft should be suing itself for including such damaging DRM on its own pre-release copies of Assassin’s Creed.

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Companies: ubisoft

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Comments on “Who Can You Sue When It's Your Own Copy Protection That Hurt Your Reputation?”

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Anon says:

There must be a better method of DRM on games

I understand that DRM doesn’t deter anyone intent on cracking it, but it does prevent casual sharing of games. For example, one of my friends bought Oblivion which has absolutely no DRM or copy protection, only a simple disc check. Now all my friends and I have made copies of the disc. Why did we do it? Because it was easy and didn’t even risk us getting caught because there was no cracked anything to download.

If there was anything in place to try to stop me from copying the disc, I would have not even bothered and bought the game instead.

I think the biggest issue comes with single-player only games or games that most people won’t play online anyway. With multiplayer games, it’s easy to prevent sharing because the cd key is sent to the servers, and the game devs can simply deny anyone access if a key is already in use. They can even completely revoke a key if they see it coming from many different ip addresses.

I don’t know what the perfect solution is, but there must be something.

Michael says:

Re: There must be a better method of DRM on games

CD Keys to prevent online playing isn’t always effective either. There are tons of games that can still be hacked and played online. Games where you host on your computer are the easiest for hackers. A little bit of hacking and the game thinks it gets an ok from the master server that the key is ok. Most of the first person shooters have been hacked and are played online.

The toughest method for most games would be one where you have to log into a master server and start hosting a games from in there. That way the hacker can’t get into a game lobby to host or play.

When ever they come up with a protection for locally played games they seemed to get hacked. It will always be this way.

The security on consoles may push a lot of game developers to abandon most computer based games. Consoles are by no means immune to hacking but it is definately a lot more complicated for the average game player.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: There must be a better method of DRM on games

Why should there be DRM in the first place? The thing that developers never seem to get into their thick skulls is that the *only* people that DRM ever affects is paying customers. I’m penalised if I want to play a game on my laptop while away from home, only to find out I need the CD sitting in a drawer 500 miles away. I’m not allowed to play some older games I can no loner find. Yet, if I’d have just downloaded the pirated version instead of paying good money, I’d not have these problems.

Developers can easily protect their content by other means. Whether it’s subscriptions and/or membership for online play, extra downloadable content that depends on validating a purchase or simply making a great game, they can get lots of sales.

The trick is not to make the games more difficult to install and play than the pirated version. The only way to do this is to not include DRM.

SRNissen says:

Usually, I don’t care at all about copyright, but: This is not a copyright issue, this is a contract issue.

Ubisoft released buggy code to the OEM. The OEM promised to take security measures X, Y and Z so the buggy code wouldn’t get released to the public. There will be an analogy at the bottom of this post. Anyway, the OEM failed to take measures Y and Z, which they were contracted to do. This resulted in the release of buggy code attributed to Ubisoft. As a consequence, Ubisoft is suing for damages caused by this breach of contract.

Analogy: You build a great mock-up of a car. The powered windows don’t work and the transmission still hasn’t been implemented, so it will only go in 3rd gear. Also: No brakes. Somebody steals (yes yes I know scarce goods contra etc.) this car from the person who promised to guard it for you, because the guard was sitting on his ass, reading Vanity Fair. The thief proceeds to lend this car to every car magazine in the world, then… returns it to you or something so you can fix it and release it “for real.” The analogy falls apart because of the Scarce Goods theme, but really, that’s an OK analogy. Whether I built a crappy car, or intentionally handicapped my car so a would-be thief couldn’t use it, it’s still the job of the guard to make sure it isn’t stolen – that’s what he’s being paid for, and if he doesn’t, I can sue for damages.

Todd Loren SInlair (user link) says:

The DRM model needs to change to -

Look… the fact is no matter what they do someone will crack it.

People that use pirated software weren’t going to buy it in the first place.

So …. take out the expense of installing and managing DRM and you’re still ahead of the game. (pun)

If you must have DRM … the only thing that comes close to working is an activation type scheme like Microsoft uses … its not a %100 but it makes it too difficult for most people to attempt.

You can’t stop real pirates.

This whole lawsuit article just points out what a bad decision DRM is.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The DRM model needs to change to -

“If you must have DRM … the only thing that comes close to working is an activation type scheme like Microsoft uses … its not a %100 but it makes it too difficult for most people to attempt.”

LOL Microsoft Activation, really what more is there to say.

Microsoft products are arguably the most pirated software on Earth.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You’re totally right. It’s in the CD companies hands to make sure that they hire employees that aren’t going to leak software for piracy. Their entire business is based off of that, so by having that leak occur in the first place, the CD company didn’t do one of their main jobs. It’s not Ubisoft’s fault the game was linked it was the CD companies, and Ubisoft deserve some sort of compensation because of that.

Lex (profile) says:

Actually, this makes sense to me. Their arguement is that the bugged copy that was leaked was misrepresented as the complete and finished product. Since it had the crash bug on it (which was never intended to be released to the public in the retail version of the game) it was falsley colouring the game as buggy and full of problems. This hurts Ubisoft’s reputation. Either way the bug was not supposed to be part of the retail version. Imagine if they (those who leaked the game) took the finished product, and put bugs into it and passed it around as the finished game. Wouldn’t that hurt Ubisoft’s reputation? No matter why the bug was there, it wasn’t there in the retail version. The CD company employees are at fault. I think the CD duplicating company needs to screen their employees better, or instil harsher punishments to those employees who would be so casual about ripping off one of the duplicating companies customers.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Since it had the crash bug on it (which was never intended to be released to the public in the retail version of the game) it was falsley colouring the game as buggy and full of problems.

If Ubisoft never intended for this version to be leaked, why did it include the bug?

If it didn’t intend for the copy to get leaked, then don’t include the bug and there’s no problem.

Imagine if they (those who leaked the game) took the finished product, and put bugs into it and passed it around as the finished game. Wouldn’t that hurt Ubisoft’s reputation?

Yes, but that would actually be the other company’s fault. In this case Ubisoft put the bug in.

Spectere (profile) says:

Re: uh duh

The leak isn’t the issue here.

The problem is that Ubisoft intentionally added a bug to the code in the version that was eventually leaked. The bug that was intentionally added is the very one that they claim is ruining their reputation.

So basically, the duplication firm is most certainly responsible for the leak. Ubisoft, however, is responsible for intentionally introducing the bug that supposedly tarnished their reputation.

anonymous says:


More game manufacturers should release demos that are easily accessable. Then people would have a chande to try the game first… with so many games coming out today it is hard to decide and a good demo makes us want to buy a game. No demo makes us want to just download the whole thing. Regardless of a game’s reviews… when it comes to PC gaming, sometimes a game just does not run properly on your machine and a good demo gives the piece of mind that it will actually run right before dropping $50.00. As far as DRM… someone always cracks it… starting with a good business plan and being loyal to your customers is one way to build loyal fans who will want to pay money for a legit copy of the game.

Matt Bennett says:

The thing is, legally, Ubisoft might have a case. It’s kinda like how when someone crashes their car into you, injures you, you can sue for damages. If you weren’t wearing a seatbelt, you’ll get more injured. That’s your fault, but you still have a right to sue for the damages caused. Theoretically the defendant could point that out in court, but it never really works out that way.

r. decline (profile) says:

ubi could be right?

somebody at the cd pressing place acts illegally by sending out a copy of something they shouldn’t. i’m no fan of DRM but really it seems Ubi could send them whatever they want to and if they are told to not release it, they shouldn’t.
i mean lets say its a virus and you are a storage company. if i send it to you and say, don’t let anyone take this but us and you relaase it into the population, its your fault…unless maybe i cheaped out and used bob’s second hand storage place, then i hold some blame for picking such a crappy place.

PRMan (profile) says:

Random crashes?

Why random crashes? I would have it come up with a screen that says, “This version of the game is a stolen pre-release copy from “CD Manufacturer” that was not intended for distribution. You will not be able to complete your game without buying a legitimate copy. Press OK to Exit.”

Isn’t that better than getting a reputation for games that crash randomly?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Random crashes?

Yeah I agree, personally this entire “inserting broken code” stuff smells like a load of crap to me. There are just too many more effective ways to accomplish the expressed goal here. The idea of compiling, mastering, manufacturing and distributing thousands of disks with knowingly broken code on them just seems way too rediculously stupid for me to believe anyone ever did it.

I think these “broken code” stories have way more to do with creating an impression in the marketplace that bootleg leg code is broken code, then anything else. As a way to track and protect code, it just doesnt make any sense.

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