Hooray For Licenses! Update Strips 17 Songs From Steam Users' Purchased Copies Of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

from the like-using-a-time-machine-to-raid-a-CD-collection dept

Part One Billion in “You Don’t Own What You Pay For,” the ongoing saga in which paying customers purchasing “licenses” find themselves in possession of products inferior to those purchased physically or, worse, to those never purchased at all (i.e., “pirates”).

You might have noticed Steam downloading a sizeable update for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas over the weekend and wondered what that was about. A fancy secret tying into GTA V’s return to the west coast, perhaps? Not quite. The patch added support for XInput controllers like the Xbox 360 pad, which is nice, but also removed seventeen songs from various radio stations. No more angsting out and gunning it across Gant Bridge in the wrong lane listening to Killing in the Name, I’m afraid.

There’s no such thing as a perpetual or “forever” license, not when it comes to content. RockstarNexus has the full list, which seems to include the same 17 songs removed from the iOS versions prior to release. IPhone/iPad users will know these songs are missing going in. But those who purchased the game through Steam are only finding this out after the fact. Rockstar released no patch notes and any account set to auto-update went ahead and stripped content right out of purchasers’ games.

It’s not like Rockstar didn’t have options. It has dealt with music licensing issues before, but never in a way that has affected previously purchased games.

When music rights expired for some songs in GTA: Vice City, Rockstar left them in for folks who already owned it then made a separate version without them for new purchasers. It’s pretty unpleasant that they didn’t do the same here too.

This would have been the right way to handle this. Bundling in content removal with various bug fixes and notifying no one ahead of time is terrible way to treat paying customers. Add to that the fact that the pushed update seems to be responsible for a number of deleted/bricked saves, and you’ve got a bit of a PR problem on your hands.

But underneath it all lies the absurdity of licensing. Rockstar licensed songs from labels only to see them expire more quickly than the game’s marketability. This put it in the position of having to retroactively alter its game, and it was those who purchased nothing more tangible than a license who were negatively affected. Sure, Rockstar will never be able to “own” the recordings used in its game, but it seems like purchasers should be able to keep their purchased goods intact, even if the purchased item is nothing more than ones and zeros scattered across a variety of storage devices.

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Comments on “Hooray For Licenses! Update Strips 17 Songs From Steam Users' Purchased Copies Of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas”

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44 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

What I hear out of this is less and less want to buy anything that connects on line for a game or movie. As far as I am concerned they are cutting their own throats on this removal after purchase.

If after buying something they can just go in and remove content, tell me what I am buying cause it sure doesn’t appear to be owning a game. Remind me why I should pay at all?

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You have a couple of errors in your statement, let me correct the for you:

What I hear out of this is less and less want to license anything that is form this decade for a game or movie. As far as I am concerned they are cutting their own throats on this feature enhancement after licensing.

If after licensing something they can just go in and enhance content, tell me what I am licensing cause it sure doesn’t appear to be owning a game. Remind me why I should pay at all?

Sheogorath (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

What I hear out of this is less and less want to sell anything that is from this decade for a game or movie. As far as I am concerned they are cutting their own throats on this feature degradation after selling. If after selling something they can just go in and degrade content, tell me what I am purchasing cause it sure doesn’t appear to be owning a copy of a game. Remind me why I should pay at all?
FTPFY. Oh, and while I’m at it, have a report vote on me, shill.

Digitari says:

did we get a credit too?

this is fine as long as some of the money spent on the game (in it’s original state) is returned to us, otherwise it’s flat out theft.
So is it ok for Corporations to steal from us?

I could care less when license expires, I have no input either way but if my “purchase” is less then when I paid, I should get a form of refund. Yes it sux for steam, but how the fuck is that MY problem??

(class action lawsuit seem in order for this crap to stop)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: did we get a credit too?

Did anyone check if their EULA actually said that the game music was only going to be available for a limited time? Or that they ‘reserved the right’ to pull any content if the licensing period was over?

I know nobody reads the fine print, but did they actually put something in to allow them to pull this stunt? ‘Cause if they didn’t, they broke their own contract, and that could definitely be used in a (class action) lawsuit against them!

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Not just games – many movies and TV shows have suffered negatively from expiring licences, and some remain unreleasable to this day as a result.

I can understand such things in a previous era where people didn’t know they were going to be watched after their first run, let alone decades hence, but it’s a dumb move in today’s market. Just licence the music and continue collecting more royalties if the resulting product has a long shelf life…

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I was going to buy Crazy Taxi when it was first released on XBLA – right up until the time I found the soundtrack was different and didn’t have The Offspring. I’m also not in the market for a Steam version of not just GTA:SA, but any game that has a musical focus as a result of this article.

In my case, at least, these publishers have lost money simply by having an expiry date on their music licencing.

mattshow (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Never has a game broken my heart more than Crazy Taxi. I sunk way too much time into the Gamecube version. When I fired up the PS3 version and heard the “new” soundtrack, I felt like a little kid, unwrapping a gift that is clearly a new video game, only to find out it’s some edutainment that Mom found at the local Everything-For-A-Dollar store.

Anonymous Coward says:

So should we be lucky and thankful that the technology doesn’t exist for a purchased bluray movie to be updated, replacing the soundtrack with music in the public domain, like what you see on rebroadcasts of WKRP?

What about any songs someone purchases legally, how long before they have to buy them again? If a game can be “updated”, what about an itunes account? You don’t own the music right? Licenses don’t last forever right? Don’t they usually have something in the fine print about how the terms can change at any time without notice?

This is why I never use any sort of cloud based service. Always have hard copies, so you will have what you paid for.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So should we be lucky and thankful that the technology doesn’t exist for a purchased bluray movie to be updated, replacing the soundtrack with music in the public domain, like what you see on rebroadcasts of WKRP?

Actually, that can happen with a bluray disk. It would not write it back to the disk, but an internet-connected bluray player can download updated content that replaces as the disk plays.

What about any songs someone purchases legally, how long before they have to buy them again? If a game can be “updated”, what about an itunes account?

Obviously they can jam U2 content into an account and pull it back out (well, I guess they had trouble pulling it back out…), so this has sort-of already happened. If Apple went under and shut down their servers (which has happened with smaller companies that offer online services) you would lose what you have in iTunes.

This is why I never use any sort of cloud based service. Always have hard copies, so you will have what you paid for.

Ha! Good luck with that. There are things that you simply cannot get a hard-copy of now. Hard-copies degrade (look up the expected life of a CD and then go replace all of your 90’s catalog because the disks are going bad). We are all screwed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

So should we be lucky and thankful that the technology doesn’t exist for a purchased bluray movie to be updated

http://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2013/09/26/call-kurtis-why-your-samsung-blu-ray-player-may-not-play-your-movies/

they can update the player, and make the player “obsolete”, or ban the disc.

Now i will be lazy….
Amazon “removed” a book (1984) a few years ago…but gave money back
Sony removed a (highly interesting) feature from the PS3…and rewarded everyone with a free game. a better deal would have been a refund of all ps3 equipment.

i remember a post on techdirt about a guy who moved a million dollar machine from one corner to the other corner, and because he didn’t call and get permission, he lost support. the machine’s gps ratted him out.

all of the sudden now, omega watches aren’t allowed to be resold (copyright protection)

fun times….you don’t really own it even though you paid for it.

Anonymous Coward says:

whoever it was that voted to allow copyright owners change things so that when you pay out hard earned cash for something, you still didn’t own it, wants stringing up by the bollocks or tits (depending on whether male or female) and cooked over a massive, open fire! this is so completely ridiculous as to be unimaginable, really! can anyone actually tell me what the fucking pricks who agreed this, whether politicians or industry heads, say when they are faced with the same thing over something else? i do not believe that they are able to ignore the same thing in all items they buy!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Steamed at Steam

I still buy steam… but my rule for games there…

NEVER PAY FULL PRICE!

Its going to be a 50% discount at least before I purchase.

Now at GOG.com I pay full price because that play is just awesome and I would like to support that model. I went and bought FTL from GOG even though it was more expensive just to support it.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

What the patch does

-removes 18 songs
(“Critical Beatdown”, “Running Down A Dream”, “Woman To Woman”, “You Dropped A Bomb On Me”, “Yum Yum”, “Running Away”, “I Don’t Give A f*ck”, “Express Yourself”, “Killing in the Name of”, “Hellraiser”, “Ring My Bell”, “Personal Jesus”, “Don’t Let It Go To Your Head”, “Express Yourself”. “Rock Creek Park”, “Grunt”, “Soul Power ’74” and “The Payback”)
-revokes all mods created for San Andreas on PC
-deletes all of your previous save files
-removes 1280×700 resolution
-has various textures missing and things like foilage completely removed

Source: Luneth’s review on the Steam Store Page

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: What the patch does

What scares me is that this is just as easy to do now on the consoles as it is to do on the PC. Might not have been easy on the PS2 (as far as I know Final Fantasy XI was the only game that used the hard drive), but it could easily be done on the PS3 and PS4.

This scares me as I’m a collector of consoles. I still have an original NES that still works. Can the same be said about the PS4 in 20 years (or the Wii U as I’ve been worried about recently)?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: What the patch does

Do you honestly think consoles are safe? You never know when a game is going to be patched, any one of them could remove content, and you have less piracy options unless you want to risk your account being kicked off the online service completely.

It’s true that this hasn’t happened on one of those platforms yet, but with digital distribution become the preferred method and even disc-based content often getting patched even before you can play it for the first time, it probably will. Unless you never connect your console to the internet, you’re definitely still vulnerable to this.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: What the patch does

Unless you never connect your console to the internet, you’re definitely still vulnerable to this.

And given the increasing penchant for companies to put out broken, bug filled games and patch them over time, if you don’t connect your console to the internet, your game is likely going to have a good number of bugs and glitches. A lose/lose situation.

John85851 (profile) says:

Why license songs?

Seriously- if companies are going to take back their songs after the license expires, why use licensed songs?
Is it really that much cheaper to use a licensed song than to pay a band to record a song which RockStar would own? I would think paying for their own band would significantly reduce the risk that they would have to remove songs down the road.

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