Sleight Of Hand: If We Don't Call It DRM, We Can Pretend That DRM Is Gone

from the poof dept

I was upset that I had to miss the FTC's workshop on DRM earlier this week. I had been invited to speak at the event, but had already committed to speaking at the Leadership Music Digital Summit in Nashville, so had to decline. But, from the writeups about the event, it's quite clear that many in the content industry still believe DRM is a good idea (or, rather a "necessary" idea), despite the fact that it doesn't work. DRM, despite what they might say, does not "enable new business models" at all. It simply gives the content holders the illusion that they can somehow control the content. But, it never stops any copying at all. So, it actually tends to just annoy those who are trying to legitimately purchase and/or access the content. Because those who are going to access it in an unauthorized manner will do so separately.

That said, a bunch of folks have sent in a series of stories this week that are somewhat amusing. Basically, it seems that video game companies have decided to stop calling DRM "DRM." This follows a series of horrific PR nightmares, where firms made use of DRM in ways that significantly limited the value of certain games, and players (or potential customers) of those games struck back in trashing those gaming companies for treating them as criminals. So, now, we have stories about Valve launching a new DRM that "makes DRM obsolete" even though it's still DRM. Then there's EA -- who received the biggest brunt of consumer backlash for its DRM choices. It's releasing the new Sims "without DRM methods that feel overly invasive." But, of course, it will still have DRM.

It's really difficult to understand what these execs think they're doing that benefits them in any way. It's not about enabling new business models. Any business model they're talking about can work just fine without DRM. It's not about "keeping honest people honest," because you don't have to keep honest people honest -- that's why they're honest. It's not about stopping unauthorized file sharing or "piracy," because no DRM has yet been shown to do that at all. It's not about "slowing down" unauthorized file sharing, because once an unauthorized copy is out there, it gets pretty quickly copied everywhere. One copy is all it takes and then nothing is "slowed down" at all. The only thing DRM serves to do is get in the way of legitimate customers trying to do what they want with content they thought they had legally purchased. In other words, it destroys value for legitimate customers -- and it's difficult to see any business rationale where that's an intelligent move.

Filed Under: business models, drm
Companies: ea, ftc


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  1. identicon
    Jfed, 27 Mar 2009 @ 11:25pm

    Securom's the bugbear.

    - EA exec Rod Humble has stated that TS3 will not use online authentication nor limited installs. He said nothing about Securom whatsoever. But -
    - EA employees have repeatedly posted on the official TS2 site that Securom will not be used on game disks.
    - Currently, the EA Download Manager (digital distro program) will install Securom to 'protect' digitally downloaded games and items purchased from the TS2Store.
    - Currently, when preordering TS3 one is presented w/a statement saying the game uses Securom.
    - Currently, the EULA for TS3 at ea.com states that all updates to TS3 will require installation of the EADM software, which currently installs Securom. Also -
    - that same EULA describes ingame advertising and info collection that will be enabled in TS3, which a game producer had stated some weeks ago was not going to be used.

    Only the statement that disks will not include Securom surprised me as a longtime TS2 player. Combined with the rest, as of right now, it's just the usual 'hey! now we're treating you 10% less crappily than we did yesterday!' type of foot-dragging we've unfortunately come to expect from EA regarding their DRM.

    [Kind of reminds me of their withdrawl of the 'authenticate every 10 days or your game stops working' hooraw with their release last year, Mass Effect for PC - oh look! we're being benevolent! now you're just stuck with online auth only and 3 lonely activation limits you won't know you're using up until we tell you to buy another copy of the game! see? we DO care! kind of...]

    Who knows what the EULAs, etc. for TS3 will say tomorrow; lucid communication from EA is not currently a strong point. But EA quite lucidly trumpeted the fact that The Sims sold over 100 million copies around this time in 2007, just prior to introducing Securom v7 as their DRM of choice.

    100 million copies sold, and hence, BOUGHT, using nothing but a confined disk check and anticopy.

    Securom and the problems it caused (and continues to cause) in that game community - and the unconsionable do-nothing response from EA - destroyed trust and brand loyalty for a whole lot of formerly devoted players like me (and sent a bunch of them over to an interesting new place some call the 'dark side' to avoid those problems). EA's continued use of proven problematic DRM is the sole barrier to purchase for this ex-customer. I'm too lazy to pirate (and I don't want to anyway), but it's all the same, they don't get my money anymore.

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