Court Ruling: EA's Anti-Piracy Software Is Patent Infringing

from the live-by-IP,-die-by-IP dept

Between the company's general disposition and the incredible failure of the SimCity launch, Electronic Arts is becoming a name associated directly with digital rights management. The most infamous DRM platform the company has used is probably SecuROM, which was noteworthy for being equal parts mega-annoying to paying customers, as well as being so massively ineffective that games employing SecuROM later became amongst the most pirated video games of all time. But, results aside, EA would tell you that it needed to use DRM to protect the company from piracy. Even if SecuROM failed, the company had to at least try, or else the freeloaders that live the highlife getting around intellectual property laws would win. Violating IP laws is wrong, damn it, and EA was going to do everything in its power to right that wrong.

Including violating a notorious patent troll's intellectual property to do so, apparently -- at least, according to an East Texas court, which awarded Uniloc nearly $5 million after determining that EA violated the patent troll's patent with the SecuROM platform.
Uniloc Luxembourg S.A. sued in 2013, claiming EA's SecuROM video game activation system infringes on U.S. Patent No. 5,490,216. The system allows EA customers to activate and register their video games and is aimed at reducing piracy and "casual copying," Uniloc alleged. SecuROM restricts the number of devices a customer can simultaneously activate a game on with the same key. EA games that use the system include "Alice: Madness Returns," "Dragon Age II" and "Darkspore: Limited Edition," the complaint stated. Uniloc asked the court to for compensatory damages and "a reasonable, on-going, post judgment royalty." A federal jury agreed with Uniloc and awarded over $4.86 million in compensatory damages on Friday.
I have to admit, I feel a bit like the characters at the end of the original Jurassic Park movie, who were being attacked by velociraptors only to be saved at the last moment by the tyrannosaurus rex that had nearly murdered them all earlier. You don't really root for either side; you can only pray they tear each other apart. That said, schadenfreude is one of my failings, and enjoying it with the healthy dose of irony that comes along with EA infringing on a patent with its anti-piracy software is so good, it's likely fattening.

But, hey, live the IP sword, die by the IP sword, right?

Filed Under: anti-piracy, drm, patents, securom
Companies: ea


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  • icon
    T Teshima (profile), 15 Dec 2014 @ 3:59pm

    You can only hope that they'll both keep fighting this out in court, and cost each other hundreds of millions in attorney's fees.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2014 @ 4:13pm

      Re:

      Which makes the attorneys rich which encourages keeping them in business to cause more terror. The lawyers win either way.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2014 @ 6:09pm

        Re: Re:

        Happy ending: And then the lawyers decide to make John Steele their hero and they follow in his footsteps, spending all of their gains from this epic court battle on fines for attorneys fees from frivolous suits and contempt of court. Fortunately, they'd sued orphanages that can now use the extra funds to find homes for all the underprivileged children whose adopted parents raise them to vote for politicians who decrease the power of corporations to use their wealth and lawyers as a weapon again those poorer than themselves. And they lived happily ever after...until the Singularity occurred.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2014 @ 8:47pm

      Re:

      ... which cost will be passed on to the customers. Good plan.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    FM Hilton, 15 Dec 2014 @ 4:14pm

    Payback is....

    the bitch, isn't it, EA?

    After all this time defending and guarding their precious Securom, EA is trolled by a lawsuit they've lost...

    Ah, sweet irony.

    Wouldn't it be great if they were forced to removed by whatever means possible all versions of Securom in all their games?

    That would definitely make a few EA gamers very pleased!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2014 @ 3:58am

      Re: Payback is....

      Everyone who bought a game with this on it will receive a bill to make up for the extra expense of their drm.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Chris Brand, 15 Dec 2014 @ 4:15pm

    The costs of DRM

    I always thought that companies that get all excited about DRM tend to both overestimate the "benefits" and under-estimate the "costs" ("hey, how about we build/buy some software to make our product less attractive to our customers ?"). This is just another example of the "cost" side.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Zonker, 15 Dec 2014 @ 4:15pm

    That sounds like something a patent attorney would say. ;)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2014 @ 4:17pm

    EA has long ago proved just how low it can slink when it comes to satisfying it's customers. Not just the DRM issue but on-line requirements as well as poor coding that has to be fixed after release and poor implementation of their newest game of the month (whatever that happens to be).

    Many of their bugs have been reported on and off in their forums only to have the member kicked out and then the thread closed because it was easier to ignore the gamers than issue a fix.

    Just deserts for a company that well deserves receiving some asshole actions in return for their own.

    I long ago went on boycott against EA. They won't have to worry about jacking up the prices of their games to cover this additional expense bothering me. They weren't worth the money back then and have done nothing visible to change that.

    Well deserved indeed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      MrTroy (profile), 15 Dec 2014 @ 9:32pm

      Re:

      Honestly, I looked through the last 7 years of games released by EA (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Electronic_Arts_games), and there aren't many reasons to even bother boycotting them.

      Mass Effect, Dragon Age and Dead Space are supposed to be good (all series-ised!), the Sims if you are into that, and maybe a handful of others.

      Still, I'm sure there's enough games covering enough genres that they really don't care if I prefer indie games nowadays.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Beech, 15 Dec 2014 @ 4:30pm

    This story is almost complete. If only the patent as written was flawed, so those who pay for licenses can't actually use it, and only the pirating bastard EA can get make it work.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    tracyanne (profile), 15 Dec 2014 @ 4:41pm

    I can't make up my mind

    Do I laugh or cry

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2014 @ 4:43pm

    Mike Masnick just can't stand it when copyright law is enforced.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 15 Dec 2014 @ 4:51pm

      Re:

      Honestly, if you're going to spam post the same exact crap, you could at least take 5-seconds to check who wrote the article to avoid making an even bigger fool of yourself.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2014 @ 5:31pm

      Re:

      JESUS, are you still here posting the same retarded shit after all these years? Get help Dave, seriously. Stop stalking people over the Internet, you sick pervert.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2014 @ 7:01pm

      Response to: Anonymous Coward on Dec 15th, 2014 @ 4:43pm

      This wasn't even posted by mike you idiot

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2014 @ 3:44am

      Re:

      average_joe just hates it when due process is enforced.

      DMCAed!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    DCL, 15 Dec 2014 @ 4:50pm

    Some other Factoids

    SecuROM is actually a Sony product. This means EA is being punished for USING a product... not creating it.

    EA's first use of SecuROM was indeed a bit overzealous and severely limited number of installs. EA then altered the policy to 5 installs and gave a way to unregistered installs to allow for new machines.

    EA hasn't shipped a game wrapped with SecuROM in a few years now

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2014 @ 8:09pm

      Re: Some other Factoids

      Quick google reveals EA uses it for digital downloads as recently as this summer (Sims2 free giveaway).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Name, 15 Dec 2014 @ 5:41pm

    That famous quote:

    "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 15 Dec 2014 @ 5:48pm

      'The enemy of my enemy...

      '... is my enemy's enemy. No more, no less.' -Maxim 29, 'The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries'

      Between EA and patent trolls, I'd rather see both of them torn to pieces or bled out by legal fees than either get a solid win, as no matter which side won, the public would still get hosed.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2014 @ 1:44am

      Re: That famous quote:

      Which means in a three way fight, both your enemies are also your friends.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tim A, 15 Dec 2014 @ 8:57pm

    I can't believe I'm saying this, but yay for the patent troll. Too bad it wasn't for more money. And they live to die another day. Now sic 'em Newegg!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    FM Hilton, 15 Dec 2014 @ 9:17pm

    Re:Some other Factoids

    "EA hasn't shipped a game wrapped with SecuROM in a few years now."

    EA shipped Sims 3 and the Sims 2 Ultimate Collection (2014) with Securom.

    Sims 3: " However, SecuROM based restriction is still present within the digital version of the title, limiting users to a total of 5 authorizations for 5 different machines via online activation, each of which can be de-authorized online at any time. A legitimate serial key is required to download custom objects and Sims from the official website. This includes custom designs created by other Sims 3 players as well as additional content from EA."

    The Sims 2 Ultimate Collection:

    "EA released The Sims 2 Ultimate Collection as a free download until July 31, 2014, but neglected to mention that the download also came with SecuROM included,[30] which was later revealed by the site Reclaim Your Game[31]"
    Sources:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sims_3
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SecuROM

    Get your facts straight before stating them. I know about the UC because I was the one who inquired as to whether or not it actually had it-I used to be on the staff of RYG.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2014 @ 9:56pm

    hahahahahahahaahaha!!!

    No, seriously: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! OMG, this is rich...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2014 @ 10:11pm

    Before you celebrate Uniloc's victory, don't forget about their lawsuits against Mojang (Minecraft) and Laminar Research (X-Plane).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 15 Dec 2014 @ 10:34pm

    My Papa say...

    My parents always told me, "It takes one to know one." I guess that's how EA knows pirates.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 15 Dec 2014 @ 10:37pm

    New way to defeat DRM

    Patents.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Kal Zekdor (profile), 16 Dec 2014 @ 12:38am

    Flashbacks

    Ugh... I just had flashbacks of just how much SecuROM sucked... My first encounter with SecuROM was way back in 2007. I had purchased an honest to goodness physical copy of Bioshock from an old-fashioned brick and mortar store (which I walked to barefoot in the snow uphill both ways).

    I brought it home, unwrapped it, popped the DVD in my computer and installed. That is, I tried to. This being launch day, their activation servers were overwhelmed, and I couldn't reach them. I give up for the night, and try again the next day. This time I manage to activate it.

    I then try to launch the game. It does not. Instead, I get a SecuROM error message with an obscure error code, Error: 5024. After doing some research, I find this. (I'm a bit surprised that page is still up, actually.) So it turns out, it wouldn't launch because I was running Process Explorer. I mean, seriously, wtf? I quit process explorer and tried to run Bioshock again, but apparently process explorer leaves a trace on the system SecuROM could detect, so I had to restart my entire machine. Except I forgot process explorer was set to run at startup. So I had to disable that, and restart again. Finally, finally, I got it to run, but at this point I was too angry to actually enjoy the game, so I quit after 5 minutes.

    I also sure as hell wasn't willing to go through that each and every time I wanted to play Bioshock, so I found this obscure program called ProcexpUnloader from a shady looking site. I spent 15 minutes throwing antivirus scans at it, poking at it with a hex editor, and wondering whether it was worth the risk. I decide to try it, and lo and behold it did exactly what it said on the tin and nothing more.

    Anyway, sorry for the rant, but that was my first (and only) experience with SecuROM.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      observer, 16 Dec 2014 @ 8:18am

      Re: Flashbacks

      Beware of anything that tries to stop you running tools like Process Explorer: they're effectively saying that you don't own your own computer. I'd have downloaded a crack. (On a more amusing note, some versions of it checked whether PE was running by looking for the filename in the list of active processes, so you only had to rename procexp.exe to something else. Or use the 64-bit version.)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 16 Dec 2014 @ 8:47am

        Re: Re: Flashbacks

        "Beware of anything that tries to stop you running tools like Process Explorer: they're effectively saying that you don't own your own computer."

        A thousand times this. If a program is pulling stunts like that, it is by definition malware and needs to be purged with fire.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Rikuo (profile), 16 Dec 2014 @ 10:24am

      Re: Flashbacks

      I remember my physical copy of Bioshock 1. Never did work. Instead of screaming to me about Process Explorer, instead, it would try (and fail 100% of the time) to download Bioshock.exe at the end of the install process (only it wouldn't tell me this was what it was doing, it just mentioned some generic BS about going online). Not only that, but upon failure, it would delete the entire game folder. Eventually, after many hours, I figured out that when the prompt came up saying it was going online, I should quickly rename the game folder to something else, let the download fail, quit the installer, drop in a cracked version of the executable and rename the folder back to what it was.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Kal Zekdor (profile), 16 Dec 2014 @ 8:15pm

        Re: Re: Flashbacks

        Yeah, that sounds like what would happen if SecuROM couldn't contact the activation servers. I remember it was very late in the install process, and if it failed you had to start all over again. If this was anytime near launch day, their servers were wonky for days, so you may very well have had been suffering alongside myself.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 16 Dec 2014 @ 1:21am

    So now they shelled at least 5 million in a 'technology' that is a complete failure. I wonder if lowering prices, being accessible and treating their consumers right wouldn't have netted them much more while preventing such loss. Nah, who am I kidding, it's EA, they love shooting their feet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2014 @ 7:14am

    the patent in question is expired. Correct?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Brian, 16 Dec 2014 @ 7:22am

    SPOILER ALERT!!!!

    "I have to admit, I feel a bit like the characters at the end of the original Jurassic Park movie, who were being attacked by velociraptors only to be saved at the last moment by the tyrannosaurus rex that had nearly murdered them all earlier. You don't really root for either side; you can only pray they tear each other apart."

    SPOILER ALERT!!!!

    /s

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2014 @ 10:01am

    Just when they are starting to admit that their way of doing things is not good...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    FM Hilton, 16 Dec 2014 @ 11:22am

    Re: Flashbacks

    To this day I use a cracked .exe to run my Sims 2-and have done so for many years.

    If Securom was supposed to stop this from happening, EA failed miserably, because a lot of other players use one as well.

    In fact, most will not admit to using one while they do so, but Sims 2 was the last game EA had before they put Origin in as a requirement, thus enabling a slew of us to just skip their 'piracy prevention' program, which was a joke in the long run.

    Origin is the real evil in their empire. Securom was a foretaste of data mining. Origin is the real deal, and not a pleasant dish to taste.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Just Another Anonymous Troll, 17 Dec 2014 @ 7:36am

    EA needs a burn center

    Losing to a patent troll. The ultimate humiliation.
    I almost feel sorry for them. Nah, not really.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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