Tue 12 Apr, 2011
Tags: computer security, Editorial, information security, piracy
The spokesman for an outfit that puts out retro games, Good Old Games, has been quoted saying that DRM drives gamers to piracy. The argument being made here is that the massive hassle involved in installing and maintaining the ‘authorized’ conditions to play the game legitimately form too high a barrier and that, at least for single-player or other local system games, it’s easier to install a cracked version of the game than to try to maintain the ‘authorized’ version.
Mr. Kukawski also makes an interesting point in his statement–much of the DRM that game manufacturers (and the manufacurers of other media) insist on installing could well count as malicious software. Anyone recalling the Sony rootkit debacle–where Sony attempted to enforce DRM by crippling the functionality of the users’ systems without their consent–will easily see what happens when a company goes ‘too far’ in their quest to maintain control over content.
However, piracy is more or less inevitable, and by spending so much time and money ‘securing’ your media against theft, you’re more or less guaranteeing that others will take an interest in breaking it.
Insisting on the installation of malicious software–software that spies on the system’s activities to see if “forbidden” programs are installed or running, that “phones home” to a remote server, that cripples the functionality of your system unless certain conditions are met–is a tactic that even the mafia would hesitate at enforcing.
DRM only serves to hurt legitimate users.
Pirates will pirate the media no matter what–if it’s sufficiently interesting to them, then it will be cracked and released on the internet, regardless of the technical obstacles put in the way. The only pirate inconvenienced by the DRM is the first one–and if these media companies paid any attention to the psychology of the typical warez-head, they’d realize that by putting technical obstructions in the way, they’re only serving to glorify the exploits of those pirates who make available the content in the first place.
One might be excused for thinking that the pirate ecosystem was being deliberately cultivated, in a sort of perverse mockery of the open-source software world–many eyes finding and correcting ‘bugs’. Ubisoft has rather blatantly stolen (in a perversely ironic way) the work of various pirates on a number of occasions, including as a method of circumventing onerous DRM put in place by an online marketplace.
Time and time again, DRM has served only to inconvenience the legitimate paying customers, who are painted as thieves and bandits by the media companies who take their money with one hand while denying them the functionality that they have paid for with the other. This is not being limited to software, either; Intel has announced that their new line of ‘Sandy Bridge’ chips will have DRM built into them, attempting to enforce these ‘digital rights’ at the hardware level for streaming media. This will only serve to hurt legitimate users; pirates will, in all likelihood, take about a week to circumvent these protections and the whole game will start again.
Content providers should take notice that this DRM nonsense does not work, and look at the example of studios who have made this realization. Cut out DRM licensing and R&D from the budget, and accept piracy as part of the cost of doing business–write off the ‘losses’ from the advertising budget, given that piracy can lead to more sales. Fighting the flow does nothing but waste energy; using the flow to your advantage helps you grow and thrive.