2009-08-12

Can Anyone Say "DRM Sucks"?

For those of you who don't know me too well, I really like The Sims. It's a great game, and I've been playing it since version 1 onto version 2. For TS2, I have the original version with the Nightlife and Seasons expansion packs.
These two are not severely restricted. All expansions after seasons are.
With the release of Spore, for whatever reason, Electronic Arts (EA) became more paranoid about its "intellectual property". It felt that simply disallowing people from copying their game disks wasn't enough, which is what they had been doing for many years using the SafeDisk technology. Since then, they have moved to SecuROM.
SecuROM is a piece of software made by Sony that purports to curb piracy. It does so by actually limiting the number of times that a user can install the game on his/her computer (to around 5 times total, I believe). That's not all, however. Once installed along with the game, SecuROM cannot be removed unless special tools are used. That's right, uninstalling the game does nothing to SecuROM unless you use SecuROM's own uninstaller, and if you do that with the game still installed then the game becomes inoperable; if you then want to reinstall the game, SecuROM shows up again and counts one more install down.
It gets worse, though. Not only does SecuROM limit your installs, it requires that the user have web access or else that user won't be able to play the game; this allows SecuROM to automatically "phone home" to get backdoor updates for itself and continually verify that you are an absolute angel. Furthermore, there has been a huge number of people with SecuROM-tagged games (SPORE, BioShock, Mass Effect, and TS2 expansions after but excluding Seasons) that have lost the functionality of their optical (CD/DVD), USB, and hard drives from having SecuROM on their computers and no way to remove it without also crippling the game in question. In fact, far too many people had to reformat their computers because of SecuROM.
Basically, SecuROM is a computer virus that goes unmentioned in the aforementioned games' EULAs and essentially takes the Windows hostage (as far as I know, Mac versions of the games do not have SecuROM (lucky!)). The word "virus" is not meant to be an analog; in fact, most competent antivirus scanners identify SecuROM as a type of virus (a rootkit, I believe)! What's worse is that this virus is corporate-sponsored for the sole purpose of deterring pirates who were going to hack the game to release it for free anyway. To that end, the SecuROM-tagged games in question had some of the fastest cracking times in history, all of them being cracked and released in under 24 hours after official release.
I was going to get TS2 Bon Voyage today, but after reading about SecuROM I'm glad I saved my $20. I have seen some places say that since Spore, Mass Effect, and BioShock, (i.e. for all of the newer TS2 expansions) SecuROM has removed the install limit, but I still wouldn't trust it lest my hardware totally break down.
The last argument I will make is more about the issues with SecuROM's assumptions about licensing and copyright, so for more information, I strongly recommend reading Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig. It's a great book (available freely online, no copyright violations involved) about the issues of copyrights and licensing and how they all affect us today.
The issue is that SecuROM assumes that by trying to install the game on multiple computers, you are a pirate. Computer pirates make copies of games to give to others and sometimes make profits from them too. The problem with this allegation is that when a pirate makes a copy for someone else, the pirate and the recipient both have the software at a cost to the original software-maker rather than to the pirate. However, if person A wants to show person B the game but they only want to have one copy between them and share it, it will at any point in time be at a cost to one of them rather than to the software-maker; the original maker has not lost anything in this case, and if anything, the other person will be more inclined to buy him/herself the game for the better of the original software-maker. SecuROM calls that piracy. That's like calling your letting your friend read the book you bought for a few hours and then giving it back for you to read piracy; unless you charge him for it, the analogy is nonsense.
Thankfully, TS3 went back to SafeDisk instead of SecuROM, and as I will need a laptop for next year soon and TS3 doesn't support my current video card or RAM specs, I will gladly wait for it along with the new computer.
Folks, please: if you know anyone who wants to buy any of the SecuROM-tagged games listed above, show them this and search for "problems with SecuROM"; that should be enough to convince them otherwise. Thank you EA for ending your addition of SecuROM with games and replacing it again with SafeDisk, and everyone please get together to petition EA for an official way to remove SecuROM without ruining the game or getting sued!

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