Thursday, April 14, 2011

Dasterdly DRM

It's been about 10 years since the fall on Napster, and about the same since the plague of "DRM" (Digital Rights Management) befell the world of men.

I was stricken with a small infection this weekend when I deigned to entertain myself with a romp in the blight stricken world of Dragon Age: Origins, during the April 9th weekend.
Upon clicking "Load Game" I was presented with a screen that basically said "You can not play your game with legitimately bought Online Content [I got the DA:O Ultimate package for my birthday] until you log in with the account you bought it with."

Problem was, I was already logged in, and logging in again, didn't do the trick.
I had been waiting all week for my free weekend time to enjoy some DA:O, and now some bug with the Bioware's DRM servers was stopping me from playing my 100% legitimately bought game. D:<

Thankfully, after about a good hour of using my crazy computer-nerd skills, I bungled together a simple workaround to play my game. -- Log Off my BioWare account --. Apparently when Bioware's DRM servers are down and you're logged in, you can't play. However if you're logged off regardless of the server state, you can go ahead and play all you want.

I'm guessing pirated copies work by running in logged off mode, or by disabling all the "RequiresAuthorization" values in the "~/Documents/Bioware/Settings/addin.xml" file to "0". Which is what I found out many other legitimate owners of DA:O had to do this past weekend, after I read about it on (DRM-Broke-Dragon-Age-Origins-For-Days). The less stubborn or unlucky DA:O (and even some DA2) players had to go 3 days without playing any Dragon Age, all because of a stupid mistake on Bioware's part. I've also read that BW couldn't even tell there was a major problem going on because there are already so many bugs and calls coming in for DA support, that there wasn't even a noticeable difference in bug reports or complaints!

The outage has passed for now, and I'm not really blogging to whine about how bad or stupid this whole little episode was, I thought I"d take some time to discuss (or at least divulge lots of info) the rise and follies of DRM - Digital Rights Management.

On the other hand, since this is already kinda long, and everybody has short attention spans (especially me), I'm just gonna post links (and maybe summaries) to a bunch of articles proving my point. (Otherwise, this blog will never get finished by my procrastinating-self.)

1. Retailer 'Good Old Games' says DRM drives gamers to piracy:
"Independent retro games retailer Good Old Games has spoken out about digital rights management, saying that it can actually drive gamers to piracy, rather than acting as a deterrent. In an interview, a spokesperson for Good Old Games said that the effectiveness of DRM as a piracy-deterrent was "None, or close to none."

"What I will say isn’t popular in the gaming industry," says Kukawski, 'but in my opinion DRM drives people to pirate games rather than prevent them from doing that. Would you rather spend $50 on a game that requires installing malware on your system, or to stay online all the time and crashes every time the connection goes down, or would you rather download a cracked version without all that hassle?""

2. Stallman: eBooks-Are-Attacking-Our-Freedoms:
"Free software guru Richard Stallman claims consumers should reject eBooks until they 'respect our freedoms.' He highlights the DRM embedded in eBooks sold by Amazon as an example of such restrictions, citing the infamous case of Amazon wiping copies of George Orwell's 1984 from users' Kindles without permission. He also rails against Amazon for forcing people to identify themselves before buying eBooks. His suggested remedy? Distributing tax funds to authors based on their popularity, or 'designing players so users can send authors anonymous voluntary payments.'"

3. Russian-President-Time-To-Reform-Copyright:
"While most of the rest of the world keeps ratcheting up copyright laws by increasing enforcement and terms, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev appears to be going in the other direction. He's now proposing that Russia build Creative Commons-style open and free licenses directly into Russian copyright law. This comes just a few days after he also chided other G8 leaders for their antiquated views on copyright."

4. Copyright-Law-Is-Killing-Science:
"Whereas copyright tends to focus on protecting artists' ability to make money from their work, scientists don't use similar incentives. And yet, her work is often kept within the gates of the ivory tower, reserved for those whose universities or institutions have purchased access, often at high costs. And for science in the age of the internet, which wants ideas to spread as widely as possible to encourage more creativity and development, this isn't just bad: it's immoral."

5. Patch-For-The-Witcher-2-Removes-DRM-Shortly-After-Release
"A little over a week after its release, The Witcher 2 is getting its first patch, and with it all versions of the game will now be DRM free. 'Our approach to countering piracy is to incorporate superior value in the legal version,' explained development director Adam Badowski. 'This means it has to be superior in every respect: less troublesome to use and install, with full support, and with access to additional content and services. So, we felt keeping the DRM would mainly hurt our legitimate users. This is completely in line with what we said before the release of The Witcher 2. We felt DRM was necessary to prevent the game being pirated and leaked before release.'"

6. Apple-Camera-Patent-Lets-External-Transmitters-Disable-Features:
sticks_us writes with news of an Apple patent application, recently published by the USPTO, for an on-board camera system that would include circuitry for processing external infrared signals. The data received from these signals could then be used to present information to the user of the device, or even to modify the device's operation.
"For example, an infrared emitter could be located in areas where picture or video capture is prohibited, and the emitter could generate infrared signals with encoded data that includes commands to disable the recording functions of devices. An electronic device could then receive the infrared signals, decode the data and temporarily disable the device's recording function based on the command. ... In some embodiments, a device may apply a watermark to detected images as an alternative to completely disabling a recording function."

We're in one of the those times (or even an "Era of Digital Revolution" as the historians may one day call it), where the waters are churning and new things are being churned out and old things getting sucked under faster than most people can keep up with. Even Weird Al can't make covers fast enough anymore these days, well, when he isn't bogged down be l issues that is. While most of us are embracing the wondrous new coming into this world, many can't keep up, let alone fathom what to make of it all, and are quite afraid and fearful of it all.

History and evolution has shown that those who can quickly adapt to change will survive and grow stronger, but those that can't, are left on the side, clinging to old fossilized structures that were once Anchors of Safety, but are now rusting away and falling apart, getting sucked down into the bleeding profit margin's of a raging whirlpool's dreaded depths. (yay analogies =p)[Anchor = DRM; Whirlpool = The Fail Zone; old fossils = old fossils;]

The winds of change are blowing and netizens such as ourselves now hold more power and access to vast reaches of the influential tides of the people of the world, and even the few yet wild radicals [read: LulzS3c; Anon] who know how to make explosive use of (some of the) powers available are actually only beginning to exert their influence, and make known, their positions and goals, to the weary dinosaurs that thought them naught but flies or paupers ripe for picking.

I believe that the many, the downtrodden, and even the forgotten, have long since grown tired of being held by the few, the "deaf, blind and mute", but only recently have they learned of the capabilities of these new "tools" (combined with the will of the many, and not just the individual), that are now evermore available and accessible to us. However, it's not just those that are faraway, or unknown to us, that are making use of these "winds of change", but even recently. many of you and even me, signed a petition (via facebook or email) that actually made a difference, and stopped (for the time being) a thing like "Usage-based-billing" (i.e. excessive over charging to service providers and consumers alike for a service that's 25 times cheaper to provide for the supplier, to pay for a problem that could easily be fixed with only a fraction of investment.), which was something I didn't believe we could do until it happened.

I'm not much of a vocal activist, so I'm not going to tell you what to do. Just read and learn what you can, because there is so much you can do with even a little information, and then maybe you can add your own gust into the "winds of change".
And if my selected articles seem biased or one-sided, feel free to mention others in the comments section (I may even include it up here, if it's solid material).

So go forth and set sail, yet be wary of history and learn from it (unlike the music/tv industry did with recordable cassette tapes and VCRs a few decades a go), because it oft repeats itself. The foolish will folly and flounder many times, but the clever and keen will continue to flourish and fly free over the churning waters of the sea.

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