FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
I have had one computer succumb twice to DRM measures implemented in games: once from StarForce, another from SecuROM. With the StarForce DRM, my registry in Windows was corrupted, forcing me to reinstall Windows and spend an entire weekend getting the computer back into order. This was on the game TrackMania Nations. StarForce has since been removed from the game. The second time was with Sony's SecuROM, installed by the PC game Neverwinter Nights 2. Although my computer met the minimum requirements posted on the box, I wasn't able to get one frame per second. The reason I know the bad performance was from SecuROM is a combination of test factors and reading the Atari forums. (Atari published Neverwinter Nights 2.) After uninstalling Neverwinter Nights 2, SecuROM files remained on my computer. After a while, my computer would inexplicably slow down. I ran virus and malware scans, which found nothing, so it had to be SecuROM. I couldn't delete the SecuROM files, even with Windows booted into Safe Mode. I had to format the hard drive and install Windows a *third* time due to invasive DRM. After that, I sent a notice to the BBB demanding Atari remove SecuROM and refund my money. The Atari officials I spoke with offered me a refund if I were to send the game disk to them, which I refused. They didn't even mention SecuROM as a possible cause for the troubles I was having. A search around the Atari message board, however, revealed that running a "cracked" (illegal DRM-free) version yielded a marked improvement in performance. The developers did not take very kindly to this and posted a notice on the Atari message board listing several problems that could be experienced with running a "cracked" copy. Their point, unfortunately, was made invalid due to the game itself having the very same problems. Pirates are simply undeterred by DRM and can remove it quickly with little effort. The European version of Neverwinter Nights 2 was on pirate sites within 48 hours of reaching store shelves there. The PC and Mac game Spore, for another example, was on pirate sites a full week *before* it was on store shelves, DRM-free. I have only had favorable experience with one kind of DRM: Valve's "Steam" platform. Unlike StarForce and SecuROM, which act like a child's nanny, Steam acts more like a VIP lounge bouncer. With the Steam platform, the program checks to see if you bought the game and, once verified, gets out of the way. It doesn't install any unwanted files or slow the computer down. While it's not perfect, it's the best of both worlds: it helps protect the property of the company *and* treats customers like people and not criminals. One more note: DRM on music is, quite simply, the dumbest thing I have seen. Many of the programs that can be used to purchase music with DRM on it can also strip it by simply making a music CD. The programs themselves are designed to defeat the DRM for a legal reason which can then be abused for illegal purposes.