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Fair Play? DRM Past, Present & Future

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October 15, 2007 4:50:13 PM

From BioShock's notorious launch to Radiohead's new album, the debate over digital entertainment and piracy versus consumer privacy and fair use continues to rage on. We take a look at the past, present and future of the issues surrounding "fair play."

http://www.tomsgames.com/us/2007/10/15/fair_play/
October 15, 2007 7:43:50 PM

Well, I'll put this in the context that I look at games, though I'm sure that it isn't going to be the same for everyone.

Growing up with my brother, both having very similar interests, we got very used to getting one game and both being able to play it. Even from the early days of the NES and on forward most games had two player mode, and in situations like fighting games and many of the brawler sorts of games, the multiplayer was what made the game.
By the time we made the transition to PC gaming we had already been use to playing various games together for 10 years or so on the consoles.

When it game to PC gaming and when multiplayer started becoming a bigger part of them we still wanted to play together, but unlike console games we couldn't unless you spent twice as much. We didn't want to have to pay $80 just to get two copies of a game so we could play the way it was ment to be played, with other people, but thats what it ended up being.

I don't like pirating games, but I also don't want to spend too much on them either. The value of the game might be worth that $40 if you get the full game experience, but when you take away part of that, being multiplayer with my friends, then its lost a lot of its value, and if you have to spend twice as much for the game then its really not worth it either. Then there is always other friends too, and you don't want to have to have everyone buy the full game if you are going to be playing it for a little while. This had a lot to do with at that time we were all still in school and didn't have a lot of money and would pool money to get a game and all get to use it.

The choice then often became buy one copy of the game and pirate it to a few friends to get the full value of the game, or to not buy the game at all.
Even with single player games it was easy enough to pass a game on to a friend when you were done playing it. I could buy a game, play it for a little while until I got bored with it and then pass it on to a friend. Thats becoming harder and harder to do.

Sure now multiplayer has become so wide spread that you can do it even without specific friends to play with, but it looses something there.


What developed is basically the easy of, and expectation to have no-cd cracks, extra CD-keys and other things needed to copy a game, even if you are only copying it 1-2 times total. Of course then with the expansion of CD-burners and high speed interent it was a short jump to just ignoring the initial purchase totally.
The steps needed to go from fair use to pirated became so thin that pirating lost all of its effort and qualms with doing it.


I haven't pirated a game in a long time though (well I'm not counting downloading Fallout 1&2 recently because I have a CD somewhere, I just can't find it) but at the same time I've purchased very few games too. Pretty much when they get to the $20 price point I'll think about picking them up.
I've pretty much given up on RTSs because of DRM, because so much of the value from them comes in multiplayer, but I simply don't have the time or desire to play them to the competative point in general online environement. It was great with C&C that it came with 2 discs, one for each faction, and you could have you and a friend play, one using each disc, without issue until they stopped that. If I could play with/against my brother and friends knowing they are in the same situation then it would be a lot better. But since everyone has different games of priority to buy no one has the same game.

With the registration and everything needed with games now it is also very difficult to pass a game along to a friend after you are done with it. Even worse if you lend it to them and expect to get it back at a later time, the chance of having a registration issue increases dramatically and has the potential of having the cd-key banned entirely from some online services.

I suppose though this comes down to a varied defintion of what "fair use" really is. Having played games extensively on the consoles before PC gaming got a strong start I think of multiplayer with a couple friends as very much a part of "fair use." However in general terms since multiplayer gaming on the PC requires 2 PCs (or more) then playing with friends is no longer considered "fair use." I also think the ability to lend someone a game, or take a game with my and show my friends while on vacation (without having to bring my PC along, and that I currently live about 1000 miles away from my youngest brother) should fall under "fair use" too, but DRM systems in place try to take that away too.



In terms of music DRM, its pretty much a non-issue for me. I really don't like the majority of music being made anymore anyway. As it is too many of my favorite songs are not the songs that get a lot of notice anyway, so if I weren't buying the CD anyway I would be missing many of the songs that become my favorites. And if you buy a whole CD as individual MP3s then you aren't really saving anything that way either.
October 15, 2007 10:23:34 PM

I am not a Radiohead fan at all. I don't like their new or old albums. I did "buy" an album for $10. As far as I am concerned I want this experiment to be successful. I support this method.

Edit: Lets go Indians!
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October 15, 2007 11:11:02 PM

I think if they just make the game sell it cheap and don't DRM it. It would make more money. Maybe I'm looking at this wrong.
It used to be simple to figure out what a game was worth was based on supply and demand. The internet screws that up by providing an almost infinite supply (although there are obvious bandwidth limits). Games should be charged by how big they are since there only real expense after development is bandwidth not by how new they are. I think it is ridiculous to spend over $40 for a game when your downloading it online. There's no physical cd only a server verifying who you are. As a programmer I do realize some games are harder to program than others but the better programmed game should sell more copies.
I always wanted to see a price breakdown of where the money spent on a game goes. I'd be willing to bet most of it doesn't go to the people who programmed it.
October 16, 2007 12:10:07 AM

It's a nice article, but the proposed solution in the end of page 3 just can't work.

Online multiplayer games protection somehow work because you have to be connected to the publisher server to play. So it's easy to enforce a unique serial check at this point.

But for offline games, there is no way to limit the number of installation without doing it without an activation server, which contradict the goal of "I've paid you, leave me away". The DVD can't magically count the number of install.

I guess the good proposal for an offline game DRM would be:
- do not put the exe of the disk. Force people to download it through the net. This will prevent pre-release date piracy. However, this exe should be perfectly shareable and backupable. The installer should do this update automatically, but the user would still have the possibility to do it manuall (copying the exe on an USB thumb drive from an Internet cafe)
- use a very basic CD protection. The goal is just to stop people using Nero&Co to make a dumb copy.
- optionnaly, use online activation for people who do not want to use the DVD as a dongle
- specifiy in the EULA that all DRM will be removed 6 months after release
- include sweet physical goodies in the retail box

Stardock, with Galactic Civilizations 2 used a sort of two-tier approach like the one imagined: basically, the game on the CD has no DRM whatsoever. BUT, if you patch it, you then have to activate it. I'm definitely not comfortable with this proposition as this is basically a delayed online activation. If the game in box is already perfectly polished, why not, but if the patches are critical to enjoy the game, then there is no benefit.
October 16, 2007 12:43:32 AM

The artical forgot to mention, that with the steam client that HL2 uses also forces you to download the updates to the game before going offline, before you can play the game, which further ruins the users experience, because they have to wait to play a game they purchased the full version for. This also makes it hard for those with dial-up to play it at all. :non: 
October 16, 2007 2:12:45 AM

Paradox does some amazing work with their in-house games like Europa Universalis 3 and the Hearts of Iron series. I really, really like their approach of DRMs. Basically the games are without any protection but to get support or online help or become part of their great online community you need to register the game - just like registering in a forum.
October 16, 2007 3:14:49 AM

Archavious said:
I am not a Radiohead fan at all. I don't like their new or old albums.


Ouch.

Quote:
Edit: Lets go Indians!


Double ouch.
October 16, 2007 8:25:31 AM

Greetings!

From the article:
2K could keep the current two-system installation quota in place for those who just want to open the box, install and then play.

The installation limit was bumped to five systems x five installations on each. 2K spinners call it a 5X5 plan. The article should be updated.
No idea if the different users on the same system count as an "installation".
October 16, 2007 12:13:11 PM


This is my proposition. I would like to se some web site with propositions for all this copyright/fair use/licensing problems we have this years.

My proposition:
For games I see like this:
- No CD protection whatsoever
- Much lower price for new games.(30USD)
- Even lower price for new games.(5-20USD depends of age)
- After 5 years they become free to download.You pay for disc support if you want like that.


For music and films, basically the same thing. Just that if you buy CD, you got right to download the same songs from their site in whatever format is generally supported (mp3,ogg,acc,etc....).

Music:
- Album price should be 5-8 USD.
- If you want cheaper,than you can download 128KB compressed files (so you lose on quality something) for let's say 2-3 USD.And you do not have right to download losseless version.
- Singles should be 1.5USD for CD, 50c for download and 25c for 128Kb version.



For movies (DVD,HD-DVD,BluRay):
- New movie 10-15 USD (they get major money in cinema anyway,more money for higher definition version)
- Old movies (year after year) price degrades with age.
- 10 years after it's free to download.If you want on disc,you pay.

You can use CD in your family/house in as many copies as needed.
You can use your music CD in every CD player.

Smaller bands should go Radiohead way lol.
I am sure,they can make more money like that.
Big dealers, sorry, distribution houses, should organise themeself like present.

This all counts for citizens of the world where salary can support this prices. Do not even ask poor people having their salary somewhere 50-100USD to pay 30USD for a game. It just doesn't work. And don't say,they better work hard,so they can play this or who gives a crap. They have all rights to play them as we do.And they work hard,they are just payed low.Do not be selfish.

I am always to pay for a good work. And to respect a law. But I hate when I am not respected as a customer and/or human.
Thanks for reading,
October 16, 2007 1:13:03 PM

I just hate it all, the DVD check, the secuROM, it only limits the legitimate users who purchased the product. What happens to this Bioshock support in 5 years if the dev and publisher go down? Or Sony (I can wish can't I?).
October 16, 2007 1:36:25 PM

IMHO (and as the article hints with mention of the Radiohead album) DRM is not only a problem with games. One thing that prevents me from moving forward with HD TV (I'm in the US) is the fact that other than buying an HD optical disk drive for my PC, there is no means of archival recording of material from HD sources. Even if I do buy that drive, recording any material would not necessarily be an easy task. So far, no stand-alone HD optical disk units exist in the US; however, they do exist in Japan. I have to wonder if this is in part because the draconian laws that exist in the US do not exist in Japan.

Dish Network has a new HD DVR to which you can add a hard drive; however, you cannot do anything with the material recorded on that hard drive unless you hook it back up to the same player. The terms hint that the DVR only has to be the same model, however, I would not be surprised if it has to be the identical DVR. Thus, unless you are willing to hack it, you have no choice but to use the Dish Network DVR to play back anything on that hard drive, and there is no means of archival recording, i.e., to an optical disk of some sort.

Personally, I think DRM, in general, has gone way too far and is causing customers to shy away from any technology that has any sort of DRM. I also believe that it will take some sort of class-action law suit in the US that goes all the way to the supreme court. The supreme court already decided that fair use is legal with the famous case of the VCR. As I understand it, entities fought like you know what to keep VCRs from recording; however, the supreme court ruled that as long as it was for the owner's personal use, they could record anything that they wanted. I am not a law expert or even a lawyer, however, I am willing to bet that if some creative case is taken to court and it reached the supreme court the supreme court would say something like "we already ruled on this, and fair use rules apply."

I certainly hope something like this happens. I believe it would go a long way.
October 16, 2007 1:54:30 PM

What i think should happen to games is, once the support ends (aka no more updates/patches) the game should be free to download, that way people who did buy it could have some fresh blood coming into that game.

The market is flooded with too many worthless games as it is, its no wonder why some people download a cracked version over paying for a bug filled games that never gets fixed. (EA games)

If people would just take a stand more and stop buying games that have DRM or streaming ad's developers would start listening to us, after all we are the ones putting food on the table for them.
If the game a flop, do you think they will add that annoying stuff to there next game?


I'm glad to see a music band allowing people to pay what they think its worth.
Maybe the music industry will finally wake up and stop being so greedy same with game developers.




October 16, 2007 4:00:48 PM

It's pretty simple, really.

DRM stinks. No way about it. It is way too invasive and restrictive.

BUT, pirating a game also sucks. These guys worked hard for it, they should get PAID for their product, otherwise we will not be GETTING any new games! Development costs too much time and $$ these days to have a small techie mom-and-pop development crew crank out a winner with all the shine and polish needed to make back their investment.


That said, there are steps that probably should be taken:

1. Simple copy protection to stop all the tech-n00bs from doing a simple copy and posting it on a BT.
2. Registration for disk-free play. Some of the games that go through Steam allow this (Dark Messiah). You can either play through Steam, or by putting the disk in.
3. HOUSEHOLD licenses. Allow X# of active licenses in one household. Maybe one IP. That way, you buy DOOM9, you and your brother can hook up and play together, hell even online!

An added thing would be to allow unlimited installations, but that would only work with multiplayer games. Only one IP (with however many players) would be allowed on the game at a time. So if you lent the game to a friend and he is playing it, too bad! You have to give him a call and tell him to log off to let you on.

The whole thing about right protection is that it does not need to go too far to be able to discourage the general user. It just needs o make it inconvenient.

Combine that with low price, like the latest TF2/HL/Portal package and you may get more users just because it is SO FRIGGING EASY to get!


Now, as for Radiohead. I think what they did requires major cajones. I admire them for that, and yes, I do like their music (most of it. Some I just can NOT get into!).

I do think they should have made some sort of small feature, such as registration for any offered price lower than, say $1 american. All that would do is send you info about the band (concert dates locally, rfeleases, and such). Getting the info needed to be able to track a fanbase is sometimes more important than the price of an album.

I am amazed that there are torrents up for it though. You would think that if you could DL it for nothing officially, why go the sneaky route? Unless you did not know OR the official servers were too slow.


The thing that annoys me is when I see soem of these other artists selling their albums online, at less than CD-Rip sometimes, for the same price as you would get at a retail store. There is NO reason for them to be doing that other than greed.

Is $5 too much for a 160Kbps rip of a disk? $10 for a 320? How about $2 for a 128 you can play in your car w/o people moaning about "quality".

The I-Tune kind of singles compilation worked OK, but they were too easy to share and that did not last. So I-Tunes DRM'd the operation to keep the $$ in the house.

That's about it. The companies deserve the $$ for their efforts, but they are willing to spend so much $$ of their own to delay the rip/crack a few days, maybe even weeks. In the process they alienate their fanbase. Then the news comes out and equates every single download to a potential sale (when some people never even play their downloads for some reason) and print the scary "lost revenue" numbers which are full of crap.

I don't think this will be solved any time soon, but I am hoping some of these guys do right and realize that garnering a devoted fanbase is sometimes more important than the first weeks sales numbers.

Paying $40 for a game that you can LAN, paying $20 for a single player, or paying $5 for a DL CD might make people more inclined to shun the free-road.

Sad thing is, I will bet you money that they have already studied this and have found that they make more $$ overall by cranking the price up and making it a PITA for everyone.
October 16, 2007 4:01:27 PM

Wow, that was a lot of typing!!!!

:D 
October 16, 2007 4:39:32 PM

I don't think publishers need to go free with anything, but I think the dimishing value of the product over time should be much more closely followed by reduced price.

Games basically have 3 price points now, many release at the $50-60 range and stay at that for quite a while. Then they drop to about $40 for long time, as well as some games release at this price point. And then after 2 or so years they hit $20 and stay there forever.

Expansions come at too high of a price too. They usually release at most of the cost of a full game, but the majority require the original game to have been purchased and offer considerably less total content for a similar starting price. If they are going to stay at the $30+ price point for an expansion it should include the full original game, or have a cheaper version available to those that already have the original game.

I personally have a very hard time justifying buying a game at more then about $50, so I will generally wait if they are released at that. If it takes too long for it to drop to a reasonable price of $30-40 then its no longer new and great but kind of old and still isn't worth that. So I usually end up not getting the game at all, and if sometime in the future I see it at the $20 price point and I've heard good things about it I will pick it up.

I think the mid range timeframe is when most people that will pirate a game do. They game has matured and less likely to be patched anymore (since patching is a pain with copied software). The game still has some multiplayer following, but its not worth what they are trying to charge for it. At this point too its already obvious if the game was a success or not, and if someone already knows the company made millions off of the game then there it makes it easier to justify pirating the game. They already know the company has made a big profit off the game, they've came out ahead, so its no big deal then to take a little from them.


I think games should hit the $30-40 range about 4 months after release, giving early adopters the join of the game, but still allowing the more budget concious or people not as excited about the game to pay for it while it still has a lot of value left.
I think in the 10-12 month range they drop the price down to $20. Get the last people that were interested in the game but couldn't justify the price.
After 24 months it should drop down to $10 and it can stay there.

I think there should be a way to buy licenses for the game too for less then retail. A friend already has the discs, or you've got it through a digitial distrubution and you want to play the game but since you already have it the box and discs don't offer any value, so they need to make a way for the player to play the game legally that is less of a hassle as hacking the game.
The license cost should follow the same price points curve as mentioned above but be one cost level down. Game releases at $60, but the license is $40 at that time. When the retail price drops to $40 then the license drops to $20. And when the retail drops to $20 and after the license stays at $10.
Consumers will find this a better deal because they aren't paying for anything they don't need such as a pretty box and user manual that will either sit on a shelf or hit the trash soon after its openned and they don't get the DVD, but no one wants to have to have the DVD in the computer while they are playing anyway.

Its actually a much better deal for the publishers too, because the license would be purchased directly from them. It would still require games to be authenticated and tied to a specific user and a specific user account can be active on at least 2, maybe up to 5 PCs. This would cover a laptop and PC, or maybe 2 PCs if roommates, couples, or parents and children have different computers and only one copy of the game. It could be pirated a little bit, but only between 2-3 people and it would only be to people they gave the account information to to activate the game, so its not like its going to spread through the internet to be used by a lot of people. I think that sort of sharing could fairly easily be considered "fair use." The advantage to the publisher/developer is that licenses are puchased directly though them so they get the majority of the money too. They would probably get more money for each sale then they would through normal retail outlets. A game sitting on the shelf of Wal-Mart or Best Buy for $60 is going to have chunks of that going to a lot of different people and they developer probably isn't getting anywhere near the $40 they would get directly in a licensing system.

This would hurt the retailers, but since so much of this sort of thing, movies, games and music, are going to digital distrubtion anyway it would just be accelerating the process. Of course this license system would only really work for games.


I think movies and music need to have a faster devalue curve to them too. CDs and DVDs take too long to drop in price. A 10 year old movie still sells for the same as a brand new movie most of the time. There is a bit of a price difference but it is very minor.
Music is especially bad about that, a CD from an artist will stay at just about the same price forever. Its especially noticable on music from the 60s and 70s, half the artists have retired, even bands where half or all of them are dead their CDs are still selling for just about full price. Even someone that loves the band and wants to help support them knows at this point that virtually nothing from the sale of that CD will go back to the artists if they are still alive to get it or not. These are the cases when the people stealing the music know they aren't harming the artists, and they don't care about the "big business" that is "being hurt" by stealing the music, its plainly obvious to everyone that those companies have already got huge returns on their investment in the bands. In a lot of those cases even the people that took those risks to produce some unheard of band don't even work at the companies anymore.

Of course they are still much more interested in the newer bands and that is where a lot of the pirating comes in, but its an extension of the same situation. You know that the CD may never drop in price, and if its not worth your hard earned money to get it when its still new and fresh, how is it ever going to be worth that when the songs are years old. 6 months after release the bands have already made a lot of money on the CDs, and they usually make a lot more from touring, but that CD that costs 5 cents to make with old material that has already made a lot of money and is being replaced by new material is still the same $16 it was the day of its release.

As a side note to that, of peoples music collections that I see (I'm sure it changes a lot depending on where you are), it seems generally about 30% of the music is 20 years old or more. About 45% of it is 3-8 years old and only a very small amount of it is less then a couple years old. Most of that then is older then when digital distrubution (legally or illegally) had hit mainstream users.
October 16, 2007 5:45:21 PM

the problem with drm is that it offers no motivation for users to pay for the game


the pirate copies of games, have no drm, no need for the dvd to be in the drive, and they are much more editable (for example, need for speed underground 2, i you head into the install folder then delete the intro videos (jerks decided to make it so you cant skip many of the intros), the game wont launch

bu if you use a cracked exe, the game works with no problem.

what is the point of drm is it causes the pirated copies to have a higher value than the paid versions

the only people who suffer the horrors of drm are the legit users who pay for the software, but for the people who just download it from their favorite p2p place, they get a game that works properly with no annoying drm limitations

look at when bioshock came out, the drm caused that game to be pirated more than any other game this year
(why you ask?, the paid version is limited in almost every way, but the free/pirate version, has 100% no drm, no limit to how many times you can install it, no hoops to jump through, no activating and even no installing, just extract the file and it runs perfectly )

if the free/priate is offering all this and the paid versions only offer more hoops to jump through and more limitations, then guess which people would rather have

if you was a race car driver, and 2 groups of people offered to sell you a car, group 1 is a legit place , their car looks nice, but has a electronic speed limiter that limits your cars speed to 145MPH (many passenger cars have this)

but the other group (you are unsure of about how legal they are) was offering the same car for 1/5th the price, no speed limiter so you can reach the cars 185MPH top speed

which would you go for?

what incentive does doe drm filled product offer to the user that will make them want the paid copy over the pirate copy


if microsoft made a new operating system to replace vista, but it had the exact same source code and features as vista, just a different name, would you upgrade to the "new" os? (most people would say no because if offers no incentive to upgrade since it is the same thing just a different name)

pirating will not stop unless an incentive can be offered to going legit because right now, pirated games have more features, there easier to install, and theres no limitations.



have you herd of the term, a bakers dozen?

this was created a long time ago and is a perfect example of the need to offer the right incentives for people to buy your products

a long time ago, bakeries were very common and this lead to competition. at first they would just try to make their prices slightly cheaper than the shop near them, but this all changed when a bakery decided to lower prices then offer 13 for the price of 12. this was a instant profit boost because everyone started to buy from that bakery,

the reason why it is called a bakers dozen is because it was a business strategy that put many other bakeries out of business because they spent time lowering prices to the point where they make very little profit from each item sold, and from their point of view, to offer 13 for the price of 12 with already low prices would be crazy, so they packed up and left.

the only way to sell in a competitive environment is to give the consumer a reason to pick your product over someone else's.

when it comes to material items, the key is to offer more for less money,

for software, the pirates are winning because the key it to make software convenient

computers were made to make out lives easier, but computers cant do that if the software on it is too frustrating to use

drm makes software frustrating to use but pirate copies offer much more freedom in the use of the software

________________________-


the reason why radiohead is doing this is because they are moving more money from the pay what you think it's worth method

there not going through any middle man so they get 100% of the profit (most artist only get a tiny bit of the money the cd actually gets them )

also there many people who don't like to steal but they also don't like giving giving 2 arms and 4 legs (2 of which they don't have) just to buy 1 item

theres 1 candy I really like, (Hershey cookie and cream) since the price increased by 10 cents, I don't buy it anymore but if it could go down to like 50 cents, I would probably buy like 50 of them (even though 50 of them would cost more, i would still do it because the price is good and they will last me a while; the sad part is that it costs the company less than 1 cent to make 1 bar)
the same goes with many other items and this is also why the "bakers dozen" used to work (until the 13th item was included into the price by slowly increasing the price)


radiohead also know that no one will even think of buying anything from you if you don't offer an incentive.
if you go to NY you will usually see people trying to sell you a demo cd, i usually feel like yelling at them because they want $5-8 for the cd and I'm like, I never even herd of you, for all I know, it could be you humming a tune you herd but barely remember (now if it was free, things would turn out different)



it is a fact that the world runs on business, and anyone who knows anything about business knows that if you want to sell something, you have to make your product better than your competitors, DRM only makes your product worst compared to your competitors as DRM also goes against all natural human emotions and instincts.
All animals want freedom, if you put a dog in a cage, then put that cage in a much larger one then make a opening on the smaller cage, you can bet the dog will go into the larger one as the larger one is less limited compared to the smaller one (and you will get the same results for what ever animal you put in the small cage)

a long time ago in American history, alcohol was banned, days later, buildings called "speakeasy's" were created, these buildings were illegal but they were rarely shutdown because the police drank in them every night
people don't like to be limited, when people are limited, speakeasies are created (in web terms, P2P)
October 17, 2007 6:21:24 PM

Not only the DRM stuff but Steam is terrible. It typically requires older drivers for your video card, sound card etc. It only works with a specific configuration. I have yet to load steam on a machine and had it work right away. I have always had to load drivers unload drivers, or alter the registry to get it working. IT sucks. Not as badly as Ubisoft and their port of double agent though. Really though it does make one want to just download the hacked DRM free software.
October 17, 2007 6:33:46 PM

i wonder how much it costs the game developers to add that DRM copy protection to their games,

they should just save that money instead

whats the point of probably paying thousands, to millions to add a protection that is broken in less than one day

all it is doing is annoying the legit people (it would be easier to add the normal cd required protection, all other protection is useless, for many games I have seen keygens for serials come out in less than 5 hours when a game is released ( the keygen comes out in the middle of the night, by morning everyone can awake to a cracked game)

steam is completely useless and a waste of memory and cpu cycles to even have running
!