Tom Rhodes | 17 Apr 2007 12:04
Yarr! - RSS 2.0

There was something curious that happened during the Apple/EMI announcement: Steve Jobs, founder and head of Apple, had to back-peddle a bit. Asked by a questioner whether Jobs would now advocate for DRM-free videos, like those from Disney, of which he owns a major stake, he responded, "Video is pretty different than music right now because the video industry does not distribute 90 percent of their content DRM free; never has, and so I think they are in a pretty different situation and so I wouldn't hold the two in parallel at all."

This is a change from his "Thoughts on Music" letter where he stated, pointblank, "DRMs haven't worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy." Same for video, Steve - both Blu-ray and HD-DVD, two formats built with DRM in mind, have recently been cracked.

But what about games? Game-makers have been some of the ones most concerned with piracy, and have often implemented very complex and onerous systems in order to try and prevent it. The nastiest of which is StarForce, which Allen Varney covered in great depth in a past issue. To summarize, StarForce, a product of some dark PC magic in Russia, created great problems for gamers, sometimes making their CD/DVD drives utterly useless. The copy protection dug its claws into their systems and refused to let go. And the company that produces it, Protection Technology, is quite sleazy. When Galactic Civilizations 2 went without DRM or copy protection of any kind, PT railed against them for being foolish and even posted links from torrent networks that could let people illegally download it.

Thankfully, most companies shirk using StarForce nowadays but are still left with trying to make DRM work for them. Valve tied Half-Life 2 to their Steam platform, requiring an online activation before people could play it. Often Steam wouldn't load, or it would take an interminable amount of time to auto-update. Despite the protection, however, HL2 arrived on the P2P and torrent networks the day of release, available without the restriction of Steam.

Looking up similarly protected games, like those with StarForce, turned up the same type of situation. Despite what the developers are trying, it hasn't worked.

I sympathize with them, I really do. Working in film and music, I understand how difficult it can be to see something you slaved over for months or years be distributed freely without your consent. On this, James DeLong and I see eye to eye: If you want to play it, listen to it or watch it, you should pay for it. While there's a certain satisfaction in giving the finger to The Man, you're also giving that finger to everyone who works under him. Even then, there usually isn't a Man to battle, because you're harming indie studios and directors. Having worked on several film sets in different capacities, I know what a complicated, expensive and taxing endeavor it can be. To see all that time and energy disappear in a melange of torrents is heartbreaking.

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