Linux Game Publishing, a U.K.-based publisher that specializes in porting games to the Linux platform, has angered many of its users with the introduction of a new copy protection scheme that will require an always-on internet connection.

The company, also known as LGP, has avoided the use of copy protection in its games since its founding in 2001. But according to an article on Phoronix, the upcoming port of the 2004 action-RPG Sacred: Gold will break that trend by implementing an internet-based loop-back protection scheme.

Under the system, users will be able to install the games on as many systems as they like, but will be unable to launch them without first providing a valid key and password. This information will then be checked and verified against LGP’s servers before the game will launch. The system will “make allowances” for gamers who have limited internet access, but at some point a connection will be required in order to keep the game running.

The scheme will allow a single key to be used across multiple systems, but each game will require its own unique key and password. Many users are said to be angered by the intrusiveness of the new system, but LGP plans to incorporate the protection into all its future releases, a move made necessary, according to CEO Michael Simms, by the rampant “casual copying” of the company’s games.

“Trust me, I don’t like it, I’m not happy about it, but we have to do this,” Simms said. “I’ve fought for six years against the need for any kind of protection system and all that’s happened is that for every legitimate copy of an LGP game out there, there are probably 3-4 pirated copies. That’s the difference between success and failure.”

“I’ve spent two years planning the key system to make sure it is not restrictive to legitimate users while providing a good level of security,” he added. “No system is perfect, and we don’t expect to be able to beat the hex editor experts who can compile code in their head. The goal is to reduce the amount of casual copying. The system works hard to avoid locking out legitimate users, at the expense of keeping the game more secure.”

Simms described a situation in which the company uploaded a deliberately-bugged copy of one of its games to a file-sharing system that was already carrying a functional copy of the game in order to “dilute” the number of users who were downloading it. He said that over the following few weeks, the company sold roughly 30 copies of the game, and received 20 emails reporting crashes caused by the bug. “Assuming even if everyone that downloaded the game reported the bug (and that is highly unlikely), then almost as many downloads as sales happened – just from one system,” Simms said. “It is more likely that many people didn’t report it, and more people downloaded from the dozens of other file-sharing systems, and that means more people downloaded than buying.”

“We aren’t doing this to pillage the last few pounds we can from a game,” he added. “I’m saying this is being done to try and ensure we can make games into the future.”

A full statement from Linux Game Publishing on the necessity of the new copy protection system can be read here.

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