EA has been hit with two new class action lawsuits focusing on the company's ongoing use of the controversial SecuROM DRM software.
The first suit, actually filed on October 14, alleges that the Spore Creature Creator Free Trial Edition "secretly installed a Digital Rights Management software program" on the computers of everyone who installed the demo. "The inclusion of undisclosed, secretly installed DRM protection measures with a program that was freely distributed constitutes a major violation of computer owners' absolute right to control what does and what does not get loaded onto their computers, and how their computers shall be used," the suit says.
The lawsuit claims that EA has engaged in "deceptive and unlawful conduct in designing, marketing, distributing a computer game demo that contains undisclosed and unconsented to Digital Rights Management technology," and seeks restitution including (but certainly not limited to) "actual damages, statutory damages, punitive or treble damages," along with all "unlawful or illegal profits" generated as a result of EA's deceptive conduct.
The second lawsuit, filed on October 27, similarly claims that The Sims 2: Bon Voyage expansion pack installed SecuROM on the plaintiff's computer, without warning or consent and without offering an option to remove the software once it's installed. Following the installation of the expansion, the plaintiff began experiencing computer problems: Sims 2 content she had previously backed up to CD could no longer be read, and she could no longer access her USB flash drive or iPod, both of which were reported by her PC as being empty.
The suit claims that this installation "violates key consumer principles set for by the Federal Trade Commission," and also seeks damages and restitution, as well as an order "enjoining EA from the further sale of games bundled with SecuROM unless accompanied by an adequate disclosure and reasonable way to uninstall SecuROM."
Whether or not these suits have any hope of succeeding is a question for the lawyers (and if you're a lawyer, feel free to let us know what you think) but if nothing else they're evidence of the growing intolerance for intrusive copy protection schemes like those EA seems so enamored with. With luck, even if they're quickly dismissed the lawsuits will serve as a wake-up call for executives who have thus far handled the company's DRM efforts with a shocking degree of indifference and ineptitude. I don't particularly care about SecuROM - I firmly believe that companies have the right to protect their intellectual property as they see fit, and to drive themselves out of business in the process - but EA's strategy of slipping it in the back door while pretending nobody notices just isn't working for anyone.