Saturday, October 13, 2007

F*** Electronic Arts

So, Electronic Arts is the company behind much of PC gaming. They have an odd habit of buying up good game companies, and then leaching the name and developers to death, but that's not really what this is about. A recent flap has started about EA's move to SecuRom with the latest version of the Sims.

What does SecuRom have to do with anything? Well, on it's most basic level, SecuRom is a utility that makes it difficult to copy a CD in a usable form. And with that, EA is now installing 3rd party software without notifying users. This isn't exactly uncommon, most major vendors use one copy protection scheme or another. But, installing these tools is, I would argue, is unethical.

SecuROM is manufactured by a subsidiary of a company that has already revealed it has no qualms about installing harmful software on customer's computers: Sony. In 2005, Sony distributed music CDs, that if placed in the user's computer, would install software opening the user to remote access.

For a recounting of the Sony root kit scandal, check out Wikipedia:

The companies would argue that this software protects their revenue stream. I wonder how - copy protection software like this CAN and IS circumvented.

If you really wanted, any of the major games out there have been "hacked" to run already, or you can follow directions to make low level copies (the limitation being that you can't use those copies in a CDR drive..) So, if I want an illegal copy of the Sims, I can download it - provided I don't mind dealing with a few less than reputable groups. One might note, that as copyright infringement is ALREADY illegal, not much changed.

Which, begs the question, why does EA use this software?

The 'kind' answer is that management has its head up its ass. In any case, I can't escape the simple truth that 99.9% of users won't be able to make and use backup copies of game disks with this software, and that means if the CD is drawn on with a permanent marker by the toddler, or eaten by the dog, etc... they'll be stuck paying for a replacement disk (and dealing with EA directly), or (more likely) just heading to the store and buying another copy of the game. So,

Companies should be required to do 2 things -

#1 - Companies should not be allowed to install software on your computer that you don't know about - PERIOD. SecuROM, SafeDisk, et al are only the tip of the iceberg here. The problem has gotten so bad, that Microsoft and other companies, now provide tools to remove the software that other companies bundle with their apps, and install, not letting you know.

#2 - The packaging of software - IE, the box - should be required to include a clear marker that indicates what additional software that would be installed.

In all reality, while the low level nature of SecuROM can cause serious problems for your computer (leading even to a reinstall), it usually works just fine. The more disturbing thing to me, is that companies see the need to include this software when it's been proven ineffective against the people it's "defending" against anyway.

The disgusting thing here, is that Electronic Arts, and Sony, are removing a basic grant from the same copyright laws that they are using to license and prevent unauthorized distribution -

US CODE 117 -

(a) Making of Additional Copy or Adaptation by Owner of Copy.— Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, it is not an infringement for the owner of a copy of a computer program to make or authorize the making of another copy or adaptation of that computer program provided:
(1) that such a new copy or adaptation is created as an essential step in the utilization of the computer program in conjunction with a machine and that it is used in no other manner, or
(2) that such new copy or adaptation is for archival purposes only and that all archival copies are destroyed in the event that continued possession of the computer program should cease to be rightful.

Of course, the DMCA effectively voids that portion of the law...

In the end though, I'm glad that some people are getting it - there is a reason why the honor system works. So now, we see one of the primary advocates of this kind of technology, the music industry, selling music files on and Apple iTunes without any lock downs.

Come on, EA, shouldn't you be ahead of the old farts in suits? I thought you were supposed to be cool...

Still, life continues on as usual, and this will probably be disregarded as just another nerd's rant anyway....


Clyde said...

I was one of those who bought this. I've also been reading that SecuRom was included on BioShock, and unknown to those who bought it, it limited them to exactly two installs. (It has since been upped to five, but if you had already used up the two before they upped it, you're still screwed.)
But if you know anything about gaming, you also know that the more complex the game is, the more difficulty it may be to get a good installation, often requiring more than one installation attempt. This is why many of the purchasers of Bioshock (PC VERSION) are so angry. They had already used up their two installations.

There's also another reason why they won't be up front and tell you when you buy the product that it will install SecuRom. They know that many (me included)will leave the product on the store shelf to collect dust, especially more savvy computer users in the gaming community. There is no word yet as to whether the

For weeks EA Games pulled a Sony, and denied continually that there was a problem, until the evidence became so overwhelming that it was. And all of this was so unnecessary because those who purchase the Sims 2 and its expansion packs have been some of the most loyal purchasers of their video games. So of course, only those who brought the game legitimately are the ones being screwed because the day the game was released, there was already a pirated version on the internet. So much for appreciating your customers. But despite having purchased the game, I already had figured out that the customer was always the least concerns of EA Games, falling somewhere below the guy cleaning the executive washrooms.

I've bought my last EA Game it would seem, as have quite a few others.

Janet said...

yeah, this is HUGE in the Sims community.

EA really fucked themselves with this one.