Ubisoft's new always on Internet connection DRM hasn't won any fans here at Max PC, but we do applaud the company for at least taking a stab (pun intended) at making amends to paying customers who were shut out because of a DRM server attack.
The game company wrote registered customers; "Following the recent temporary game server outages which may have caused disruption to some Assassin's Creed 2 players on PC only, we would like to reward your patience if you have experienced any problems by offering you some additional content - previously only available with special editions."
The special edition content was previously exclusive to those who ordered the Black Edition of the game, but apparently some users are now reporting that Ubisoft is even giving the option to trade up to a free game. Examples given include Hawx, Heros Over Europe, EndWar, Shaun White's Snowboarding or Prince of Persia.
It's not as good as offering to patch out the DRM, but is this peace offering enough for you to forgive Ubisoft?
The Ubisoft DRM situation has been covered to death, but it's like a train wreck we just can't seem to look away from. The latest news comes out of Europe and is reporting that the DRM authentication servers have been down all day, and have yet to return.
"I don't have any clear information on what the issue is ... but clearly the extended downtime and lengthy login issues are unacceptable, particularly as I've been told these servers are constantly monitored," said 'Ubi.Vigil', adding, "I'll do what I can to get more information on what the issue is here first thing tomorrow and push for a resolution and assurance this won't happen in the future."
North American customers don't seem to be affected by the outage, but it clearly validates all the negative press and comments this DRM approach has been generating across the Internet. PC Gamers across the globe are united for the first time in history, too bad it wasn't under better circumstances.
We've tossed around some pretty harsh criticisms of Ubisoft's new PC DRM approach, and it's very much deserved. Piracy is a tricky issue to combat, we get it, but we also know that no amount of DRM will ever stop the dedicated few kleptomaniacs who for one reason or another, simply refuse to pay for software. The only truth when it comes to copy protection is that the stronger it is, the more honest customers you will accidentally burn with it. This isn't anything we haven't said before, but it's ironic how all of our predictions seem to be coming true.
According to ZDnet a version of Assassin's Creed 2 sans DRM has appeared on Bit Torrents, and the date confirms it took a mere 24 hours to defuse Ubisoft's DRM of mass destruction. If this version works as advertised, it would leave the gimped version in the hands of paying customers who will needlessly be forced to suffer through another failed attempt at heavy handed copy protection. Its hard to gauge if all the bad press is having any impact on Assassin's Creed II's sales, but a quick peek at the Steam player stats ranks the game in 29th place, just below the original Day of Defeat (a game released 7 years ago).
The best way to vote against this type of behavior is with your wallet, not your Bit Torrent client, but perhaps the evolving reality of the situation will force Ubisoft to take action and release a patch for its loyal patrons.
Let’s face it, for hackers digital rights management (DRM) protections are a challenge that can’t be passed up. Not just because of the notoriety hacking a DRM brings, but because DRMs are so darned easy to crack--sort of the cybercrime version of wolves culling the weak from the heard. Case-in-point, the Israeli hacker “Labba”, with a little help from his friends, has cracked the DRM that protects ebooks on the Kindle.
The DRM for Kindle content is intended to keep what’s sold for the Kindle on the Kindle. Labba and his cohorts weren’t too keen on the restriction, and have hacked the DRM so that Kindle ebooks are converted into an open format, allowing PDF versions to be produced. Once in PDF format, the ebook can be moved to any number of electronic devices.
It’s a good bet that Amazon isn’t too pleased by this, and will move to ‘repair’ the DRM for Kindle ebooks. Which, of course, starts but another round of fox-and-hare with hackers. Given the rising popularity of the Kindle, it’s a game that might go on for some time to come.
It’s not as daft as it sounds. Henrik Anderson, a Danish citizen, turned himself into police, confessing he had broken Danish anti-piracy laws by breaking the Digital Rights Management (DRM) on more than one hundred legally purchased DVDs. He did so because he wants some clarification. It seems, under Danish law, it’s okay to copy, and at same time not okay to copy.
Danish law allows the owner digital media to make private, non-commercial copies of works they own. And, it prohibits owners from making such copies without the rightholder’s consent if the copying circumvents DRM.
Anderson initially sought clarification from the Danish anti-piracy outfit Antipiratgruppen: was he a criminal or not? Antipiratgruppen never got back to Anderson on whether he would be prosecuted, so he took, for him, the next logical step: he turned himself in. Anderson wants a trial so the law can be clearly established.
Anderson may have a broader motive here--drawing attention both to the inconsistency in the law, and to the matter of whose rules he should be following: the laws of Denmark or the dictates of the lawyers for the companies whose DRM is being circumvented.
The general consensus among consumers is that DRM sucks, and the often draconian measures used to prevent copyright infringement do very little, if anything, to prevent software piracy. The argument is that DRM only shackles the honest consumer, while pirates figure ways around the copyright schemes regardless. But could DRM also be giving otherwise law-abiding citizens cause to cross the legal line?
That's exactly what DRM is doing, according to the first empirical study of its kind in the UK. In a new paper titled, "Technological accommodation of conflicts between freedom of expression and DRM: the first empirical assessment." Cambridge law professor Patricia Akester says she spent the last several years interviewing lecturers, end users, government officials, rights holders, and DRM developers to see what affect DRM was actually having.
In one example, Akester cited a situation in which a blind person who bought a legal electronic copy of the Bible from Amazon could not utilize text-to-speech. Amazon's policy is not to refund eBooks once they've been downloaded, and the publisher proved little help. Seemingly out of options, Lynn Holdsworth, the individual in question, ended up tracking down an illegal copy without the text-to-speech limitation. Not exactly what one envisions as the typical pirate.
You can read Akester's lengthy paper here, or view the shorter version here.
"The power of the DMCA compels you! The power of the DMCA compels you!" That was essentially the mantra muttered by Amazon, who invoked the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to convince MobileRead.com to remove instructions on how to use a hack to circumvent DRM on the Kindle eBook reader.
"Although we never hosted this tool (contrary to their claim), nor believe that this tool is used to remove technological measures (contrary to their claim), we decided, due to the vagueness of the DMCA law and our intention to remain in good relation with Amazon, to voluntarily follow their request and remove links and detailed instructions related to it.," MobileRead.com forum moderator Alexander Turcic said in a post.
The hack involved a small Python script called kindlepid.py, which ultimately made it possible for Kindle owners who followed the site's instructions to be able to read books legally purchased from other e-book stores on the Kindle. MobileRead.com neither created nor hosted the 'offending' script, but posting a tutorial was enough to draw the legal ire of Amazon, who threatened the site with a lawsuit if it didn't "immediately remove" information relating to the computer utility.
Much has been made in the media over Spore's DRM scheme, which now limits gamers to five activations (recently pushed up from three activations amid an intense internet backlash). By and large, Electronic Arts has caught most of the criticism for saddling Spore with a modified version of SecuROM, arguably the most hated form of DRM in the gaming community. But should some of the ire be directed at Will Wright as well?
"It was something I probably should have tuned into more," Wright told Jim Reilly from Kotaku.com. "It was a corporate decision to go with DRM on Spore. They had a plan and the parameters, but now we're allowing more authentications and working with players to de-authenticate, which makes it more in line with iTunes. I think one of the most valid concerns about it was you could only install it so many times. For most players it's not an issue, it's a pretty small percentage, but some people do like wiping their hard disk and installing it 20 times or they want to play it 10 years later."
Take from that what you will. While it sounds like Wright has been drinking some of John Riccitiello's Kool-Aid, who recently downplayed DRM with claims that it's only an issue for 0.2 percent of gamers, at least Wright acknowledges the other side of the coin, which is that gamers tend to be enthusiasts who frequently change around their system.
Does EA deserve all the blame on this one? Hit the jump and let us know what you think.
If you're a game publisher, what do you do when one of your most anticipated titles sparks an internet backlash over its DRM scheme resulting in thousands of Amazon user 'reviews' contributing to an abysmal 1.5 star rating with mostly vile comments, a cracked copy being made available since day 1, and encouragement from some to pirate the game as a form of protest? If you're EA, you rub salt in the wound while it's still fresh.
During an Q&A session at the Dow Jones/Nielson Media and Money Conference, EA Games CEO John Riccitiello downplayed all of the above with claims that the majority of gamers aren't bothered by DRM.
"We implemented a form of DRM and it's something that 99.8 percent of users wouldn't notice," Riccitiello said. "But for the other 0.2 percent, it became an issue and a number of them launched a cabal online to protest against it."
To be fair, EA didn't cast a completely deaf ear to the outcries and increased the number of allowable activations from three to five PCs. But that makes it all the more curious why Riccitiello would seemingly taunt gamers after throwing them bone.
Do you agree with Riccitiello in that the majority of gamers wouldn't have noticed the DRM scheme had a minority not protested so loudly, or do you view this as a slap in face? Hit the jump and sound off.
If you bought music from Walmart.com before February 2008 (when Walmart.com started selling MP3 music), your ability to move music files from PC to PC has a very short shelf life. How short? Try October 9, 2008. That's the date that Walmart.com will shut down the DRM servers that control your ability to play non-MP3 music purchased from Walmart.com.
After 10/9/2008, you won't be able to move your music to another computer or access the songs on your system if you upgrade to another operating system or reinstall your current OS after a crash or to refresh its bits and bytes.
Fortunately, there's a bit of good news. While there's no way to extend the shelf life of that half-gallon of milk you lost a month ago in the back of your refridgerator, Walmart "strongly recommend[s] that you back up your songs by burning them to a recordable audio CD. By backing up your songs, you will be able to access them from any personal computer."
It's almost enough to make you agree with BoingBoing's Cory Doctorow, who posted Walmart.com's message (excerpted above) and added this rejoinder:
Boy, the entertainment industry sure makes a good case for ripping them off, huh? Buy your media and risk having it confiscated by a DRM-server shutdown. Take it for free and keep it forever.
My answer? I buy CDs and rip them myself. What's yours? Hit the jump for your chance to sound off.