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.
We love Assassin’s Creed II. It’s a fantastic game that actually lives up to all the promise its predecessor fell just short of.
Its DRM, however, manages to undo all that good will and then some.
We weren’t entirely sold on Ubisoft’s new “anti-piracy plan” when the publisher ran it by us last month, but little did we know that we were witnessing the birth of DRM so sinister that we’re now petitioning to have the guy that created SecuROM canonized.
Here’s how it works (as discovered by the fine folks at PC Gamer UK): as you’re already aware, the DRM requires an Internet connection to authenticate your game. As you weren’t already aware, it requires that Internet connection at all times. Constantly. The second you lose that connection for whatever reason, even for a second – be it a faulty wireless signal, a clumsy roommate, or a fried server on Ubisoft’s end – your game goes dark, you lose all unsaved progress, and you’re locked out of the game until you resolve your connection issue.
We’re reminded, at this point, of an old Internet saying: DO NOT WANT.
Ubisoft’s also afflicting the DRM upon Settlers 7. We weren’t actually planning on purchasing Settlers 7 in the first place, and – shockingly enough – this hasn’t done anything to change our minds.
Is this a joke, Ubisoft? Because we’re not seeing the punchline. That is, unless you burst out laughing every time hundreds of thousands of pirates cause you to lose millions of dollars.
Many people had a bit of hope after the iPad announcement that Apple would take an enlightened view of copy protection on the platform’s iBookstore. The device will support the open EPUB format, but now we’re hearing that the store will utilize Apple’s FairPlay digital rights management solution. This system was used mainly on music in the past, but now is relegated to other iTunes content.
Many publishers are expected to employ the DRM on their ebooks, but some more enlightened publishers may opt out. Apple hasn’t had much to say on the matter just yet. We might not be surprised by this, but we certainly hoped Apple would take a stand here. Apple did manage to talk music labels into dropping DRM, so why go this route with books? It could be that Apple is willing to appease publishers in order to get a chunk of the market even if it means going down the same road they did with music.
So, in a few years will we see Steve Jobs write an open letter about his “thoughts on books”? How does this sit with you? Should Apple be pushing for a DRM free books store? Do you feel differently about DRM on books than you do about DRM on music or movies?
Yeah, sure, “always-connected anti-piracy plan” is just a tongue-twisting maze of exec-speak for “different DRM,” but the devil’s in the details, so let’s see what Ubisoft’s got cooking.
In a nutshell, the publisher’s new anti-piracy measures aim to disarm DRM’s more troubling aspects, removing install limits altogether and allowing you to play without a disc in the tray. Also of note: cloud saves. For the uninitiated, this means that your game saves can be stored remotely on Ubisoft’s servers, which – while a fairly prominent feature these days – is still 12 different flavors of cool.
So, are you feeling sufficiently buttered up? Because here comes the letdown. See, there’s one major string attached, and if you disconnect that string, then you can kiss your gaming time goodbye. It’s the Internet, and you’ll be required to connect to it in order for Ubisoft to authenticate your game. Despite the restrictive nature of that limitation, however, the publisher doesn’t seem too worried.
"We think most people are going to be fine with it. Most people are always connected to an Internet connection," said Brent Wilkinson, Director, Customer Service and Production Planning at Ubisoft.
Which is mostly true, but we’ve been known to game on-the-go from time-to-time, and – unfortunately – where our laptops go, the Internet does not always follow. Maybe it’s just nitpicking on our parts, but still: until someone thinks up a one-size-fits-all anti-piracy measure – one that leaves little-to-no room for griping or outright dissatisfaction -- piracy’s not going anywhere.
The first BioShock is memorable for a number of reasons: beautiful, haunting environments, some of the nuttiest characters videogames have ever seen, “would you kindly?,” and – oh yeah – some seriously restrictive SecuROM DRM. Fortunately, there are other fish in the sea, and the prospects for one of them – BioShock 2, specifically – are looking up.
“There will be no SecuROM install limits for either the retail or digital editions of BioShock 2, and SecuROM will be used only to verify the game’s executable and check the date. Beyond that, we are only using standard Games for Windows Live non-SSA guidelines, which, per Microsoft, comes with 15 activations (after that, you can reset them with a call to Microsoft.),” community manager Elizabeth Tobey explained on the game’s official website.
Need a better idea of what you’re in for? Think Batman: Arkham Asylum, which keeps the caped crusader’s all-too-important tech from falling into the wrong hands with a very similar DRM setup.
“Feedback like this does not go unheard, and while this might not be the ideal protection for everyone, we will continue to listen and work with you in the future when formulating our DRM plans,” Tobey added.
Baby steps, sure, but they're much appreciated nonetheless.
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.
Some German movie goers were a little disappointed yesterday when faulty DRM caused major issues in their advanced screening of Avatar in 3D. The special 3D version was delivered to a number of cinemas in Germany, but some of them were unable to decode the files. The overtly draconian system relies on multiple certificates and time-sensitive keys from online servers to decode 150GB of 3D information. It would seem that it’s that 3rd dimension they really want to protect, the other two not so much.
The employees tried for several hours to get the system to work, but they eventually gave up and showed the 2D version instead. When asked about the incident Oliver Fock, general manager of CineStar Group said, “We regret the failures and the associated discomfort, but we are confident that we will be able to play the premiere both in 2D and in 3D.” It does appear that the system has been worked out and the house of cards that is the 3D DRM scheme is currently functioning in the cinemas.
The first Managed Copy enabled Blu-Ray disks will be hitting store shelves soon, unfortunately, it will be well ahead of any hardware that can make use of it. For those that haven’t heard of Managed Copy, it is a system that allows you to make legal copies of Blu-Ray disks, but spawned versions of the content are very heavily protected by DRM. Any user trying to play the copied version needs to contact the studios DRM servers which decide if you can watch it, and even how many times it can be copied.
Dedicated Blu-Ray hardware isn’t expected to implement this feature anytime soon, but PC jukebox software will likely be available within the next few months to take advantage of the fact that all disks sold after December 4th will need to be compliant. It remains to be seen if this is true of just new releases, or if the entire back catalog of Blu-Ray disks will eventually be updated. Either way, expect it to be a confusing mess until packaging updates roll along in the Spring.
Many wonder if Managed Copy will satisfy consumers ever increasing demands to “liberate” their digital content from the medium, but consumers historically haven’t embraced solutions that trade one DRM implementation for another. This is especially true when competing technologies such as those from Slysoft accomplishes the same thing, and without any additional usage restrictions.
Want to learn more about HD Video Encryption? Check out our White Paper for the low down.
Microsoft has been granted a patent for a new type of DRM that works over p2p-style networks. By using public/private encryption keys, it could be used to reinvigorate p2p as a legitimate source of content. The patent explains, "Partial licenses are combinable to form a formal license that may be utilized to output the content."
With centralized content repositories, like iTunes, increasingly moving away from DRM, is there a place for this technology? Consumers are savvier than they were when the patent was requested in 2003. The idea of DRM on purchased content is definitely waning. However, the day may come when a legal version of p2p exists utilizing this technology. If that happens, Microsoft could be in a very good position. Could this even have implications for the Zune service? Could there be a bandwidth saving version that uses p2p?
DRM protection has been a bone of contention between content owners and anti-DRM activists. The latter party’s contentions seem to be becoming quite popular with content providers, with many music download services, including the august iTunes, opting for DRM-free music. However, DRM hasn’t been eliminated as a lot of downloadable content, including streaming/downloadable videos and streaming music, is still fettered by DRM protection.
“We reject the view that copyright owners and their licensees are required to provide consumers with perpetual access to creative works. No other product or service providers are held to such lofty standards. No one expects computers or other electronics devices to work properly in perpetuity, and there is no reason that any particular mode of distributing copyrighted works should be required to do so,” he wrote in a missive addressed to the Copyright Office’s top legal advisor.
It is quite unrealistic to expect online stores to perpetually maintain their DRM servers. But it is ludicrous to assume that shutting down of an authentication server or the whole online store is reason enough for the user to surrender his ownership rights.