Monday, October 29, 2012

DRM in games, closed source software

Digital Rights Management, almost by definition, is always closed source software--meaning you cannot inspect the code that is running on your computer.  Never forget that the "rights" being enforced are the "rights" perceived as belonging to the distributor of the content--not your rights.  In fact, they are actively hostile even to your existing fair use rights.

I'm thinking about that again because this weekend I bought a copy of Battlefield 3.  It's the first game I've bought in several years, since I started working on my own big game.  One of the reasons I started making my own game was because I was profoundly bored with all the new big games coming out, and so I wanted to make the game I wanted to play.  So my lack of motivation to buy games had a deep base.

But in any case, they've been coming a long way in areas like graphics and character modeling, etc. and I decided it was time to check out one of the recent big hits, and I've always been a fan of the Battlefield series.  In fact, my own game is, what I like to think of, as Battlefield on acid. :-)

So I went and bought a copy and as I was opening it up it hit me like a thunderclap--"why the fuck did I buy this?".  I hate Electronic Arts--they are a famously nasty company, and these days I vote with my pocketbook.  They do a lot of douchey things like let you purchase game upgrades that give you an advantage in the game (after you've already dropped $50 on the game), and they treat their employees like shit.  In our so called pure capitalistic society where the people are "consumers" instead of "customers", EA getting away with this sort of behavior only encourages it.  So I don't want to give them any money.

It's not like I don't know how to pirate shit.

And in any case, I seriously doubt I'll play it much, and even more, I do NOT trust the big game companies these days with Administrator access to my computer, especially on Windows.  It is extremely difficult/impossible to monitor what an application is doing on Windows (while many tools are built into Linux for this), and so I simply don't trust them (and there are numerous historical reasons to not trust DRM schemes).

So I started wondering how piracy was working these days with the much more aggressive DRM schemes (which "phone home", making piracy more challenging).  So I toodled over to the Pirate Bay and found this:

And I started reading the description--generally pirates will have a short description--which you must follow to the letter--to implement their crack.  And I saw this curious comment:

"As usual we recommend firewalling the main executable, not using Origin, and
avoiding EA.

I'm still not sure what they mean by "firewalling" here, but what caught my attention was "Origin".  I did a little googling and discovered it's basically EA's Steam-like service for buying games.

So basically what they are saying here is that, since you don't know what Origin will do on your computer, it might find the pirated version of the game.

Because, of course, Origin might just be scanning your entire computer.

And this is what I mean when I say that Digital Rights Management protects the perceived "rights" of the distributor--including the right to poke into every nook and cranny of your computer, combing through your personal data, personal pictures, finances, etc. in pursuit of their rights.  And it pisses all over your rights.

Run Linux.  Don't buy stuff with invasive DRM in it.

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