Gaming Snafu Latest In Series Of DRM Flubs

Digital rights management software created another fiasco for a gaming company this week, when some fans of the PC version of Epic Games' "Gears of War" found themselves unable to play.

Apparently, the game's certificate expired on Jan. 28, and the only way people could continue playing was to reset their computers' clocks to an earlier date, Ars Technica reports.

While players managed to find a workaround, this snafu isn't the only instance of digital rights management software causing problems. In the past, a bungled attempt by Sony to bundle anti-piracy software with music CDs resulted in the company agreeing to pay $1.5 million to settle spyware charges.

Meanwhile, at least three digital music retailers -- Wal-Mart, Yahoo and MSN -- recently said they intended to stop supporting the digital rights management software that was bundled with tracks they sold. The moves led to outcry by digital rights group and all three companies reversed their decisions -- at least for now.

In the gaming world, Electronic Arts was sued last year over the game "Spore," which came with digital rights management software prohibiting users from installing the game on more than three computers. One allegation was that company hadn't informed consumers about the anti-piracy software and its limits in advance.

If digital rights management software actually prevented piracy, companies' continued use of it might be understandable. But there's no indication that sophisticated pirates are even slowed down by the programs. Law-abiding consumers, on the other hand, can end up stuck with games they can't play and music they can't listen to as a result of digital rights management programs.

With complaints mounting, the Federal Trade Commission is gearing up for a conference about digital rights management on March 25 in Seattle. One of the issues up for discussion is whether companies need to do a better job at informing consumers about digital rights management and its limitations.

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2 comments about "Gaming Snafu Latest In Series Of DRM Flubs".
  1. Elizabeth Rhys from KTS , January 30, 2009 at 6:38 p.m.

    It's great to see that something is finally being done to stop these companies from abusing their customers. Maybe I'll buy Sims 3 if EA is prevented from installing that malware in the game. As it is I am through with the Sims until EA shows that it has respect for me as a customer.

  2. John Gunn from Aladdin , January 31, 2009 at 7:03 p.m.

    Blocking access to a game is not good business. Clearly, more needs to be done to require companies to disclose their DRM policies. Still, I would be cautious to label a few incidences as a series of snafus. DRM is necessary for the survival of content creators http://www.aladdin.com/SoftwarePiracyBlog/default.aspx It just has to work for everyone, every time, which is really not such a big challenge