Authorization Servers

 By Shamus May 27, 2008 61 comments

Last night I posted the following to the Hothead Games forums in regard to the recently-released Penny Arcade game. I apologize for some of the colorful language it contains. (Warning: The following contains colorful language.) Earlier in that same thread one of the Hothead guys assured fans that they “were not trying to be dicks” with their DRM scheme, and I used the same language in my reply. At any rate, the requirement for online activation is still a sore spot with me, and I was hoping to tease some information out of them about their intentions. My post:

In the past year I’ve (re)played X-Com (MicroProse, 1993), Descent (Parallax Software, 1995) and System Shock 2 (Looking Glass Studios, 1999). Several notable things about these game companies:

1. They were awesome.
2. They are gone.
3. I can still play their games.

I want to own a copy of RSPOD for my very own, ideally by exchanging money for it according to the long-established customs. (i.e. buying stuff.) I know Hothead has, in this very thread, set down informal assurances that if they ever join the Choir Invisible they will be sure to remove the online check before doing so. A noble sentiment, although it would mean I would have to await the demise of the company before I truly took full possession that which I ostensibly already owned.

In the interest of allaying the fears of those of us who don tinfoil haberdashery, can you comment on any of the following:

1) I know there will be a retail version at some point. Will that version be unfettered by the need for online activation? If so, I will be happy to buy that when the time comes. I would even be willing to pay extra, particularly if (and I realize this is woefully old-fashioned) I will get a box in which to keep my acquisition.

2) Would you perhaps be willing to remove the check at some fixed point in time which does not require the unfortunate quietus of your entire enterprise as a catalyst? Maybe when Episode 2 comes out, or next year, or even on Yom Kippur? You know, something I could write on a calendar, even if it isn’t this year’s calender.

3) Will you be selling the entire “season” once the episodes are complete? Perhaps at that point I could buy a version which will still be operable even if you are not?

Basically, anything that allows me to play the game without regard to the health and vigor of the company which produced it would be super-special great. The only thing I am NOT willing to do is to resort to the very measures this system is intended to combat. (The torrentz and haxorz and whatnot.)

I applaud the non-dicks policy which your company has adopted. I am not asserting that you have failed to achieve this laudable goal. I’m just trying to engage in a little due diligence on the investment I’d like to make in your product. To wit: I’m not being a dick either. Can we do business?

My full argument was too long to put into the forums, but I actually think the assertion that “we’ll disable the check if we go out of business” is absurd and vigorously naive.

The conversation usually starts with the prospective customer asking if the company will even be around in ten years. The response is something like this:

1. That’s pretty far-fetched. We’re solvent. We’re not going anywhere.

Yes, I’m sure you’re every bit as healthy and solvent as Trilobyte, MicroProse, Interplay, Black Isle, Brøderbund, and Looking Glass were back in their heyday. Sadly, being nice people and making good games is not enough to stay in business.

The idea of your company being gone in ten years is not far fetched. The way this business works – and in fact the way most businesses work – is that the far-fetched scenario is the one where your company still exists in its current form a decade from now. It is very likely that in the next ten years you will change ownership, go under, or get absorbed by something much larger. To think otherwise is hubris.

2. If we go out of business or take down the servers, we’ll release a patch to disable the check.

The sentiment is not unappreciated, and I’m sure the offer is made in earnest, but the truth is that the deed is not nearly as trivial as you imagine. Sure, right now it’s simple to recompile the thing without the DRM and put it up on your server. But in ten years?

Assuming you’re old enough, think back to the projects you were working on ten years ago. Do you know where the source is? What development tools were used to compile it? Do you still have those tools? Do you still have all the old versions of the libraries you were using?

Odds are that even if someone remembers how to make the change and how the development environment was set up, they are probably employed elsewhere. So you have a big heap of unfamiliar source code. Someone is going to have to figure out how to compile it, get the software required to do so, find the related bit of code to change, and then make a new version of the software.

Oh, and they have to do this for every platform, for every game the company ever released that uses this DRM scheme. In the case of Hothead, they are planning on putting out four episodes a year, for Mac, PC, and Linux. (XBox as well, but it doesn’t have this problem so we don’t need to worry about that version.)

In just five years they’ll have twenty games on three platforms. That’s sixty executables to un-archive, alter, re-compile, and (one hopes) test to make sure it works.

It’s trivial now, but in ten years it will be a major undertaking.

3. We’ll document all of that so it won’t be a problem. Really. We’ll put up a patch.

Put it up? Where? You’ve been bought up or are going out of business. You’ve come in on Friday morning to find you’ve been pink-slipped and the servers are going down.

Maybe you’re lucky and you got to keep your job and you’re now employed by the company that just bought your former employer. Do you have FTP access to their servers? Can you even imagine having the audacity to call them up and ask for some server space so you can put up a patch for a game that nobody remembers and which stopped making money nine years ago? Hey, you’re one of the lucky ones who got to keep his job. Don’t push it.

4. Really, I’ll do it. If I don’t have a server, I’ll put the thing on a Torrent and the community can handle it.

Legal is going to want to talk to you first. This is intellectual property owned by your employer, and you are not authorized to go around putting out new versions of it. Your new boss is going to want to know if this is going to generate a bunch of support traffic. (That is, cost them money.) How are you going to perform QA on this thing? Maybe they want to re-bundle the game into some sort of “classics collection”, and don’t want you releasing “new versions” in the meantime.

This is assuming you were bought out. If you went out of business, then the games belong to your creditors, and there is no force in the universe that could make them care about a promise you made in the forums a decade ago. They are trying to recover the large sums of money owed to them, and will be more than happy to drag you (personally) into court if it looks like you’re doing something that interferes with that process.

You most certainly will not be releasing a patch if you get bought out or put under. At least, I wouldn’t put money on it. Which is what you’re asking me to do when you try to sell me your game.


202020161 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.


  1. Morzas says:

    Ooh, harsh. Still, someone’s got to say it.

  2. Duffy says:

    I can neither add nor detract from this, well said.

  3. Greg says:

    Ouch. Still, if they actually read things like this, it might put it in stark perspective.

  4. MintSkittle says:

    Truth hurts, and that burns something fierce.

  5. JFargo says:

    People are calling this harsh? I’m surprised. I thought this was simply the reality of the situation which the companies that use this kind of DRM have been ignoring.

    I truly hope you get a response, Shamus.

  6. These days I’m involved in a maintenance case with my first project ever – something we wrote ten years ago. If I had not stayed with the company for all this time, and if the customer had not paid for an expensive maintenance contract, then I’m sure there would be not a single man hour devoted to fixing this problem. And yes, we do have other projects that seem so much more important right now.

    In other words: Well said.

  7. quadir says:

    also, the person who made the promise could be gone, ie new ceo. Then you’re out of luck again.

  8. Rats says:

    Well said, and well thought through Shamus. It doesn’t change the fact that the company will not create these patches until they go out of business however. They want to combat piracy for as long as possible (understandably). We can but hope that they will listen, mull over, and think on other measures for piracy reduction.

  9. WysiWyg says:

    Some of the problems you address could quite easily be circumvented. They simply make a non-DRM version right now and store it somewhere.

    True, it still will not solve the whole distribution problem, but still.

    No, I agree that the smartest thing is to release the “no-activation-patch” at a specific time.

    Rats: DRM doesn’t combat piracy, it combats customers. Remember that.

  10. Cadamar says:

    Truth is harsh.
    It’s a harsh world. Anyone who tells you different is selling something.

    Well said, Shamus.

  11. Shinjin says:

    They simply make a non-DRM version right now and store it somewhere.

    Which makes it that much easier for pirates to get their hands on. While it solves much of the “we’ll fix it in the future” problem, no security-minded company would do such a thing. Too risky.

  12. Dev Null says:

    How much more eloquent – if a little more long-winded – than my usual response to the “If we go out of buisiness we’ll post a patch” argument, which is simply: “Who’s ‘you’ white-boy?”.

    If “you” have gone out of buisiness / been bought out / joined a cult and are waiting for the aliens to arrive, then almost by definition “you” don’t own the intellectual property anymore, and we’re screwed. Its a laudable ideal, and we appreciate the sentiment, but not nearly so much as we would appreciate a solution which would, say for instance, work. (Preferably without landing said software developers of the laudable ideals in jail.)

  13. Well written! You asked them exactly what I wanted to know. Assuming they actually answer the questions you asked, we’ll all end up with a clear answer.

  14. Adamantyr says:

    Well said indeed!

    I have a friend who’s been pushing me to buy the PC version of Mass Effect. I’ve resisted though for a few reasons:

    1) I honestly don’t think THAT highly of Bioware. I find their latest CRPG’s to be linear; I prefer sandbox style games. Mass Effect just looks like more of what Jade Empire had. I got better things to do with my game time.

    2) I hate EA with a passion. As far as I’m concerned, they are still the Destroyer of Worlds, and I will NEVER willingly put money in their pockets without a very good reason.

    And the whole business of “Oh, we’ve changed, we don’t absorb companies anymore…” Bull. You can already see the Bioware guys have drunk the corporate kool-aid.

  15. Poet says:

    I straight refuse to purchase any game involving DRM, pretty much because of the reasons you’ve covered there.

  16. Robert says:

    Hi,

    What if they just escrow an “Unlocked” version with a 3rd party (law firm) and put up a small amount (in a bond) to make sure someone gets paid to release the patch.

    They then post this information on their web-sites. Would this not solve the issue?

  17. Nice one Shamus – I look forward to seeing a response (if any).

  18. Joe says:

    @robert
    I was thinking the same thing. I wonder if there’s a market for a company to do DRM-free escrow. I know that once, when working at a fairly large (relatively) company we were buying a piece of software from a fairly small (relatively) company, and one of the things we insisted on in the purchase agreement was that the source code went into escrow, and we would get it if certain conditions were ever met (such as the company going out of business, or failing to offer reasonable maintenance services).

    Anyhow, I’m thinking that, for a nominal fee, the escrow company will test a DRM-free version on a non-internet-connected system, and keep said copy physically secure until such time as the activation servers are no longer available, at which time it will supply that copy to people who provide, one time, a valid activation key. There would, of course, be significant monetary penalties if that version got released “too early”.

    My guess is that such a service wouldn’t get used. But I’d dearly love it if such a service existed so that we could more easily point out that these companies are, in fact, lying to their customers.

  19. Suzene says:

    Glad it was said. Even if these guys have the best of intentions, there is no way that they can make me believe they will give a damn about customers who’ve already paid their money when their company dissolves/is bought out; they will have other things to worry about at that point. As it stands, they’ve got nothing to lose by making an unenforcible promise to be enacted at some undefined point in the future. Even if anyone remembers that these things were said, what are people going to do if these guys welsh? Refuse to buy the games of a company that no longer exists?

  20. henebry says:

    Shamus,

    I just coughed up a considerable sum to buy one of the components of Adobe’s cs3 suite. It has a similar DRM scheme, and that got me wondering whether you feel differently about other types of software, or if you take a similarly anti-DRM stance against Adobe. (I guess I’m assuming here that you’re a user of Photoshop, given your penchant for webcomics.)

  21. krellen says:

    Henebry:

    I’ve installed both CS2 and CS3 multiple times as part of my job functions over the past several years and neither had an activation-based DRM scheme. They had CD-key based DRM. It could be you needed activation because you were only buying part, but I know for a fact that you can install even Adobe’s newest products without on-line activation.

  22. Derek K. says:

    Addendum to #2:

    For a company that is out of business now, and probably can’t pay you.

    You’re going to spend your unpaid time to write fixes for 60 games instead of, say, trying to get a job so you can keep your house?

    I’m with Shamus. I know they mean it. I know that they are good people. But life is life. I have learned *never* to make promises that are not entirely in my control. I’ve been hosed too many times at work doing that. “Sure, you’ll be eligible for a raise during your performance review – this is a promotion. So even though that other job pays a bit more, working for me is better, and it’ll even out in the end.” “Oh, sorry. Since you got hired with in this annual cycle, the promotion counts as your raise. HR revised the policy. Oops.”

    Ad naseum.

  23. Thanks. This articulates my difficulty with the policy well.

    In addition, I’m worried that this is the direction DRM schemes are going in general, which makes it even more important that strong guidelines be laid down before this gets too commonplace. While it may seem a bit harsh to be putting all this pressure on an indie developer, we *really* need to hammer out what is and isn’t acceptable now.

  24. Namfoodle says:

    @ Joe

    My company was in a similar situation. I don’t know if it was in the purchase agreement, but we demanded and eventualy got the source code when the company that was developing it for us went under before the job was done. Then we hired some Bulgarians to finish the job.

    I wonder if the purchasers of a game can become “creditors” if their purchase becomes un-useable due to the server shut-off? I doubt that they would have much seniority compared to banks and venture funds or whatever.

    Perhaps get certified as a class and sue? I guess that would only be possible if someone with deep pockets was left holding the bag

  25. Mephane says:

    This is too true. Sadly.

  26. Alex says:

    As a hypothetical, would an escrowed patch be an acceptable solution?

    That is, something along the lines of #2 above, except that the patches are made (but not released) on an ongoing basis as new versions are released, and left in the care of some responsible&independent party to release when the company goes boom?

    If Hothead replied, “We’ve made the patch, burnt it to CD, put the CD and an appropriate IP license in an envelope, and given said envelope to our lawyers with the instructions ‘Open and distribute contents on the internet in the event of our unfortunate demise’”, would that be sufficient to address your concerns?

  27. J Greely says:

    Krellen, Adobe requires online activation for both CS2 and CS3, unless you purchase it through their volume license program. There’s a 30-day grace period, which might be what led you to believe that it was just a CD key.

    -j

  28. Alex: Yes, that would be fine, with a small change from “if we go out of business” to “if we ever take down the authentication server”. Not so much of a problem here, but looking at EA, I don’t trust them to keep the server up more than a couple years.

    In general, though, that fulfills my condition of “making sure the game is playable 10 years from now”.

  29. Shamus says:

    Krellen: I use Paint Shop Pro 8, which is pretty old by now. Still, it does everything I need. I plan to use it until the sun implodes, if I can.

  30. Bryan says:

    Alex, evilmrhenry:

    One problem with that is, where do the lawyers (or whoever has the DRM-free version in escrow) put this DRM-free version, or un-DRM-ing patch, or whatever? “On the Internet” is nicely vague — who runs the servers; where are they located (though that’s probably minor); who pays for bandwidth? Basically, how am I supposed to be able to *get* this patch if the owners are gone, even if it is in escrow now?

    That’s the one sticking point that I see with that option.

    (Oh, and I’ll probably just go buy Penumbra: Black Plague instead. Same $20, same support for Linux, but — as far as I know anyway — no online activation required. :-) )

  31. Think about it. Wing Commander Prophecy got released with a third of the content missing. The sequel never got made. Yet the company looked solvent, had made promises and was loved by the fans.

    Sigh.

  32. Joe says:

    @namfoodle: with us, it was definitely in the purchase agreement. We had just recently been seriously burned in a somewhat related incident:

    We were looking for Document Management software, which was, at the time, even more of a niche market than it is today. We had a long list of requirements. We found a company that had a product that met them all, and wasn’t overly expensive on a per-seat basis. So we bought a small number (10-20) of licenses for the product, in order to do a test/evaluation rollout. We had a handful of people run the software through its hoops for months. It worked beautifully, did everything we were hoping. So, we went out and bought a huge load of hardware for it. Then, we went back to the company and asked for another 200 licenses.

    They said no. Actually, they didn’t so much say no, as the much larger document management software company that had just bought them said no. See, it turns out that since the large company had a much worse product that cost ten times as much, they were worried that this competing product might start eating into their profits, so they bought the company and discontinued the product line immediately.

    Of course, they’d be more than happy to sell us *their* product. It didn’t work with any of the hardware we’d just bought, and didn’t meet our requirements, but since we were an existing customer of the company they’d just acquired, they would give us a discount that meant that it’d only cost us about 5 times as much as the software we really wanted.

    That still steams me today. And it’s the same thing as this. Once EA’s finished selling a game, it’s no longer a profit center for them, it’s competition for their next game. It’s not just that they have no good reason to support it, they actually have a compelling reason to want it dead. So no, I don’t trust them to do anything unless there are easily enforceable monetary damages for not doing it.

  33. nehumanuscrede says:

    Games are not the only ones to suffer from this line of
    thinking. Not by a longshot.

    Once upon a time, I could purchase Zone Alarm and it was
    a perpetual license. Then Zone Labs figured out they could
    not guarantee a source of income once enough folks had the
    software. The solution ? A subscription service of course.
    Bastages. I did it for two years before I got tired of the
    software popping up reminders that my subscription needed
    to be renewed.

    Solution to their solution ?

    Either uninstall it ( my path ) or go find the fifty
    thousand day ( ya THOUSAND or ~137 years ) license key
    and tell em what you think of their subscription service.

    I simply pitched it in the trash and now use a linux box
    to handle my firewall solutions thank you very much. . .

    I have a program called Disk Keeper. It’s a decent defrag
    utility. My bought and paid for version is a perpetual
    license. ( 2007 ) They are doing their damndest to get me
    to purchase their ‘ new and improved version ‘.

    Unfortunately for them, they have decided to include a
    mandatory activation scheme with their new version. It works
    similar to the way Microsoft does things.

    You’re assigned a machine ID based on components found in
    your system. The machine ID is run through one of their
    algorithms to create a license key. ( via a net connection )
    You plug in the license key and you get to use the software.

    If your machine ID changes ( upgraded system, different
    computer ) your license key will no longer function and you
    get to convince them why they should give you another key
    you pirate you !

    Same scenario applies. If the license servers go dead due
    to the company going bankrupt, bought out, whatever, you
    have zero ability to re-install your software.

    We’ll issue a patch before we turn off the lights. . . .

    No really !

    :|

  34. ArchU says:

    Shamus rolls intiatiave and gets a natural 20 again. Stop that, dammit! =p

  35. MaxEd says:

    While I haven’t released any games yet (we’re working on one, though). I’d say the best way to go is to include into some legally-binding document paragraph that says:

    “We will unlock this game fully when/if we release our next game”

    This will provide some initiative for players to wish your company good health and long years :) Of course, you’ll have to make games that are actually good and likable (which is not an option for most EA titles IMHO).

    I think about going further, actually. For strategy/RPG/simulation and even arcade games I think it would be a good idea to open-source game when the next one come out (that would probably require some special license, for GPL may harm you in this case).

  36. Xander says:

    I think by the time the company stops supporting their own product, piracy is justifiable. I’m not saying its right by any means, but if your ownership of a product has been wrongfully revoked, I think you have a sort of right to take back whats yours.

    I don’t mean to start a pro/anti-piracy argument, I’m just saying that its a justifiable means to secure and reinforce your ownership of a product. Especially if that product has been destroyed by its own creator.

  37. Scholar88 says:

    Hy there, first reply for me here.

    Outstanding post, Mr. Young. This is the kind of things I wish to see published on magazines dealing with videogames: unfortunately, in my country the matter of Mass Effect was dismissed with short pieces which made great issue of the elimination of the “10th day reactivation”, and basically ignored every implication of the DRM scheme.

    As far as I am concerned, I will not support companies which use such schemes. This cannot and will not assure victory against piracy.

  38. Just Passing Through says:

    Nicely laid out there, Shamus, but did you put the same reply on the forum? Since in the end it doesn’t really mean much if this is the only place it is put up.

    Now as much as I’m annoyed with the recent developments in DRM, and yes, I do feel it does affect legal paying customers more than hackers, there is one thing that has been bugging me with most peoples’ response. I’m one of those sad guys that actually read EULAs and as far back as I can remember I have NEVER “owned” any of the software (games or whatever) I’ve purchased in a store. All that was ever granted to you as end user was the right to use the software. Nothing more. Also, the way most EULAs are written, the company reserves the right to terminate your right of usage at any time they deem fit.

    C’mon people, stop whinging about “not owning your games” any more, you never did in the first place.

  39. Mephane says:

    “I think by the time the company stops supporting their own product, piracy is justifiable. I’m not saying its right by any means, but if your ownership of a product has been wrongfully revoked, I think you have a sort of right to take back whats yours.”

    Exactly what I am thinking. But I would go even further:
    if a company goes out of business or simply stops selling/supporting any of their products, that product should become public domain, freeware, whatever you may call it, enforced by law, allowing, no, better yet *entitling* anyone to copy it at will.

    (I also consider it outrageous that companies can still claim copyright on intellectual property years after the actual creator is dead. Imho copyright should immediately vanish with the death of the author(s). The company may still sell copies, but anyone should be allowed to do the same, for money or for free).

  40. Scholar88 says:

    @ Just Passing Through

    Point taken about the EULAs. However, I am under the impression that their clauses are enforced as situation and opportunity dictate. Why, for that matter EULAs state one cannot make derivative works or tamper with the code. If such is the case, someone should explain to me why modding of Baldur’s Gate has been tolerated: technically, that is a violation of the EULA too.

    Perhaps it is the whole matter of these licences which should be reconsidered: exactly, what to I get back if my right of using the software is summarily cancelled by the publisher? Not a letter of apology? Not even a simbolic refund for the money I wasted for their product?

  41. TalrogSmash says:

    Companies add extraneous bits to EULA all the time in an attempt to get one of them to stick. It all depends on the Judge/Series of Judges you get to hear your case. State by state and country by country, just because you sign it doesn’t make it legal; otherwise there would still be slaves.

  42. Shinjin says:

    @Max Ed

    I’d say the best way to go is to include into some legally-binding document paragraph that says:

    “We will unlock this game fully when/if we release our next game”

    This is unfortunately useless against the scenario where the company vanishes.

    I think it would be a good idea to open-source game when the next one come out

    Game source getting released to the public is an extremely rare occurrence. It can be pretty much guaranteed to *not* happen for bleeding edge games and sequels that lean heavily on their predecessor’s source.

  43. Deoxy says:

    Just Passing Through,

    There are strong legal arguments that EULAs aren’t binding, not to mention that many individual parts of current EULAs are KNOWN to be not legally enforceable or binding, they just put them in, anyway.

    Very simple argument:

    I paid money, I got product. AFTER I get home with product and have opened product (making it unreturnable), there is this EULA… Um, no, I ALREADY BOUGHT this product, without any EULA, you already got my money – you are trying to change the terms of the agreement AFTER the sale, which is quite plainly wrong.

    As I said, that’s a very simple form of the argument, but it should get the point across – if they want EULAs, they should require them before any money has changed hands, as I already have a receipt and a full, legal claim of ownership before any EULA pops up.

    And the legal history of EULAs is also spotty – mostly, companies have tried to avoid getting any real decisions on them, as there’s a good chance they get voided entirely.

  44. fefe says:

    The idea of signing a contract after actually purchasing the product (e.g. EULA’s) never struck you as odd? It is barely legal here in germany at least. If you really sign a license agreement you actually do this before you purchase the software. But that’s only handled this way if it’s really serious software. The problem is that costumers are fighting windmills nowadays. Nobody cares whether those windmills are strictly legal …

    EDIT: Exactly deoxy. Sorry, should hit F5 more often :)

  45. fair_n_hite_451 says:

    There are two big problems I see with the “escrow” agreement idea — beyond the one pointed out about “who pays bandwidth costs to release it”.

    In the scenario where a game is released, and 10 years later the company reneges on it’s promise to keep it running, that CD which was published quite likely no longer reflects a running game anyway. With on-line patch management (which also goes away when the activation server goes away), there is simply no way that the game which was escrowed resembles anything close to the game you were playing at the end of its “actively supported” lifecycle. So, you get Rev.0 of it’s game free and clear, including all the bugs, none of the add-ons and nerfs … and no way to patch the game up to the one that your purchase (which includes all the free patches) actually entitles you to.

    That’s less of an issue with episodic content like RSPOD, but until we see Episode 2, we really can’t know how much subsequent episodes rely on the engine released in the 1st one.

    Problem 2 is simple human greed and the difficulty of writing contract language which survives the demise on one of the corporate entities which enters into said contract.

    I create development company and game, release said game, and escrow functional version. I pay the imaginary “escrow holding company” a fee (Fee A) to hang on to it (via a yearly contract), and another fee (Fee B) to cover the costs of their eventual release of said game into the wild.

    I go out of business, likely defaulting on all sorts of contractual obligations. Mythical escrow company holds a contract which says “you owe me X to keep providing this service”. I fail to renew contract (since I’m out of business), and depending on the language and general ethics of the escrow company, they have several options:
    1) Seeing themselves denied Fee A without due notice, they apply Fee B to the defaulted contract, and legally claim there is no money to pay for the release of the game.
    2) Seeing themselves denied Fee A without due notice, they sue, piling on as yet another of the vultures looking to pick over the bones of my lamented corporate empire, and withhold fulfilling their obligations regarding Fee B “while the matter is before the courts”.
    3) Being a corporation without ethics, they pocket Fee B and do nothing, reasoning that there is no downside to not incurring the cost, since there is no entity which can hold them to task for services not rendered. Game owners wail and gnash about it in on-line forums, but to no avail.

    I can’t see that the escrow thing ever working the way that companies who promise the “we’ll fix it for you before we go belly-up” are hoping we believe.

  46. krellen says:

    J Greely:

    It probably has more to do with the fact, as they were work-related installs, that all the installations I have done have been of volume-license copies.

    So those that can buy in bulk aren’t treated like criminals like the rest of us. Which sounds decidedly unfair to me.

  47. “imho copyright should immediately vanish with the death of the author(s).”

    I’m all for radical copyright overhauls, but this seems like a bad call. It gives you incentive to wish for the death of someone who used to be, but is no longer, creating works you like. Not a healthy situation at all. It also means that if you write a brilliant, wildly popular novel, and are hit by a bus the next day, your kids won’t have any income to, say, pay for school.

    I think a better fix is a fixed length copyright that ignores the creator’s death. My dream (regrettably impossible without breaking international treaties the US has signed) is 28 years. It means you can write a novel to more than comfortably support your kids if you die. And if you write a novel at, say, 20, it gives you 28 years to write a new novel to secure more income when you turn 48. (28 years also happens to have been the original maximum copyright length in the US, thus the slightly odd number.)

  48. Alexis says:

    I love the tight vertical comment packing.
    A little less space between the numbers dice and the comment would look prettier imho :smiley:

    I like how PA are encouraging ambulance-chasing, including the more vigorous forms.

    BTW smileys still eat newlines :unsmiley:

  49. Deoxy says:

    I second absolutely every bit of what Alan De Smet just said.

    Wow, that’s a rarity (for anybody, not just you, ADS).

  50. Dev Null says:

    (28 years also happens to have been the original maximum copyright length in the US, thus the slightly odd number.)

    What, you mean back before Mickey Mouse nearly became public domain, Disney threw great steaming wodges of cash at various politicians, and the rules suddenly changed?

  51. Shamus says:

    What do ye’ mean?

    Supreme executive power can only come from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical anthropomorphic rodent in overalls!

  52. Deoxy says:

    Dev Null,

    Actually, it had already been extended fairly noticeably by then… but the basic story about wads of cash is true, and the result is obvious.

  53. I am reminded that Google’s CEO Larry Page said that the first rule of Google was “Don’t be Evil”

    Then when China wanted them to filter out certain seditious sites they agreed (after long and hard debate) that “Be less evil than everyone else” was closer to what they meant.

    These days, it is more like “Be as little evil as possible in the current business climate.”

    Things change. Companies Change. And this is Google we are talking about. It isn’t always about solvency, intent, or good business. It is about the reality of the situation.

    These guys need to take their heads out of their asses and look at this from a realistic approach. Register once? sure. Phone home? No way.

  54. Wow. I already thought that this sort of promise was a bullshit copout, but after reading this, I’m thoroughly convinced that there’s no way anybody (Penny Arcade or otherwise) will keep this sort of promise. Well said.

    I think that the only thing that would be satisfying to your concerns is if they made the patch now, encrypted it, and released it with a promise to publish the key when necessary. At least, that would force them to make sure that a patch exists and works, unless they have the audacity to fake it.

    I still, of course, wouldn’t buy the “I’ll give you the key to unchain you from my car’s trailer hitch when I’m tired of driving it” defense for DRM, but we all have our own tolerance levels.

  55. nehumanuscrede says:

    The companies will someday realize ( maybe ) that all their
    Mickey Mouse security is for naught. It may stop you. It
    may even stop me.

    However, the dedicated folks it will not stop.

    Check out this link to see just how far the dedicated will
    go to circumvent ‘ security measures ‘. This is what they
    are up against. This is a guy who made a living defeating
    the DRM of smart-cards designed for satellite TV.

    http://www.wired.com/politics/security/news/2008/05/tarnovsky?currentPage=all

    The link split up in the event it gets chopped off by the
    board :)

    http://www.wired.com/politics/security/news
    /2008/05/tarnovsky?currentPage=all

  56. [...] despite piracy, is simply not going to penetrate. Even Penny Arcade, a longtime gaming fansite, fell prey to DRM’s allure in their own game, after [...]

  57. Derek K says:

    (I’ve been moving – catching up on stuff now)

    Re: Escrow Patches – that’s a lot of dev time spent to get around a form of DRM you picked.

    I can’t really see you pitching that to an exec.

    “Well, the project will take about 2000 hours, with upkeep of around 200.”

    “What’s in the upkeep?”

    “Well, we have to develop a patch that doesn’t use the DRM solution, and prep it for shipping.”

    “Oh, okay – what’s the profit on it?”

    “Uh, none.”

    “None?”

    “It’s there in case we go out of business, so people can avoid our DRM.”

    “The DRM that Sam in Sales told me was a brilliant idea?”

    “Yeah”

    “We’re spending money on something we can’t sell unless we go under to get around something we paid money to get?”

    “Uh, yeah. But see, it’ll make the fans happy, and more people will buy the game.”

    “Based on?”

    “Comments on the forums.”

    “Well, okay. Thanks for your input. How’s episode two coming along?”

  58. Seb says:

    Hi there Shamus. I bring some water to your anti DRM mill :)

    Yahoo! newsletter, July 23 …

    In short : after september 30, the Yahoo! Music Store will be closed. They won’t be able to deliver any license anymore, so if you had bought some music over there, it will only play on a computer that already has a key. Playing it on a new or upgraded computer will not be possible. Users have lost their ownership of the music they purchased.

    Even better :
    For any user who purchased tracks through Yahoo! Music Unlimited, we highly recommend that you back up the purchased tracks to an audio CD before the closing of the Store on September 30, 2008. Backing up your music to an audio CD will allow you to copy the music back to your computer again if the license keys for your original music files cannot be retrieved.

    So to keep ownership of YOUR music, they recommend you to pirate it …

  59. Phil says:

    Came across this Post and i simply have to sign this.

    Great Post.

  60. [...] acesta o spune bine. Really, I’ll do it. If I don’t have a server, I’ll put the thing on a Torrent [...]

2 Trackbacks

  1. By Haibane.info » Blog Archive » a DRM solution on June 3, 2008 at 11:46 am

    [...] despite piracy, is simply not going to penetrate. Even Penny Arcade, a longtime gaming fansite, fell prey to DRM’s allure in their own game, after [...]

  2. By Lumea tristă în care ne aflăm | Codetaku on November 22, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    [...] acesta o spune bine. Really, I’ll do it. If I don’t have a server, I’ll put the thing on a Torrent [...]

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