Digital Rights Management (DRM) seems to be a necessary evil in our digital world. The creators and publishers of digital content need to take measures to protect their product from unauthorized distribution. On the other hand, those who buy the content should be able to use and enjoy the content on our reasonable terms and not have to endure unnecessary conditions to be able to enjoy what they have paid for. So long as we don't break copyright law, we should be able to use what has been paid for. Most forms of DRM are simple restrictions. One typical restriction is the ability to install the content on a certain number of devices, usually 5. Another restriction would be to allow the content to run so long as it runs on the system it was purchased on. Yet another content restriction, often used with online games would be to allow the content to run, as long as the machine is logged into a valid account. Depending on the type of content being used, these are all decent solutions for protecting the content. It's when the protection method makes demands of the user that shouldn't be necessary for the enjoyment of the content where DRM turns bad. Ubisoft's new DRM method has been reviewed, and it has been revealed that a game meant to be enjoyed by a single player must have access to a persistent internet connection for the game to work. Many of Ubisoft's customers and other game enthusiasts have stated their objection to this needlessly restrictive form of DRM, and have proposed various forms of consumer protest.
It seems to me that many gamers who are upset at DRM that makes it harder for players to legitimately play the game that they legally purchased tend to miss many points with their tactics for protesting this bad DRM. Protests like buying the game and returning it (opened or otherwise), or even outright piracy is in fact sending a detrimental message, which is only going to lead to worse DRM solutions. I appreciate the desire for activism, but the methods are remarkably flawed. After a while, I have devised a simple method of activism that might sound too basic and perhaps futile, but if enough people do these things the message will be received and understood by those who make the decision to use bad DRM methods. If one, as a consmer were to follow these steps, hopefully change can be made.
ONE: DO NOT BUY THE GAME
This part is important. If you disagree with the DRM method that a game has, don't buy the game. At all. I don't care how much of a fan of that game you are. I love the Splinter Cell series too, but I would never buy the PC versions of those games at this point. DRM causes lots of problems that make older games with bad DRM hard to play on newer systems. It's important to vote with your dollars and tell publishers that you don't want games that you'll be locked out of through no fault of your own.
TWO: NOT BUYING THE GAME MEANS NOT PLAYING THE GAME
People need to understand this: If you don't buy it, you don't play it. You need to not pirate. If you pirate you justify the DRM. If you pirate, you send a message that these companies have a justifiable reason to protect their product, the exact opposite message you want to send.
So at this point, you're still ethically sound: You haven't spent a dime to encourage needlessly restrictive DRM, and you haven't stolen anything. You sacrifice a lot by not playing a game you'll potentially enjoy, but this is the price to pay to be an activist. For the next part, you need to get noisy.
THREE: WRITE ABOUT IT ON BLOGS/COMMENTS/MESSAGE BOARDS
This is already being done at this moment right now. If you have a blog, post about it. If none exists, start a thread about the matter on message boards. Tell people to not spend money on this and not be pirates. If a thread or blog post exists on the matter, comment about it on your stance (which should be in favor of fairer DRM and against piracy). This is easy to do because lots of people are already doing it.
Here's something people aren't doing so much
FOUR: CONTACT THE GAME MAKERS WHO USE OFFENDING DRM
Sometimes, telling the people you're protesting flat out what your problem is can help the problem get solved. Contact the game makers using these needlessly restrictive DRM methods. Tell them why it asks too much of you, your computer, and your internet connection. Tell them that you'd love to enjoy your product, but you won't support a product with that DRM. Tell them you hope there will come a time where that software maker will make a version of the game that has less restrictive DRM, or completely free of DRM. Tell them what the problems that their method of that DRM create, and what they propose or have done only prevents you from enjoying their product. Be polite, be frank, and if you indeed do, say that you enjoy their products and enjoy supporting their business, but that you can't support their DRM decisions.
Now, knowing what to tell them is part of the battle. Knowing where to send them is harder. Go to the website for these game makers and look up email addresses in their "contact us" portion of the website. Check their privacy statement and look for necessary contact information there. Go to sites like http://consumerist.com
where they have a list of executives of various companies, including game makers.
If many people email the executives of the companies that use restrictive DRM and get the message "We love your products, we love enjoying your products, we can't enjoy your products with that method of DRM, we won't buy those products with that DRM, we won't be able to enjoy the products we love." they'll get a very clear picture of what kind of customers they're losing. And finally there's one thing left to do.
FIVE: BUY GAMES WITH ACCEPTABLE OR NO DRM
I love Steam so much. I buy lots of games off steam. Steam warns you if you're about to buy a game that has more DRM than just what Steam offers. I don't buy those games. I almost did, at a dirt cheap price, but I just don't. I love GOG.com too. I have bought a handful of excellent games from them. Everything from GOG.com is DRM free. More people need to send a message that games don't need DRM and that a lack of DRM is a factor of the purchase. PLEASE, spend money on this. Telling a company that DRM is a factor in your purchase, but ignoring products with good or no forms of DRM is likewise ruining your message. Support those that treat customers like human beings, and not like crooks.
Following these 5 steps set an excellent example, an example that can affect a bottom line. Even if your messages themselves are ignored, the bottom line tells all. Make it known that DRM free or fair DRM affects the bottom line positively.
Likewise, the word "game" in this commentary can also be replaced with "software" or "music". We need to support those who are willing to risk piracy in exchange for not inconveniencing the consumer. Get the RIGHT message across, not the wrong one. We also need to socially address the piracy issue. This is either step six, or it's step one for another commentary. If you know someone who pirates, say that it's despicable. Say that it's wrong. Tell them that they're an asshole and that it tells companies to fuck the consumer to protect their products from assholes like them. If we're going to tell a company that DRM is wrong, we need to tell pirates that piracy is wrong too. It's a much simpler message to the pirate than to the company.
Now go and let your point be made.