I am no fan of class action lawsuits for the most part. No matter which side ends up gaining the judge's favor, the only winners in CA lawsuits are the lawyers. They get millions of dollars for their services while the people that they're supposedly representing get a pittance in restitution, if any at all.
But people should realize that the CA lawsuit against Electronic Arts, if fought properly, could set a very important precedent when it comes to consumers' rights. The biggest right is, of course, that we should be allowed to do with any game what we wish as long as what we do does not deprive the company of any revenue. That includes:
* not requiring the CD to be in the drive just to play the damned game
* not needing to report to some mothership under the auspices that we're potential criminals instead of potential customers
* being able to install the game anywhere we want at any time that we want as long as only one copy is in use at any one time
* being able to install a game even if the company that released it goes belly up
SecuROM eliminates one or more these, depending on how it's implemented, and it's time that people realize SecuROM is a threat to more than just legitimate and legal usage of software that we purchase.
SecuROM (just like StarForce) is a rootkit
. It is no less of a rootkit than was StarForce, and it needs to be dealt with in the same manner as StarForce - with complete elimination from all games. In order to play any game, SecuROM must be installed at an administrative level and has even more power than those who have administrative rights on their own PC. That is an incredibly dangerous situation.
Here's an interesting example of such a situation that got almost no press at all.
Reports started to surface a few months ago of system problems that were totally unrelated to any game or application. For no apparent reason, users started to report that Windows Explorer would crash and Dr. Watson would report a critical error whenever someone right-clicked on a file. Additionally, the deletion of files was now prohibited. Yes, even deleting a useless text file was denied by the system. Obviously, just attempting to use Windows Explorer – even if it was the only thing running – should have nothing to do with any kind of copy protection for a game, right?
What could possibly cause Windows to deny me the right to delete files that I created or no longer needed? More than that, why could I no longer right-click on a file when that was never a problem before?
Before anyone accuses this of being hear-say, I was one of the people affected (or rather “infected”) by this problem.
I wasted many hours running virus scanners and anti-spyware programs to find out what was going on. Of course, running those made no sense because I have a very good virus scanner and I have been a staunch advocate of “safe computing” for years. There's no way that it could have been something that I clicked on or downloaded.
Finally, I realized that the only major change that I had done in the past few days was to allow Neverwinter Nights 2
to upgrade to v1.13. With that realization, I used Windows' System Restore to roll back my PC to just before I did the NWN2
upgrade. After the roll back, I was once again able to delete and right-click on files with no problems.
As a test, I let NWN2
upgrade itself back to v1.13. As soon as it finished, I went into Windows Explorer. Crash, burn, and don't-you-even-think-about-deleting-a-file!
As it turns out, the 1.13 upgrade also included a SecuROM upgrade. The official NWN2
forums included messages from several people who were suffering from the same kind of system contamination. It turns out that owners of Mass Effect
also reported the same problems. The issue was finally acknowledged by Obsidian and a fix was made available on the SecuROM web site.
So, let's review.
After the installation of the new SecuROM had finished, people were unable to delete files from their hard drive. Regardless of the fact that NWN2
was not running and that the files in question had nothing
to do with NWN2
or any other piece of software that has copy protection, the SecuROM update prevented people from doing with their computer what they normally do. After running the fix, everything was back to normal, such as it is.
There were no apologies and no explanations from SecuROM or Obsidian - just the continuing expectation that paying customers are supposed to have to deal with this ongoing punishment. The most disturbing fact about this is that even as an administrator-level user, SecuROM still had the ability to deny access to certain parts of the operating system.
So, tell me again how SecuROM isn't a rootkit. And while you're at it, tell me why I should be forced to tolerate this for those times when I want to show my support for the developers of a game that I really like.
And yet while all of this is going on, the pirates who couldn't care less about the company or developers continue to play the same games with no SecuROM infections, no reduction in their bank accounts for such headaches, and no guilt.
I'm starting to agree with their philosophy.