If it’s Digital, is it Not Really Mine?

It's all about MP3 Players now!

It's all about MP3 Players now!

Alright, so here’s something that is becoming increasingly annoying to me- digital software regulation. Perhaps you have heard og things such as Digital Rights Management or Digital Distribution. In this day in age, many companies are utilizing new technologies to better market their products. However, many companies are also using the new digital system to tighten their grip on consumer products even after they have sold it.

My first issue is the Digital Rights Management system, or DRM. It used to be that all one needed to do to install purchased software would be to run the setup and enter a product key. This process is fine and all except for when people decide to share their product keys- this really annoys the software developers who are losing profit. I can sympathize with them about this issue if the company isn’t being completely unreasonable about their market strategy and ramming their product down consumers’ throats. I can see how software theft is an issue, but some companies have gotten the wrong idea and have started to over regulate their products. A number of distributors are starting to require online “activation” in order for their software to be fully functional. Often times, this “activation” sends information that keeps track of how many times the product key has been used. If it has been used too many times, the activation servers reject it to deter key sharing. Now I have two main problems with this. One what if I want to install it many times because I like to clean my computer by formatting it? Two, did I not pay for the standalone software (thus entitling me to do as I wish with it, including installing it on multiple computers and not some expansion limited to one computer? If you want to do that, call them “computer enhancements” not software!

I recall a controversy a while back where a game (was it Bioshock?) limited the software to about five installations; any more would require the user to call support and endure questioning. I don’t know about you, but I don’t appreciate being at the company’s mercy for a game I purchased. Also, can they honestly guarantee that their activation servers will be up and running 5 years from now? What if they crash? Sorry, but I prefer to not have my software branded with an expiry date.

XKCD parodies how DRM limits the options of consumers

XKCD parodies how DRM limits the options of consumers

…But enough about that. Now its time for me to discuss what really annoys me: Digital Distribution. Now don’t get me wrong- I love you Sony, but this one is directed to you. Sony recently announced their PSP Go! handheld. That’s great and all until you look at the system and notice a distinct lack of UMD Drive. What does that mean? Well, Sony has been toying with its Playstation Network service for some time and make available classic games and other media for download to the PSP or PS3 after the user has paid for it. Apparently, Sony is now confident enough with their platform to go fully digital. Nowadays, WiFi is becoming really popular and Internet is everywhere. If Sony is going all digital, say goodbye to used, discounted games and be prepared to answer directly to Sony.

Personally, I like being able to pop my UMD discs in and out at will and be able to back up my homebrew programs. In fact, I often have to swap different games between my PSP and computer because of my limited memory stick size. However, I hear that PSN downloaded titles do not let you do this due to some DRM system. Well, luckily the PSN account keeps track of all the games you have purchased and lets you download them back at any time if you delete them for more space. Aside from the normal problems associated with this system such as people losing their passwords and making accidental purchases, there’s a major issue with PSN. To prevent users from sharing accounts and downloading each others’ purchased games on their PSPs, Sony only allows you to download the game you have purchased up to 5 times. Combine that with the knowledge that they can deactivate your account at any time if you misbehave (or fail to conform) and you have a case of digital Communism. Again, what would happen if one day, Sony’s servers crash or get wiped? All the games you purchased will go POOF until service is restored. Plus, with gaming companies, who knows if they would stop offering old or unpopular games?

The new PSP Go! In all its UMD-less glory

The new PSP Go! In all its UMD-less glory

Suppose there is a game you loved playing as a kid; It was not well known but it was a great game (like Disgaea!). Well, five years from its release, Sony decides that no one cares about it anymore and takes it out of their database. If you decide to play the game after a five year period, you would log in to PSN and… not be able to find your game. Well the logical thing to do would be to look on eBay or at Gamestop except it’s not there either. Whoops! Sony has prevented us from keeping used games. Looks like your cherished game is gone for good!

For such cases… seriously. The consumers like your products and support you, but with such regulatory measures, you are literally driving consumers to make unauthorized copies and finding other means to use your software. The Internet is a huge, largely unregulated place so software is always prone to an extent of sharing. I support companies who try to protect against unauthorized software distribution, but for goodness sake, you are doing it wrong.

4 Comments

  1. Sion9
    Transfer Student
    Class 2-E

    With the ease of information transfers and copying, ultimately the only solution that eliminates hassle while preserving copyrights can be found in the Star Trek universe: the lack of money. If all such software is free, unlimited distribution is irrelevant, and pirated versions are unnecessary.

    Reply

    • Ultimate Sonic
      Ultimate Sonic
      -Alumni-
      Spring 2010

      I agree with you 100%. It's one of the most fundamental ideals of Star Trek: Once all material desires are eliminated, all that is left is the desire for knowledge and improvement. As of current, this is impossible, but I sincerely hope to see humanity moving towards this goal later on.

      Reply

  2. Draco
    Transfer Student
    Class 2-D
    Valid from: 07/16/2009 at 5:49 pm

    Yeah kinda sad how games are being limited by the nazi game companies. At least not all of them are like that. Probably the main reason why I keep old games instead of trading them off whenever I buy new games xD

    Reply

  3. Yon
    Transfer Student
    Class 2-D
    Valid from: 07/12/2009 at 1:59 am

    I totally agree with you on that. And I don't think I'm the only one. That's why there are… underground networks fighting for this. Oh, and also open-minded communities like all about GNU foundation, abandonware websites and that kind of things :D .

    But yeah, rarity of some musics/games/films/etc. is a very common argument to fight against that kind of behaviour, and I think it is righteous. Indeed, if the marketing world takes over all that culture, what will remain of those unknown treasures that aren't that much known, but can be really enjoyable anyhow?

    Reply

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