Digital rights management (DRM)
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Steam ties all games bought through its service, or using the [[Steam|Steamworks]] API, to a user account and requires an online connection to install and play.
Steam ties all games bought through its service, or using the [[Steam|Steamworks]] API, to a user account and requires an online connection to install and play .
Revision as of 22:24, 9 July 2012
Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a method in which digital products such as games, music and films can be controlled with the aim of reducing copyright infringement, also known as piracy.
DRM-free refers to games which can be played and copied without restriction. An ex
Forms of DRM
DRM can come in many forms, not all of them exclusive to each other.
Many PC games before 2000 included codes hidden inside manuals and other items included in retail packages. This might deter some people from making simple copies of games, as installation would require copies of the physical checks (of manuals or of other devices).
For example, The Secret of Monkey Island originally included a 'Dial-a-Pirate' wheel. A point in the game would require the player to match up two halves of the faces and to read off a certain code that was revealed. Once one span the two interlocking wheels into the correct position, the correct answer would be revealed.
Some games require a retail CD or DVD of the game to be present to run, regardless of whether the entire game content is installed on the hard drive.
Part of the game may not be on the disc, requiring a download of the rest of the games content in order to work.
The simplest form of DRM is Serial key, also known as a CD-key. The game comes with a code, usually printed in the case or on the back of the manual, that the user inputs during install.
An example of Always online is Diablo III, which requires one to be connected to Battle.net, even to access single player content. This is in start contrast to Diablo II, which had no restrictions for single player gaming.
Another notorious example is Uplay, Ubisoft's always online DRM platform.
Steam ties all games bought through its service, or using the Steamworks API, to a user account and requires an online connection to install and play (although most games can be played offline once activated).
A relatively new content delivering/DRM system that has received negative attention due to it's intrusive anti-piracy measures.
SecuROM; StarForce; Games for Windows Live; Tages.
DRM presents an issue for long term games collectors as it can lead to games becoming completely locked out as CD-keys are lost, studios close or withdraw support, or online services discontinued. This can be resolved by studios issuing a patch that removes the DRM, though not all studios do this.
Another historic problem with DRM software is unexpected hardware and software problems. For example, early versions of StarForce sometimes caused strange behavior in optical drives, occasionally making Windows unable to detect and access CD-ROMs.
Online activated DRM, present in games such as Spore means that the game becomes useless when support for the servers is withdrawn. Existing installations may continue to function, but new installations will no longer function.
DRM is rarely disclosed on packaging, and is installed silently on computers, sometimes without user consent. Many people as an effect do not know they have DRM software installed on the computer. Some DRM installs in critical system areas (such as "Ring-0 DRM"), a behavior typically used by malicious software due to the control it allows over a system.
DRM also has potential to malfunction, flagging a legitimate game as pirated. For instance, The Battle For Middle Earth had a copy protection system that looked for signs of pirating that was known to trigger on legitimate installs, causing all the characters to die randomly. The only fix was to uninstall and reinstall the game.
The nature of DRM also makes resale of computer software difficult, in some cases impossible, which conflicts with the First Sale Doctrine many nations follow.
Purposefully deactivating or disabling DRM without permission of the rights holder may be illegal in some countries.
DRM tends to stay on a computer after the related software is removed, sometimes requiring a special tool to remove. Most people are unaware that the DRM remains on their computer. Removing DRM while a game is installed typically breaks the game.
Online-based DRM can be revoked by any reason. Also, online-based DRM has potential for errors and is susceptible to abuse from piracy. For instance, pirated/keygen produced install keys can be registered, meaning the legitimate keys are flagged as invalid. Some games have a history of key banning for trivial reasons. The problem of falsely revoked keys is particularly noticeable on Spore.