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The Dreaded DRM

The satirical gaming industry webcomic, Penny Arcade, recently wrapped up a series of strips commenting on the history of digital rights management (DRM) and its implementation in PC game software. DRM is a major issue of the digital age we are living in, present in almost every sellable digital product. Itunes DRM, Microsoft Windows Genuine Activation software, to games.

I remember back in the days of playing X-COM and having to find a different page in the manual to enter a code every time you ran the game. Pretty amusing and nostalgic when you look at the DRM implementation in games nowadays. Bioshock was a controversial case of DRM, but it was nothing compared to what EA did with the recent game Spore.

Essentially, installing Spore installed another hidden program onto your computer (without asking for permission or even notifying the user) which would limit a user to installing the game 3 times. This program could not be uninstalled, even after removing the game from your computer. This caused a huge backlash resulting in a class action suit against EA. They eventually tried to mollify the user community by increasing the number of allowed installs, but this is still a terrible way to protect your software.

However, it has become necessary for companies to resort to drastic measures to protect their software because of the rampant piracy that is very real. How DRM is implemented though, is the question we are still living through.

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