Grinding Gears of War

Windows game enthusiasts were unable to launch Gears of War for their PCs this week as a security certificate expired on their systems.  While I haven’t seen actual proof that an anti-circumvention system is responsible, Ars Technica and Wired both are faulting DRM for the snag.  Since gamers using No-CD patches are apparently unaffected, I’d wager they are right.

It is unfortunate that paying customers pay the brunt of content industry’s piracy fixation.  Pirated content is a cost of doing the business of content, much like retailers must rely on asset protection/loss prevention.  The difference is that retailers cannot assume all customers are potential thieves.  If Walmart began frisking every customer upon entrance, they would lose customers faster than the music industry.

Unfortunately DRM providers have promised unprecedented control over digital works.  Thus far those promises have not materialized, and many technologists like myself think they never will.  Copyright was never intended to be a closed pot, but rather a sieve.  Since the public has always enjoyed unfettered private use of copyrighted work, DRM systems are a new regulation mechanism in which the public wasn’t considered.  Therefore the backlash results from situations like this Gears of War lockout.

Publishers inevitably trot out the same arguments about protecting their assets, but they treat their customers with contempt when they say this.  It’s one thing to require the media when playing, but Gears of War relied on a certificate in order to launch the game.  Certificates are time limited by nature, so it begs the question about what unauthorized usage was the publisher intending to limit?  Unless a game is sold on a subscription basis, there shouldn’t be an expiration date on the DRM.

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~ by Som on January 30, 2009.

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