February 27, 2005

Copy Protection Bullshit

This weekend, I finally finished unpacking the rest of my "external" hardware, including an external hard drive that I drop my "mission-critical" file backups on, like my SourceSafe database, etc.

When I plugged it in, I was asked to reinstall my drivers for it. I didn't think anything of it. So, I ran the driver installation I had downloaded, and my system rebooted when instaling the second half of the driver.

I was shocked. That had never happened before. Thinking it may be a Windows XP Service Pack 2 issue, I downloaded the latest drivers and installed them. Again, as soon as the second half of the driver began installing, BOOM!

This time, I got the "recovered from a serious error" message on boot. I sent in my crash minidump, and got the following:

Crash caused by StarForce Copy Protection (Link Fixed)

I was then pointed to this URL for an update to my copy protection. This is the opening paragraph to that page, emphasis mine.

Some versions of StarForce Copy Protection will install dedicated drivers on your PC. Those drivers are necessary for the StarForce specific CD/DVD checking procedure, only. They do not include any hidden functionality. The drivers are active only at execution of the protected application. StarForce constantly improves their drivers to keep them compatible with the latest versions of Windows operating systems.

Okay, Einstein. It's a clean boot. What frickin' game that you are protecting am I running on a clean boot?!?!? Why would YOUR drivers care about the installation of my external hard drive?

I'm in the video game industry. I fully understand the necessity of copy protection due to the high rate of piracy in the PC video game market. But the moment that you cross the line between protecting the interests of the developers and publishers and interfering with the functionality of the user's computer, you've gone too far.

I would rather lose a sale due to piracy then lose all future sales due to an experience like this. A sale lost to piracy can lead to future sales if the game is good enough. A customer lost due to poor experience will never come back.

I've downloaded your driver update, and I'm going to install it...but if it keeps me from installing the hardware that I own, just remember...hell hath no fury like a blogger scorned.

UPDATE: Their new drivers did indeed allow me to install my external hard drive, but I think that if anything, this is proof that having DRM/copy protection software that is always resident in memory is a major mistake. After all, you never know what kind of legitimate computer use you could be stopping.

No comments: