The DRM Charter is found here, below the introduction. Please scroll down if that is what you are looking for.
The old phrase in common use prior to the term DRM was ‘copy protection’. Nowadays, publishers want to stop people doing more than just copy something, they want to impose further restrictions upon their customers too.
Digital Rights Management (DRM) is the benign sounding term used to restrict what customers can do with digital media they have purchased. By ‘digital media’ I am referring to music, movies, TV shows on DVD or iPlayer, electronic books, games, in fact pretty much anything these days which can be run on a PC, TV, games console, PDA, mobile phone etc.
The PC games market is big multi-million business, dominated by a few wealthy publishers. Companies like Electronic Arts (EA) are in the habit of taking over successful small games companies and assimilating them into the EA collective, Star Trek Borg fashion as it where.
I believe that DRM in PC games is typically imposed upon paying customers to limit customer’s freedom with the game they have purchased in order to make more money for big business. This is in addtion, not purely to trying to stop theft (piracy) in order to make more money. That might be reasonable if the DRM methods being used were respectful and fair to paying customers, but this does not appear to be the case any longer.
Following the release of a new PC game, the largest amount of revenue is earned in the first 2-3 weeks. After that revenue tails off dramatically over time. Typically after 2-3 years customer support is reduced, saving ongoing maintenance costs for the game. .
The technical methods currently being used with PC games have become offensive, frankly, to paying customers. In a later article I have investigated more deeply the reports of DRM systems like Starforce and possibly Securom causing damage to customer’s computers. For now, I have decided to publish my version of a PC Gamers’ Charter, clarifying what current practices are unreasonable from the customer’s perspective. Here goes:
PC Gamers’ DRM Charter
1. Stop the practice of covertly installing DRM software on a customer’s PC. Dishonest, malicious software such as viruses and spyware install themselves covertly and offer no removal mechanism in Windows control panel. You should be open about what you are doing to customer’s computers. Always list the DRM software in Control Panel so that users can uninstall it at will, knowing that the game requires it.
2. Show me the logo! You are quite happy to smother the box with logos, copyright notices etc. for companies who contributed to the software on the game disc. You should print clearly on the packaging the name and logo of the DRM system you licensed and bundled with the game. This will allow customers to make an informed choice when they purchase your product, and not have a nasty surprise when they get home and find you have imposed restrictions upon them which were not clearly available at the time of sale.
3. Instil confidence in your paying customers by removing your DRM when it is no longer necessary. After all, if sales have tailed off six months after the release of a game then the DRM is no longer protecting your income, so it is no longer required. It won’t cost you much to do this as customers will gladly download your patch at their own expense.
4. Do not modify your customer’s PC by installing applications that run constantly. Your DRM system should only be running when your game is running. Otherwise you are slowing down the gamers’ PC and risking unnecessary conflicts with other programs they have purchased. You should not be stealing their CPU time and electricity when they are not using your product.
5. If you require someone to connect their PC to the internet in order to ‘activate ‘ the single player game they have purchased then do so in such a way that they do not need to lower their hardware or software firewall protection just to allow your traffic through. If you require a customer to open ports purely to activate your game then you are putting their PC’s at risk of being compromised by hackers. Recognise that most of your customers are not PC experts, just people who want to play.
6. Do not disable or ignore the keyboard and mouse when your game is loaded. Most people do not want to sit staring impatiently at the screen waiting for the EA, NVidia and numerous other animated logos and movies to finish playing. If they press the escape key then let them jump to the main menu without wading through adverts beforehand. By the 10th time they have loaded the game you customers will not be watching with interest, but with boredom or animosity
7. Do not use corrupt registry keys or secret files created in a way which violates the rules of the operating system simply to prevent a customer from deleting your files or keys. It is their PC not yours, and they should be able to manually empty folders and tidy their Windows registry whenever they want, without needed special software or hacker-style techniques to do so. See point 1 above about providing uninstall options in control panel. See my article on Securom about how this messed up my data backups.
8. Do not repeatedly scan the CD or DVD in the customer’s PC while the game is playing. This technique wastes electricity (you eco-criminals, you) and causes unnecessary wear and tear on customer’s PC drives. Eventually you could cause the operating system to step down the performance of the customer’s drive permanently. By all means check gamers have a valid disk when they start the game, but then leave it alone. All you are doing is driving customers towards sites like GameCopyWorld to get no-cd patches for games, which make gaming a better experience.
9. When someone uninstalls your game from their PC, always uninstall all traces of DRM software from their machines, and do so in a clean fashion. Do not leave remnants behind anywhere.
10. Do not install device drivers secretly. It is not your PC so stop installing hidden device drivers on it which may conflict with other legal software that the customer owns. If the customer is not using your game at the time then you have no right to be monitoring what discs they are using in their drives, or what applications they are running.
11. Do not refuse the game to start just because the customer has perfectly valid software such as drive emulators or Microsoft Process Explorer on their machines or in memory. By all means detect whether the gamer is using the software to run a pirate copy of your game. However, just because they have got that perfectly legal software installed on their machines does not mean they are actually stealing the game you are supposed to protect. This practice is tantamount to treating all these customers as criminals, not just those who really are pirating your game.
12. Answer your tech support emails about DRM. Be helpful. You are supposed to be helping your paying customers, not treating them all like suspected thieves until they can prove otherwise. Do not ignore customer emails to tech support.
(JoWood, are you still there? I have been waiting 2 years for a reply about Spellforce 2 not running because of some unknown error with your DRM system.)
13. A customer should never be required to download and install DRM system updates in order to get a game to work, e.g. Tages and Vista, Starforce and Spellforce2. If you are causing this much inconvenience to your customers then you are killing the fun of a gaming session and losing reputation and future business.
14. If you are going to require a customer to key in long codes of letters and numbers then print them clearly. Do not use hard to read fonts such as Spellforce 1, where customers could not tell I’s and 1’s, 0’s and O’s apart and then force them to retype the whole thing if they make a typing mistake. Do not hide the code inside the packaging such as Starcraft budget edition. Do not print the code on the back of a manual in ink which rubs off on the customer’s thumb when they are readying.
(This actually happened to me with Neverwinter Nights!)
15. If you are going to require customer’s to go online to activate their software then do not impose draconian limits on the amount of times they can do so, e.g. Mass Effect. If you are going to refuse to activate a paying customer’s game, making it unusable then the game is not fit for purpose because it cannot be played, and your customer should be able to return it as such. You could just as easily reduce piracy by allowing three installations a month for each key code, not three or five activations period as you do currently.
16. If a customer is unable to activate their game because their activation code has been used by a pirate with a random key generator, then you should be helping your customer, not forcing them to jump through hoops. Do not force them to buy a scanner to scan and email their receipt, plus buy a digital camera to take a photo of their game packaging. What will you do next, force them to take a photo of themselves holding both receipt, game box, disc, manual and copy of today’s newspaper? Just apologise for the inconvenience, give them an RMA code and ask them to freepost you the unusable game for a free replacement. Or give them a letter instructing them to take the game back to the shop for a free replacement, and give them a voucher off a future purchase of one of your games by way of an apology, and to cover their travel costs. Or how about giving them a free electronic copy of an old game from your back catalogue to cheer them up?
17. Be up front and honest if you are going to limit the number of times a game can be installed or activated. Print this information on the retail packaging. When you advertise a game, say, for example, “R.R.P. £29.99 for 5 activations”. If you prevent a customer from making an informed choice at the time of sale then you could be accused of misleading your customers. If a customer is not aware of the limit you have imposed then they will feel cheated by you when they are unable to play the game they have paid for. If you are not imposed installation or activation limits on a game then say so proudly! Print something like “R.R.P. £29.99 for unlimited installations and activations in accordance with license agreement” on packaging and advertising.
I think point 16 sums it up – customers are feeling that they are regarded as potential thieves, and not as valued customers. The only way they can stop this treatment is to vote with their wallets. That is why I am not buying Mass Effect – the DRM is too draconian. For me, DRM is killing PC gaming, because I am being put off buying games! Other people have said the same on forums; go see.
You will notice that I am not supporting or endorsing piracy in any way here. A typical tactic used by big companies to counter anyone who speaks up against DRM restrictions is to suggest they are a pirate. This dirty trick is insulting, so do not be gullible To be pro-customer is not to be a pirate!
If you buy a PC game in the UK and it does not meet the PC Gamers Charter then consider whether the game is fit for purpose, and is compliant with the Sale of Goods Act and the Distance Selling Regulations. As a paying customer you have rights – learn them and use them!