The State of PC Piracy in 2016 [PC Gamer] “Piracy seems like it should be so simple, right? Stealing games is wrong. The end. But piracy is one of the most charged, complex, and divisive debates in gaming. Follow a piracy discussion long enough and it will spiral through issues as complicated as international economic policy, the concept of 'ownership' for digital property, game preservation, and the principle of the PC as an unrestricted technology platform. Piracy in 2016, the age of digital distribution, indie gaming, and Steam’s dominance, is a different animal from the PC piracy of 1990 or 2000 or 2010. Unlicensed software distribution is just as illegal as it was when Don’t Copy That Floppy was a meaningful anti-piracy strategy, but our own understanding of the crime and its motivations haven’t kept pace with technology.” [more inside]
The Sega Saturn is a home video game console that was released in 1994, and in the subsequent 20+ years many of the Saturn CD drives have failed. But a tinkerer known as Dr Abrasive has finally cracked the console's DRM. This in-depth video of his process is technical, but probably/hopefully interesting even for non-programmers.
How do you quantify the effects of things that don't happen to you? "The whole point of living in a culture is that much of the labor of perception and judgment is done for you, spread through media, and absorbed through an imperceptible process that has no single author." (previously; via)
Here's the Deal: The Text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership by Barack Obama - "In other words, the TPP means that America will write the rules of the road in the 21st century." (PDFs; previously) [more inside]
Online game retailer GOG--which started (as Good Old Games) with a focus on updating classics to run on modern computers, then branched into offering newer games DRM-free--has announced that they will start selling movies under their DRM-free model. [more inside]
The library platform OverDrive has announced that it will discontinue the sale of audiobooks in the WMA format, and transition solely to DRM-free MP3 files. Many local libaries use OverDrive to offer ebooks and audiobooks for download to their patrons. [Disclosure: my local library does, and I hate it.] Currently, some audiobooks are offered as DRM-enabled WMA files; the are not playable on iOS devices, so this will open up a lot of the collection to a wider user community.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership has come under fire for the sweeping effects it may have on intellectual property laws in signatory countries, and is expected to export and even extend some of the worst features of US copyright law, including the criminalisation of DRM circumvention. The level of secrecy surrounding the agreement has been controversial: the US Trade Representative has refused to make the text of the agreement public, and only three persons in each TPP nation have access to the full text. The New York Times editorial board has been criticised for its endorsement of the deal, when the public (and supposedly the NYT) were unable to read the agreement. In advance of the 19-24 November Chief Negotiators summit in Salt Lake City, Wikileaks has obtained and published the secret negotiated draft text of the TPP Intellectual Property Chapter, including negotiation positions and disagreements between all 12 prospective member states. [more inside]
Peter Purgathofer, an associate professor at Vienna University of Technology, built a Lego Mindstorms robot that presses "next page" on his Kindle repeatedly while it faces his laptop's webcam. The cam snaps a picture of each screen and saves it to a folder that is automatically processed through an online optical character recognition program. The result is an automated means of redigitizing DRM-crippled ebooks in a clear digital format. It's clunky compared to simply removing the DRM using common software, but unlike those DRM-circumvention tools, this setup does not violate the law.
Game Dev Tycoon was released yesterday; simultaneously, the makers Greenheart Games uploaded a slightly different version of the game to torrent sites.
The three most pervasive arguments for DRM in HTML debunked by Freeculture.org " A handful of myths have become common defenses of the W3C’s plan for “Encrypted Media Extensions” (EME), a Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) scheme for HTML5, the next version of the markup language upon which the Web is built." The entire article is quite short, and worth a read but see the extended description for a TL:DR summary - [more inside]
Web standards body W3C is considering a proposal to add Digital Rights Management to the next version of the HTML5 standard. Internet pioneer Tim Berners-Lee is fine with this. Others, like Cory Doctorow, have a different point of view, claiming it will have far-reaching effects that are "incompatible with the W3C's most important policies". Others have called it "impractical and unethical".
SimCity, arguably the best known simulation game ever, is back after a decade with a new iteration of the franchise. Is it any good? We may have to wait for an answer until someone can actually log on to the game. [more inside]
An iOS application developer has come up with an extreme way of fighting software piracy—by auto-posting "confessions" to its users' Twitter accounts. "...Enfour, the maker of a variety of dictionary apps, is auto-posting tweets to users' accounts to shame them for being pirates. But the auto-tweeting seems to be affecting a huge portion of its paid user base, not just those who actually stole the apps." Follow-up. A personal account: Can’t spell “pirate” without “-irate”: on DRM and punishing the customer [more inside]
Outlawed by Amazon DRM: A couple of days ago, my friend Linn sent me an e-mail, very frustrated: Amazon just closed her account and wiped her Kindle. Without notice. Without explanation. Leaving her without recourse. [via] [more inside]
The American Library Association fires the latest response in its tussle with publishers over e-books in public libraries, while in England, a government review of e-books in public libraries is announced.
Tor/Forge, the Science Fiction and Fantasy subsidiary of Macmillan, has announced that it is going DRM free on all of its ebooks. Mefi's own Charles Stross shares a presentation he recently made to executives at Macmillan that may have partially influenced this decision. Stross had previously predicted that publishers would need to go DRM free to prevent Amazon from gaining too much power in the ebook market.
Why book publishers will give up on Digital Rights Management. Short answer: because they are more afraid of Amazon becoming a monopsony than they are of consumer piracy. I don't know if he's right, but it's an interesting discussion of the immediate future in book publishing, and the way the Kindle has changed everything.
Jim Gaffigan is following in the footsteps of Louis CK and Aziz Ansari and has released his new special as a $5 stream, or DRM-free download. Is it possible for this model to be economically viable to other comics? According to this article, Gaffigan had to invest about $240,000 to produce the special and make in available online. Previously, previously.
In the wake of Louis C.K.'s tremendously successful experiment (previously 1, 2), Aziz Ansari of Parks and Recreation fame has released his own self-produced comedy special, "Dangerously Delicious," straight to fans and DRM free.
Don't Make Me Steal - a Digital Media Consumption Manifesto.
Cryoburn, the latest installment in Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan series, is out in hardcover. Hard copies of the book also contain a CD with the text of the book... and most of the rest of the books in the series, along with a number of speeches, interviews, and essays. In keeping with Baen Books' approach to DRM and publishing (previously), the entire thing is available for free online.
High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) is currently the most common form of digital transmission protection for high definition digital multimedia, requiring an unbroken chain of licensed products for content to play back for TV systems and computers. A possible "master key" was posted online earlier this week, and created quite a stir around the potential of this leak or reverse engineering. Intel, who developed the initial specification, has confirmed the validity of the "master key", but instead of coming up with a new protection scheme, will use "legal remedies, particularly under the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act)." In essence, the threat of legal action, rather than cryptography, is [Intel and the media companies] real tool against unapproved uses of digital content. [more inside]
PC Gamer: Do you have a good sense of piracy rates with Steam games?
Gabe Newell: They’re low enough that we don’t really spend any time on it.
Gabe Newell on Steam, piracy and DRM, part of PC Gamer's Valve Week.
Gabe Newell: They’re low enough that we don’t really spend any time on it.
Gabe Newell on Steam, piracy and DRM, part of PC Gamer's Valve Week.
Free music downloads without committing piracy! Freegal is a new service that libraries around the country are now offering to library card holders (up to 20 per week per library card). Freegal offers DRM-free mp3 downloads with no third-party application involved from Sony’s massive music catalog. [more inside]
Has DRM just been dealt a crippling blow? "Today [the US Copyright Office has] designated six classes of works. Persons who circumvent access controls in order to engage in noninfringing uses of works in these six classes will not be subject to the statutory prohibition against circumvention."
The Glass Box versus The Commonplace Book: Steven Berlin Johnson returns to his old school to talk about two possible models for the future of text online and whether the Internet really does encourage echo chambers.
Cory Doctorow gives a talk at Bloomsbury on book pricing in the internet age (47min video)
2D BOY made around $100,000 in a week. That’s $50,000 each for writing a blog post about a game they finished a year ago. By letting people pay whatever they wanted. 2D Boy stirred up a lot of discussion (previously) about game piracy when they used online scoreboard data to estimate an 82% piracy rate for their fantastic indie game World of Goo (previously). For World of Goo's first birthday, they decided to try the Radiohead model and let people buy the game for any price they choose. Now they've released extensive data about the results. Short version? "A huge success," even though the most commonly chosen price was only a penny. [more inside]
DRM as a cloud of poison gas. Run an illegally-downloaded prerelease version of the video game Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman always dies in a vat of poison gas. Run the legit version once it gets released and (apparently) there won’t even be any poison gas. (Game developers: “[Y]ou have encountered... a hook in the copy protection, to catch out people who try and download cracked versions of the game for free. It’s not a bug in the game’s code, it’s a bug in your moral code.”)
Canada's Bill C-61 is being zombified as talks begin this week in Vancouver to attempt a dialogue on public opinion. But it's okay, cause they're using twitter this time. [more inside]
Kindle goes all 1984 on Orwell Unbelievably, amazon.com has deleted all copies of 1984 and Animal Farm from the Kindle and other ebook platforms.. How could they not see the irony?
“You can’t roll a joint on an iPod” or how the iPod killed the music industry. First the music biz overlooked the computer CD rom when they put copy control on cd burners. Then they eliminated the single. Shortly after that "mp3" replaced "sex" as the most popular search term. Apple has become the largest music seller largely against the wishes of the music biz, but 99 cents beats free. Yesterday Apple announced they were eliminating DRM. The questions remains, who needs Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, Warner Music Group, and EMI, does Apple? When is Apple just going to replace them? There were rumors a year ago that they would launch a record label with Jay-Z but that does not appear to have come to fruition.
Who would have known that that the death of DRM would come in the form of a press release? While MP3 stores are nothing new, with iTunes moving to a 100% DRM free catalog by the 31st of March this now cements a de facto standard of DRM free music in the marketplace. As a side effect it's now a near certainty that AAC will become the successor of MP3.
TweakGuides presents a very long examination of software piracy as it relates to PC gaming: "PC piracy and related topics such as DRM seem to have become so shrouded in illogical excuses, hysteria, scaremongering and uninformed opinions that having a sensible discussion on the topic is virtually impossible." [more inside]
You may have heard by now about World of Goo, an independent game which can best be described as a "physics/construction puzzle game" that touches on everything from beauty to consumerism to internet privacy. The developer, 2DBoy who had originally released the game under a "no-DRM, don't screw us" policy now estimates a piracy rate of 82%. [more inside]
Considering DVDs seem a bit long in the tooth, this recent foray into the world of DVD ripping seemed a thinly veiled attempt to pick a fight with the MPAA. After invoking the Glaser Doctrine this morning, guess they got what they wanted. [more inside]
Some are calling it the "Kindle Killer". (Demo launch video at engadget.) Plastic Logic's new e-reader, expected to be out in the first half of 2009, does promise to offer a lot that Kindle and most other other popular e-readers don't, like a larger display, big enough to provide a newspaper or magazine layout; touch-based markup and annotation; the ability to read standard documents and other file types without conversion; (promised) Wi-Fi connectivity (including the ability to transfer documents between readers); and last but not least, a screen display that you can hit with a shoe, and isn't that something we've all been waiting for during these tense times? [more inside]
Will Wright's PC game Spore was released yesterday. The 'Sim Everything' game from the creator of Sim City and The Sims takes the player from cellular growth to space colonization with several stages in between. Reviews are in, and the consensus is that it's good but not as legendary as its scope (and multi-year development cycle) would suggest. The game's 'draconian' DRM has sparked controversy, causing Amazon users to bomb it with one-star reviews.
The Day the Music Died The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) [...] has also been warning anyone who would listen that they should not “purchase” encrypted music from these services, since if these services go under then all that “purchased” music will no longer… what’s the word… “play”. But mostly people ignored them (and me), because, you know, Microsoft was at the center of it all, and nobody ever got fired for “buying” from Microsoft.
Extensible applications such as Firefox appear to be banned by Apple's iPhone SDK license agreement: No interpreted code may be downloaded and used in an Application except for code that is interpreted and run by Apple’s Published APIs and builtin interpreter(s)… An Application may not itself install or launch other executable code by any means, including without limitation through the use of a plug-in architecture, calling other frameworks, other APIs or otherwise. An Application may write data on a device only to the Application's designated container area, except as otherwise specified by Apple. Applications may only use Published APIs in the manner prescribed by Apple and must not use or call any unpublished or private APIs.
Saul Williams releases his album with several payment options: $0.00 gets you 192k mp3s, and 5 bucks buys your choice of 192k or 300k mp3s, or FLAC. All DRM free of course. Trent Reznor, who was recently sighted complaining about the insane prices for his last album in new zealand, is to blame. Need a taster? Saul and Trent have leaked a track on pirate bay.
If you tried to validate a legitimate copy of XP or Vista today before 2pm, you were in for a nasty suprise. It seems that all Windows Genuine Advantage servers failed at once sometime today. One BoingBoing reader who contacted Microsoft was told to try again on Tuesday, as they expected the servers to be down for a few days. Rob Knop of the ScienceBlog Galactic Interactions responds with an entertaining rant.
The hot new PC game "Bioshock" installs a copy protection root kit called "SecuROM" which might open security holes and which interferes with legitimate programs. The DRM on Bioshock turns out to be draconian, and there's an online riot brewing among early purchasers who have already been screwed by it.
Books: The Opaque Market. Eric Flint (the author who set up the Baen Free Library) argues against using DRM in publishing and in favor of pirating yourself. (via Jay Lake)
Bob Lefsetz has been sharing his opinions on the music industry for years. In last night's newsletter, he announces, "Let the games begin!" - and indeed, let them. Universal Music has declined to re-sign to a long term deal with Apple, essentially leaving them open to exclusive deals with other services. The fact that Doug Morris (chairman of UMG) and Zach Horowitz (President of Universal's parent company, Vivendi) have been gearing up to loosen the stranglehold that iTunes has on online distribution is not exactly news. They've used similar tactics against Microsoft's Zune and YouTube. But with the release of the iPhone and following his well-timed decision to openly "share his thoughts" on DRM, not to mention his landmark deal with (perennial "armpit of the industry") EMI to sell their music DRM-free and at a higher cost - the real question is: is Steve Jobs ready to play hardball?
The first 17 minute 'webisode' of the new science-fiction web-series Sanctuary, starring Stargate SG-1's Amanda Tapping (along with several other Stargate actors) can now be viewed online, for free, at Youtube. And although you can buy them here for US $1.99, uploading the video to Youtube or sharing it with your friends is all completely legit, as the producers have taken a very liberal approach to DRM; specifically, there is none. To quote creator Damian Kindler "These files are YOURS. You can do with them what you want. Drop them into iTunes. Convert them to DVD formats. Burn, rip, whatever. You bought 'em, you decide how to enjoy 'em." Nice.
iTunes Plus has been released. Following EMI's announcement that it would begin offering its entire catalog DRM-free (and a barely-averted torpedoing of that plan), Apple has released an update to iTunes that offers DRM-free, 256kps AAC songs for $1.29. Entire albums are the same price as their DRM-laden counterparts. Those who have purchased EMI music can upgrade their files for $.30/song, $.60/album, or 30% of the album price. Currently only EMI is on-board, but Apple is perfectly happy to bring other labels into the DRM-free universe.