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The Steam version of EA's Battlefield Bad Company 2 is about to get a new patch, and amidst the little tweaks and fixes is some welcome news: the game's SecuROM DRM software will also be uninstalled.

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BioWare's spiritual successor to the Baldur's Gate series, Dragon Age: Origins, will ship without the unpopular SecuROM digital rights management and copy protection software that has been attached to previous Electronic Arts games.

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I'll say this for Rockstar - they do like a controversy. Usually, though, they go in for cool controversies like sexy mini games or the sensationalised depiction of car crime and bullying.

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For a while there, the whole SecuROM thing overshadowed the actual release of Spore. Which when you consider how high-profile a release Spore was is kind of a big deal. As a result, your thoughts on DRM are clear. But what about EA's thoughts? Well, according to EA boss John Riccitiello, the number of people who even noticed it, let alone cared about it, was minuscule. We implemented a form of DRM and it's something that 99.8 percent of users wouldn't notice. But for the other .2 percent, it became an issue and a number of them launched a cabal online to protest against it.

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When Spore owners were silenced by forum moderation staff for posting one too many SecuROM/DRM complaints on the game's official message boards, the internet-going masses were worked up into a lather. "Censorship!" they cried. "Business practices to which I don't agree with!" they shouted. A vague warning about your Spore user account being banned in conjunction with your forum account likely didn't help matters, giving the impression that loose talk about copy protection could render your game useless.

More responsible forum moderators tried to clear the air yesterday and EA itself let us know that the warning was completely out of line and, more importantly, totally inaccurate.

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Whenever you find large numbers of unhappy people, you're bound to find a lawyer. In this case it's Alan Himmelfarb with KamberEdelson of Vernon, California, who has filed a class-action suit against EA over the DRM in EA's Spore. The suit, filed Monday with the Northern California District Court on behalf of plaintiff Melissa Thomas and "all consumers globally who have purchased the Spore computer game", addresses complaints that consumers are not fully aware of what exactly SecuROM does on their system, and also cites a separate program that installs on the control centre of the computer and can disrupt system functions. Plaintiffs demand disgorgement of unjust profits and damages for trespass, interference, unfair competition and consumer law violations.

You can see the full suit in PDF form over at Courthouse News. It's rather lengthy, containing excerpts from EA's FAQ as well as quotes from Amazon.com reviews, oddly enough. Looks like someone's done his homework. EA might even have to assign two lawyers to deal with this one.

'Spore' Hijacks Computers, Class Claims

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Last week Penny Arcade's own Tycho contacted me to see if I would be interested in writing a short piece for their site about Digital Rights Management. What with the escalating brouhaha with Electronic Arts and likelihood that this won't be the last time gamers run face first into some form of DRM they don't like, I jumped at the opportunity.

In the short essay I talk about the origins of the word piracy (Daniel Defoe don't you know), and the absurdity of applying todays shrinking ownership rights to a situation closer to that origin. I also call for a sort of Gamers' Bill of Digital Rights. Not that anyone will listen.

If that sort of stuff floats your boat hop on over on the link to check it out. If it doesn't interest you, hop over there to read Tycho's take on my "wavy locks and hard-arse goatee."

The Origin Of The CD-Keys, Part One

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Electronic Arts have sent us a statement regarding their roundly-criticized Spore DRM policy.

In it, EA Games Label President Frank Gibeau states that the company assumed consumers would understand the need for DRM because "if games that take 1-4 years to develop are effectively stolen the day they launch, developers and publishers will simply stop investing in PC games" but concedes that a number of customers have strong objections and that EA need to adapt their policy to accommodate them.

Full details of the changes can be found after the jump, but it is worth noting that Gibeau does not address the concerns that many gamers have about the choice of SecuROM as Spore's copy protection in particular.

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And EA's DRM back-tracking continues! First it was the number of times you could install Spore, now they've announced that they're loosening the ridiculous restrictions on the number of Spore accounts you could have on a single PC. Initially this was restricted to a single account, meaning families/friends/loved ones would have to share the same account. This has now been changed. While each installation can still only have one online account, each of those now has five "screen name accounts", which you can log in to every time you boot the game up. One for you, one for the missus, one for little Susie, etc etc.

Answering your feedback about Spore Online Accounts

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To many PC gamers, Spore's most gruesome creation has been its digital rights management and copy protection implementation. EA's attempts to thwart piracy by limiting the number of concurrent installations hasn't sat well with users, a complaint they've expressed rather publicly. According to information obtained by MTV Multiplayer, that will be changing.

A patch, coming in the "near future," will allow Spore owners to "de-authorize" a computer that has had the game installed, much like the DRM structure that Apple's iTunes uses. Will that satisfy the masses? According to EA, those masses demanding multiple installs aren't really all that massive.

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We know that Amazon users do not take kindly to Spore's DRM measures. Seems Spore users don't either. GameCulture have dug up a number of anti-SecuROM creatures/vehicles people have seeded in the game's creation galleries, which range from the absurd to the surprisingly clever. Our pick's probably the Veroflraptor, a hideous creature that "is known to spray excessive DRM and overhype on its attackers".

DRM Evolved: Spore Users Create Creatures to Voice Their Displeasure

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And the Spore/DRM issues just. Get. Worse. Despite the game's manual shipping with the promise that you can set up multiple Spore accounts on the one PC, turns out that in fact the game won't let you do this. Got more than one Spore player in the house? A friend or loved one? Sorry, they'll have to either play as you in your account, or get their own damn copy. The anti-piracy stuff, as awful as it is, is at least defensible in theory. This, though, this is just mean.

Want More Than One Account On Your 'Spore' Game? Buy Another Copy

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Because it includes Draconian DRM program SecuROM, Spore's taking a bit of a pounding at the moment. Same thing happened to Mass Effect, same thing happened to BioShock. The message is fairly clear: people know what SecuROM does, and they do not want. EA's response to this? To let you eat cake. They're sticking with the software, whether you like it or not, and upcoming RTS title Red Alert 3 will be coming bundled with it. This time, though, they're going a little easier on you, allowing you five installs (and a few other minor tweaks).

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Despite some early, Germanic hiccups, Spore seems to be going down quite well with both the reviewing and buying public at large. Oh, except the kids over at Amazon. Despite enjoying the game itself, they've bombarded the game with 1-star reviews, as backlash for EA's insistence on using the awful Securom anti-piracy measures, which limit the number of times you can install a game on your PC. At time of writing, there were over 100 "reviews" of the game, nearly 90 of them giving the game a single, damning star. Might sound petulant to some, but if you're going to protest against something you don't like, you may as well do it somewhere effective (ie the world's largest online retailer) as opposed to somewhere ineffective (ie your navel-gazing gaming message board of choice).

Spore losing the DRM Fight

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Despite some hand-wringing by fans, EA today announced that their hugely anticipated Will Wright game Spore will not make use of SecuROM's 10-day periodic re-authetication and instead use a modified version to require online authentication.

The announcement comes on the heels of news that Mass Effect will also be ditching the ten day re-authentication.