Stardock Rates DRM Complaints, Revises Gamers Bill of Rights

Based on the "amazing level of support from the publisher and developer community" that Stardock received from the initial Gamers Bill of Rights, CEO Brad Wardell has issued an interim edition in the latest Stardock Customer Report (3MB PDF here).

The revision addresses the need for more specific wording in order "to get to a place that most users and most publishers can agree on."

In addition, Wardell examined the common complaints regarding controversial DRM practices, breaking them down into legitimate, borderline, and illegitimate categories. He also noted that while Stardock will continue to release titles with no DRM, owners will need to download meaningful updates directly from Stardock.

The CEO further revealed that Stardock will soon add "IP protection services" to its digital distribution platform Impulse "so that publishers at least have an alternative to methods like SecureROM, Tages or Steamworks. As a practical matter, most game publishers who want to protect their IP have few options right now."

"There is no solution to the issue of protecting intellectual property (IP) that will satisfy all parties," explained Wardell. "There are customers who will accept nothing less than publishers acquiescing to a quasi-honor system for purchasing software. That doesn't work."

DRM Complaint Examination

    Legitimate Complaints
    • They don't want the copy protection to interfere with their enjoyment or use of the software or game.
    • If a program wants to have a limited activation system, then it needs to provide a way to de-authorize other computers (ala iTunes).
    • A program should not be installing drivers or other hidden files on the system that use system resources.
    • Activation-based DRM means that if the publisher goes out of business or simply stops supporting their content that the customer can no longer use their legally purchased item.
    • Having an arbitrarily low limit on personal activations makes the program feel like it's being rented.
    • Requiring the user to always be online to play a single-player game. Though we do think publishers have the right to require this as long as they make it clear on the box.

    Borderline Complaints
    • Requiring the user to have an Internet connection to install a game.

    Illegitimate Complaints
    • Keeps people from installing the program on as many PCs as they own. I own an office full of PCs. I don't think Microsoft would be happy if I installed Office on all of them.
    • Keeps people from easily having LAN parties with their game. We allow this but demonizing publishers who frown on this seems unreasonable.
    • Requires people to get updates through a specific source (Steam, Impulse, publisher secure website, etc.). This is one of our biggest pet peeves. If a game ships and there's some bug found that materially affects gameplay, then sure, put out a patch wherever. However, we've had users complain loudly that Sins of a Solar Empire v1.1 (essentially a free expansion pack) requires Impulse to download. Publishers have every right to make sure the people downloading updates are legitimate customers.
    • Makes it harder for people to resell programs. (Not saying reselling programs is right or wrong, only that it is not the function of DRM to make it hard or easy to do this, it's a separate issue.)
    • DRM is just wrong in principle, you buy something, you own it and should be able to do whatever you want. This is a view held by some but the person who makes the thing has the right to distribute it how they want. If I spend $5 million making a game, someone paying $50 doesn't "own" it. There has to be some middle ground on serving customers and protecting IP holders.

The Gamers Bill of Rights (Revised)

  1. Gamers shall have the right to return games that are incompatible or do not function at a reasonable level of performance for a full refund within a reasonable amount of time.
  2. Gamers shall have the right that games they purchase shall function as designed without defects that would materially affect the player experience.
  3. Gamers shall have the right that games will receive updates that address minor defects as well as improves gameplay based on player feed back within reason.
  4. Gamers shall have the right to have their games not require a third-party download manager installed in order for the game to function.
  5. Gamers shall have the right to have their games perform adequately if their hardware meets the posted recommended requirements.
  6. Gamers shall have the right not to have any of their games install hidden drivers.
  7. Gamers shall have the right to re-download the latest version of the games they purchase.
  8. Gamers whose computers meet the posted minimum requirements shall have the right to use their games without being materially inconvenienced due to copy protection or digital rights management.
  9. Gamers shall have the right to play single player games without having to have an Internet connection.
  10. Gamers shall have the right to sell or transfer the ownership of a physical copy of a game they own to another person.