Spore DRM Prompts $5M Class Action Lawsuit

The controversy surrounding EA Maxis' PC evolution simulator Spore and its DRM continues to escalate, with studio owner and publisher Electronic Arts now facing a class action lawsuit due to the title's use of SecuROM copy protection software.

Whereas most of the controversy thus far has stemmed from the limited number of installs available to legitimate owners, the claims of plaintiff Melissa Thomas lay with the undisclosed installation of the SecuROM software that enables the above practice.

Filed on September 22, the suit argues that Thomas and "all others similarly situated" would not have bought the game had EA disclosed the title's installation of SecuROM. It claims that SecuROM prevents unspecified user actions and programs from operating, with the software only removable if "the consumer completely wipes their hard drive through reformatting or replacement of the drive."

The "aggregate claims of plaintiff and the proposed class members" are said to exceed the sum of $5 million, according to legal documents obtained by Courthouse News Service, with the suit specifically seeking "actual damages, individual restitution, equitable relief, civil penalties, cost and expenses of litigation, including attorneys' fees, and all further relief available" from Electronic Arts.

Relevant quotes from the document follow:

What purchasers are not told is that, included in the purchase, installation, and operation of Spore is a second, undisclosed program. The name of the second program is SecuROM, which is a forum of Digital Rights Management (DRM) for computer games. Although consumers are told that the game uses access control and copy protection technology, consumers are not told that this technology is actually an entirely separate, stand-alone program which will download, install and operate on their computers along with the Spore download. Consumers are given no control, rights or options over SecuROM. The program is uninstallable. Once installed, it becomes a permanent part of the consumer's software portfolio. Even if the consumer uninstalls Spore and entirely deletes it from their computer, SecuROM remains a fixture in their computer unless and until the consumer completely wipes their hard drive through reformatting or replacement of the drive.
Nowhere in any of EA's discussions, responses or explanations of its DRM did EA disclose that the Spore disk contained a separately install, stand alone, uninstallable DRM program which would install itself to the command and control center of the computer and oversee function and operation on the computer, preventing certain user actions, preventing certain user programs from operating or disrupting hardware operations.

Faylor's Take: With all the media attention and DRM controversy, I suppose this was inevitable, but I'm not too sure about this case.

It sucks that you aren't told about SecuROM and that it's a pain to remove, but this is far from the first game to perform such a feat. It's not even the most recent. Crytek's Crysis Warhead, also published by EA, uses the same SecuROM technology. So did Bioware and Demiurge's PC port of Mass Effect. Even Maxis' The Sims 2 used SecuROM.

And just what "certain user actions" and "certain user programs" does SecuROM prevent? I couldn't find a specific mention or example in the legal brief outside of a brief mention of system slowdown in the quoted Amazon.com user reviews, which is curious, especially in such an otherwise detailed document.

Chris Faylor was previously a games journalist creating content at Shacknews.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    September 24, 2008 8:14 AM

    well it was gonna happen some time

    • reply
      September 24, 2008 8:26 AM

      yea, i wondered why it took so long for someone to sue.

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