Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Consumer Organisation Cease & Desits DRM Info Policy

More and more DRMs form an integral part of (online) gaming. To use the popular game Half-Life 2 users have to get online and set up an account at manufacturer Valve/Vivendi's DRM controlled platform Steam. This platform is used to secure Half-Life 2 against illegal accounts and verify licenses. Recently Valve/Vivendi restricted access to the game by 30 000 of those (allegedly) illegal licenses.

The German consumer association VZBV has now
sent a cease and desist order to Valve and Vivendi, over the DRM information policy of Half-Life 2. The association claims that consumers are provided insufficient information about the need for a verified internet connection to play the game. While an internet connection is mentioned as one of the system requirements under the term miscellaneous, it is al but clear that the game will not play without the online verification by Steam. The association seeks a penalty of 6000 euros per sold game if the information policy is not adjusted.

This action echoes the transparency issues surrounding the technical protection of CDC. French court cases have indicated that the insufficient provision of information on the technical specifications of used DRMs is a shortcoming of the music industry. Correct labeling should provide more transparency and let the user make an informed decisions when he buys a product that is restricted by DRMs. The push for labeling has been part of German law and the U.S.
Digital Media Consumer's Rights Act (DMCRA), the stalled legislation that would also provide users a circumvention right for fair uses. Online circumvention, the next best thing?
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