Opinion: The Digital Rights Minotaur

Opinion: The Digital Rights Minotaur

For immediate release to all media outlets: Screwusoft introduces DRM to market; seeks partners.

"But wait a minute,” you must be saying. “As a content provider, I already know all about Digital rights management. It means technology that restricts how people can use digital content they’ve purch…” Whoa, hey. Sorry to interrupt your oddly informative reply, but stop right there. This isn’t your slightly older brother’s DRM. This is something entirely different, for the next generation of gamers. We are proud to introduce the new gold standard in anti-piracy technology: the Digital Rights Minotaur.

A few online fringe groups complain that traditional DRM hampers their enjoyment and even violates their rights. We say that’s bull. (Get it? ‘Bull’? We didn’t even mean to do that.) Sure, we grew up in the 1980s and have nostalgic memories of those new-game rituals: ripping open the plastic, leafing through the instruction manual, and then ramming home the cartridge. But life goes on, and traditions evolve. At Screwusoft, we believe that DRM is just the next exciting twist on the ritual, to be remembered fondly by future generations.

Imagine: you’re a videogame-loving kid on Christmas morning. You tear the brightly coloured paper off a small package, and there it is – an email printout with an access code circled in merry red ink. You pause to breathe in that special new-access-code aroma. You are now the proud leaser of Screwusoft DRM-enhanced digital content. Thrumming with anticipation, you enter your access code at our Web site and eat or incinerate the printout, then wait eight hours for the product to download and install.

You click ‘agree’ on the 500-page EULA and upgrade your phone line, because if you lose your Internet connection for even a moment, the game will throw you out. From there, you’re just a quick credit check, retinal scan and venereal-disease test away from having fun with your leased content in a safely restricted environment, with the terms ‘fun’ and ‘your’ to be defined by Screwusoft and its partners.

“OK,” you’ll concede, “I’m convinced – with digital rights management, everyone wins. But I’m not hearing anything revolutionary. I want more. We all know customers are filthy crooks who just can’t wait to install our product on their second computer like they own that shit. I can say that, right? It’s just us here?”

Yes, it’s just us, and you’re completely right – every time someone buys something from you, they are effectively robbing you blind. But until we convince customers to just give us money for nothing – and, even with microtransactions, that’s a few years away – Screwusoft’s new anti-piracy suite is your best line of defence. Our encryption algorithms make any software all but impossible to run. Several layers of passwords are changed daily and must be retrieved by snail mail. Just because we could, we threw in a random number generator that must strike triple-sixes to unlock certain game content, like elf ears and player movement.

And then there’s our pièce de résistance: if anyone should somehow slip through this gauntlet and actually play a game, a Digital Rights Minotaur comes smashing through the wall and neatly lops off their hands with an axe.

Standing five metres high, covered in dense hair and ropy muscle, our Digital Rights Minotaurs are eternally vigilant deterrents against product use. Where did we find them? Don’t ask. These mythical beasts never seem to eat or sleep, and we’ve got a crapload of them. There’s probably one grunting softly outside your cubicle right now, waiting. Since we agree that hand loss is a fair penalty for attempted gaming, it hardly needs to be said that going so far as to make a backup copy for personal use results in an instant deathblow.

Come to think of it, we don’t see why consumer theft in non-digital products should continue either, now that the problem has been recognised. Consider car ‘ownership’. The vehicle is just the disposable medium; you’re really leasing motion. Automobile manufacturers trust their customers not to share rides, and are repaid with rampant motion-piracy – euphemised as ‘carpooling’ and granted special lanes!

Enough is enough. Why not equip your vehicles with a back-seat Digital Rights Minotaur? With its hot, fetid breath always on their necks, your customers will think twice before giving that elderly neighbour a ‘lift’ to the pharmacy. And maybe the car’s drive shaft should fall out if it loses its connection to our proprietary satellite array! We’re just crazy enough to do it.

People often ask us: ‘Screwusoft, you crusade so valiantly to make sure no one has fun. As you set about destroying videogames forever, how do you keep your own kids entertained?’ Thanks for asking. We’ll tell you an industry secret. Since our DRM is impossible to beat, we give our kids the house’s climate-control remote, with its big buttons and temperature display screen, and tell them it’s a Nintendo DS. They’re little kids, still pretty stupid. We all sit there sweating happily on giant sacks of money, as the room grows infernally hot.

Illustration: Martin Davies

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