Stardock’s Copyright Security Solution

Stardock's Copyright Security Solution

On Friday, Stardock CEO Brad Wardell revealed to Edge that his company is developing a non-intrusive copyright security solution for external publishers.

The initiative came in the wake of The Gamer’s Bill of Rights, which implores game makers to ditch obnoxious copy protection methods. Stardock has been an advocate of non-intrusive copy protection for years, selling commercially successful games such as Galactic Civilizations and Sins of a Solar Empire that have no copy protection.

But as Stardock approached major publishers to agree to the terms of the Bill, they were still unwilling to go DRM-free.

Wardell said, "While Stardock doesn’t put copy protection on its retail games, the fact is that most publishers are never going to agree to do that.

"So the publishers are telling us, ‘Put your money where your mouth is. Why don’t you guys develop something that you think is suitable that would protect our IP, but would be more acceptable to users?’

"We’re investigating what would make users happy to protect their needs, but also provide some security for the publishers. … We’re actually developing a technology that would do that."

Wardell didn’t divulge which piracy-fearing publishers had suggested Stardock take on the task.

He did say that one goal of Stardock’s security solution would be when a consumer buys a PC game, that game, or technically the license to play it, belongs to the consumer. Often, DRM methods only allow a certain amount of installs on a certain amount of machines. "We want that license to be yours, not per machine. … It’s not your machine buying the game. It’s you."

Wardell said he’s exploring a system in which if a customer loses the physical copy of a game, he or she would be able to re-download the game by simply matching up a previously-registered e-mail address. "If my license is attached to my [e-mail] account, let me go online and download the whole game later."

Wardell argued that if a publisher wants a user to jump through a security hoop, that user should get something in return.

He steered away from the idea that Stardock is developing a DRM solution (presumably because of the baggage the term carries with gamers). Asked if Stardock is creating a method of "DRM," Wardell replied, "The problem with ‘DRM’ is that it’s so loosely defined. … Stardock’s products use activation, and I wouldn’t say that it’s DRM. We’re just verifying if you’re real customer."

The CEO said that Stardock has looked to its community to ask what kind of security measures are acceptable and which ones are not. "It should be completely invisible to the user."

DRM has been a hot topic as of late, the most recent case being EA’s highly-anticipated PC game Spore, which implemented protection technology from SecuROM. One customer filed a class-action lawsuit against EA over the game’s DRM.

Despite Wardell’s distaste for intrusive DRM, he said that filing a lawsuit is going a bit overboard. "Publishers should have the right to be stupid if they want. That’s their right. And it’s the right of the consumer to choose not to buy."

He vouched for the huge faceless corporations that sometimes seem to be oblivious to the plight of the DRM-afflicted gamer.

"It’s not that these publishers are DRM-happy. They’re not completely in love with it. It’s just that there aren’t very many alternatives."