Tech leaders queue up to slate DRM

Two influential figures from the gaming and Internet worlds have made separate pleas for media companies and game developers to stop adding crippling and ineffective copy protection schemes to their products and services.

Co-founder of gaming delivery service Steam, Gabe Newell has voiced his disapproval of digital rights management in games, saying that they diminish the value of a product.

He told a cheering gathering of game developers who had just seen him pick up an award: "One thing that you hear us talk a lot about is entertainment as a service. It’s an attitude that says 'what have I done for my customers today?'. It informs all the decisions we make, and once you get into that mindset it helps you avoid things like some of the Digital Rights Management problems that actually make your entertainment products worth less by wrapping those negatives around them."

The comment was a thinly-veiled swipe at Ubisoft, the French gaming company which recently hit the headlines with its failed implementation of a phone-home DRM scheme which requires an always-on Internet connection in order to play its two latest releases.

The games were reportedly hacked on the first day of release and the security-checking servers were the target of a DoS attack on the second day, which lead to many players being locked out of the games they had paid good money for.

The upshot of all of this was that pirates were able to play games they had stolen whereas genuine paying customers were punished, as is the case with just about every DRM scheme ever invented.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, UK broadband provider Talk Talk's director of strategy Andrew was warning that measures that cut-off persistent P2P pirates would just drive them further underground.

The ISP recently conducted a survey which found that 80 per cent of people currently using P2P would simply switch to an undetectable method. It also expressed concern that anyone prevented from using their own connection for nefarious purposes would be more tempted to piggyback onto an unwitting neighbour's poorly protected network in order to carry on downloading free stuff.

Speaking about the possibility of customers being disconnected from the Internet because of transgressions reported by Big Media Heaney said: "Over the past few years consumers have become used to accessing music and video content online for free. We don’t condone it or encourage it but this behaviour is embedded in a whole generation of music fans.

"It doesn’t matter how many sites are blocked, how many families are snooped on or how many customers are disconnected, music fans who want to can and will get the content they want online for free.

"Whatever measures are taken it will have little impact on the music industry’s coffers but will leave in its wake innocent customers disconnected from the Internet."