FCKDRM: a DRM-free games company launches a site for DRM-free media

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/08/22/killswitches-r-us.html


I think a middle ground is utterly missing.

I am thinking that DRM shouldn’t lock out function, but should be in the form of a “watermark” where the work bears a marking indicating the purchasers information, and no further restrictions.

I am thinking that a “DRM” book would include on its title page. “Purchased by Cory Doctorow, 22 August 2018 through vendor xyz.” That way if this work is eventually pirated, a trail to the originator would be left in place.

In this circumstance, the utility is not compromised. Bonus points if it abides by the doctrine of first sale and allow for amendments to this purchase chain, but not obliterate the original legends.

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I miss when Humble Bundle regularly had DRM-free content. More like Steam Bundle these days.


I reckon Steam wouldn’t have been quite so alluring in its early days if it did not solve the infuriating problem of keeping games fully patched and up-to-date – a constant struggle back in the day.

Of course, automatic updates to a game suggest that a game may lose features that one enjoys, but one might also make a case that it enables a developer to keep a game true to its original vision.

Watermarks by definition are not DRM. DRM as it is coined is Digital Right Management. DRM must be an active technology. Watermarks are passive and do no management, they provide only after the fact detection. Watermarking is often a component of a larger DRM scheme but is not the only part. In fact many declared DRM free stores include watermarks in the product downloads. Few anti-DRM activist have any issues with watermarks.


IIRC, Manning’s digital edition of their books have a watermark on them, it’s no form of DRM, only an indicator of who originally bought the content.

GOG hasn’t been “Good Old Games” for a while because they’re now carrying new, DRM-free games, not just the older games (usually made to work through emulation wrappers) they started off with.
Based on the headline here, I was kind of expecting/hoping that they’d added movies, music and books to another version of their storefront (like Steam has been doing with movies) rather than just pointing at existing DRM-free sites.

GOG has a much better update system, in that you can choose which update version you’d like to use; Steam’s update system gives you no choice, it only has the most recent version, which means it can auto-update a game so that it no longer works on the machine on which you’ve installed it (by updating to a version that requires a newer operating system, for example, something that’s happened to me multiple times) as it tries to maintain support for new OSes. Worse, some games lose functionality with Steam updates for legal reasons. Games like the Grand Theft Auto series license music for given periods of time; when the license runs out, the music is removed from the game. Since there’s only the one (most recent) version of the game, it doesn’t matter when you bought the game, the music is gone. So it’s not always about adhering to the developer’s (changing) vision. In fact, most of them aren’t - outside early access games, most games are only getting changes after release so that they can keep selling the game, not for creative reasons.

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I’m pretty sure that PDFs you purchase from places like rpgnow.com include a system like you are proposing. I’m not 100% certain though; it’s been a long time since I bought anything from there, and I’m not near my computer to check my old files.

My concern with using that to prove something has been pirated, and punish the original purchaser, is if your files are ever stolen from your computer – or you computer itself is stolen – and the files end up on file sharing services… even if you can prove that’s what happened, it would be an annoying and potential costly experience. And if you couldn’t prove it wasn’t you that uploaded the files, it would be even worse.

I fall on the side that pirating isn’t as costly as the rights holders would like everyone to believe, especially of things like films, music and games. I know it’s anecdotal on my end, but I’ve seen bb post articles on research that has been done that back up my thoughts; pirates of media are also some of the largest legitimate purchasers of media.

Speaking for myself, for example, music I found when randomly browsing my way through Napster on many occasions led to my purchasing entire discographies of artists that I discovered I liked.

I know that I have to do what I can to support the artists and films I enjoy, or they will disappear.


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