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Lawsuits, banning threats, denials surround Spore DRM fiasco

According to documents obtained by the Courthouse News Service, Electronic Arts is facing a class action lawsuit due to the implementation of SecuROM DRM software in the recently released evolution game Spore. The lawsuit was filed Monday with the Northern California District Court and the plaintiff is Melissa Thomas and "all others similarly situated". Thomas is represented by Alan Himmelfarb and Scott A. Kamber of Vernon, California, and New York.

The suit claims, “Consumers are not warned about the program, which is installed without notice and cannot be uninstalled, even if they uninstall Spore”.  The lawsuit accuses Electronic Arts of deliberately hiding the fact that Spore uses SecuROM and claims the DRM software prevents the computer from operating under certain circumstances and/or disrupting hardware operations. The suit also claims that SecuROM takes over a portion of a PC's processing resources "to transmit information back to EA." The lawsuit is seeking an award for all plaintiffs the $49.99 purchase price plus damages. The details of the lawsuit are available in PDF format.

In addition to the lawsuit, there is more bad press for EA as Shacknews is reporting a poster on The Official Spore Forum was threatened with banning after asking about the DRM situation on the board. They were asked to take any further DRM SecuROM conversations to another forum and any further attempts to discuss the topic may result in a banning so severe the poster may be forced to buy a new copy to play Spore. The forum thread in question can be accessed here. In order to post on the forum, consumers must sign in with the Spore account tied to their game.

The comments appear to be the result of a frustrated forum moderator rather than official Electronic Arts policy as other forum moderators quickly stepped in claiming the inflammatory comments were the result of a miscommunication. They also stated on another forum thread "It is okay to discuss issues on this forum as long as it's done in a respectful manner and there are no personal attacks. This includes the DRM and other controversial issues.

In a message sent to Kotaku, Electronic Arts responded to the incident stating "These comments are absolutely not true or in-line with EA’s moderation policy. They were made by an over-zealous community volunteer who does not work for EA."

Spore has received large amounts of criticism for the way its DRM was implemented. The backlash has caused Electronic Arts to backtrack on some of their decisions with regards to the DRM implemented in Spore. The class action lawsuit and the forum incident are more additions to the public relations disaster that the Spore DRM fiasco has become.

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RE: EA used underhanded tactics
By mmntech on 9/25/2008 11:00:41 AM , Rating: 5
It's deceptive marketing. Game publishers should disclose DRM restrictions on the games package. They don't because they know that if people saw the restrictions before buying the game, they probably wouldn't buy it. This is a landmark case in the sense since it's the casual gamer's first introduction to the intrusive DRM we've been dealing with for years. I hope the plaintiffs with the suit (though I'm not optimistic about that). I also hope this suit brings meaningful changes to gaming that makes it more friendly to legitimate consumers.

RE: EA used underhanded tactics
By SiN on 9/25/2008 1:15:50 PM , Rating: 4
Totally disagree with you and others on this.

Publishers, under no circumstances, and regardless of which publisher, should never be allowed to limit the ammount of times you can install the product rendering it usless without hacking after "x" number of installs.

EA have been battling publicly the second hand market, and they chose to use this technique to prevent or limit said market.

I wouldnt be wrong in saying they thought they could inadvertantly get more revenue from the type of first hand buyers who wouldn't contact EA support to get extensions on their install limit after it was reached. But rather buy a new copy of the game for simplicty.

EA should be sued for these reasons alone. If only it teaches them a lesson. which it hardly will.

Unfortunatly, i could possibly predict that EA will be sucesfully sued, but they will be allowed to continue to use this practice of DRM as long as they have appropriate labeling on their packages or it is included in the terms and conditions in the install process.

EA sucks.

RE: EA used underhanded tactics
By ebakke on 9/25/2008 5:20:45 PM , Rating: 5
...or it is included in the terms and conditions in the install process
That's one thing that really gets to me. The terms are presented during installation, but if you don't agree, you can't return the product because you've opened it already!

RE: EA used underhanded tactics
By WikiChici on 9/25/2008 7:28:23 PM , Rating: 4
I thought this would happen.

EA is just bringing all of it down over its own head, they took the risk with the public by using DRM technology in their latest games, their going to cop the well deserved flak for it.

Get rid of DRM, ban it not the posters

RE: EA used underhanded tactics
By omnicronx on 9/26/2008 11:32:01 AM , Rating: 1

The purpose of a contract (such as a EULA) is to create exceptions to rights otherwise held. If you contractually disavow your rights under US Code 17.117 (which you are required to do in order to install the game), then you cannot claim that those rights are being violated.

RE: EA used underhanded tactics
By OttifantSir on 9/30/2008 3:19:15 PM , Rating: 2
I didn't know capitalism in America had gotten to the point where companies would be allowed to create a contract which gives the contractee less rights than that person has by law.

I live in Norway, and our laws clearly states that noone can be pressured, or are in any way obliged to accept a contract that gives them less rights than stated by law. The law says you can return a product for 30 days after purchase. ANY product, unless it is a perishable like fruits and groceries. And if a product is advertised to do something, it better well do that, because as a customer you have a legal right to get your money back if it doesn't. Law trumps any EULA. as it should be.

If I were to buy Spore (before I knew about the DRM), and then my machine crashed, the seller of that product would be obliged by law to refund the cost of the game and to repair the damages done by it. If need be, they would even be obliged by law to buy me a new machine with same specs. If the rootkit installed by Spore wouldn't be possible to remove, they would have to buy me a new machine.

"We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet.  A lot of these people don't have Ph.Ds, and they don't have a degree in computer science." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis
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