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Copy protection with a mean streak
by Karl Bode 03:06PM Monday Jul 12 2004
Users in our forums have grown increasingly irritated with a new copy protection system dubbed Starforce. While stopping software piracy is the scheme's goal, the system instead causes system slowdowns, PC instability, device conflicts, is nearly impossible to remove manually, and remains long after you've uninstalled the software it came with.

Dubbed "cutting edge activation technology" by the product's creators, the software quietly installs device drivers without informing the user. Once installed, users can open Device Manager, click on "view" and then "show hidden devices" (Screenshot) to see their new uninvited house guests.

Once four different device drivers are installed, the software monitors your CD-drive to confirm you're using the original CD, while the system encrypts executable files, but also non-executable files included in the application. The software also collects system information and creates an error report should anything go wrong.

Plenty does.

Users report that the software gobbles up computing cycles, slows CD drive read-times, creates CD-R read errors even after removal, and is responsible for a number of device conflicts - particularly with external USB drives. Users who have tried to remove the product manually have often damaged their systems to the point of needing a fresh OS install.

If users aren't irritated by the system issues, the unannounced installation, or the privacy implications of such a program, they usually are bothered to learn that the drivers are not removed when a user removes the host application. Users also aren't alerted to the driver installation by the end-user license agreement present in most of the games that employ the protection technology.

Users have developed this cleanup utility to remove Starforce, though needless to say - users who remove the protection won't be playing the game they paid for, unless they do some digging. Ironically many users who loathe piracy are turning toward no-cd cracks or other cracking tools to play games they've plunked down hard-earned cash to enjoy.

"So ironic, i have never in my life been to one of these Warez sites before, until the bloody copy protection gets so virus/Nazi like i have to," complains a user at Gone Gold, a website dedicated to the latest PC game releases.

So does the system prevent piracy? From a quick glance, nearly every title that uses the protection scheme is cracked and available on torrent trackers, IRC, or Usenet. The latest game to employ the scheme, Soldiers: Heroes of World War 2, was released several weeks ago and the U.S. version has yet to be cracked - though several in the "scene" inform us it's expected this week.

Is a two week piracy delay worth wrecking the systems of potential customers?

88 comments .. click to read

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Heavy Artillery For The Little Guy
Tulsa, OK

2 recommendations

reply to gojeda

Re: Illegal...

said by gojeda:
Starforce is illegal....as illegal as a virus would be.
No, you don't understand.

Virus = Illegal because it's a PITA that costs people time and money and especially because it costs corporations money, all for the noteriety of the virus author.

StarForce = Perfectly legal because it makes money for corporations while being a PITA that costs everyone else time and money.

Therefore, to put it simply:

Corporations interests but anti-consumers and citizens = Pefectly Legal

Consumer and Citizens Interests but annoys Corporations = Illegal, terrorist act...

... Thanks to the US Congress, the finest Government money can buy.
"Regulatory capitalism is when companies invest in lawyers, lobbyists, and politicians, instead of plant, people, and customer service." - former FCC Chairman William Kennard (A real FCC Chairman, unlike the current Corporate Spokesperson in the job!)