Please excuse our breach of form this morning, but the Deals Round Up will have to wait, because we work up cranky and then the internet was full of stupid again. It seems that Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing discovered StarForce, the malignant copy-restriction curse suffered by many PC gamers, only to be threatened with a lawsuit after criticizing the product as “malware.”
StarForce is a set of low-level drivers that are installed along with some games in an attempt to prevent piracy by disrupting the parts of your computer which could be used to make copies of games. From Aaron McKenna, an editor with Tom’s Hardware Guide:
These new protection systems do not simply protect software from direct attempts to pirate it – they also proactively search out potential piracy threats on one’s system and then prevent them from working. Programs such as Nero and Alcohol 120% are obvious targets here, though I have seen far more erratic and often times seemingly random tantrums taken by these systems. These range from disabling the recording device in Windows Media Player, to preventing access to the CD drive both on the software and hardware side. I usually find myself pressing the button to open the CD drive and then having to log out of Windows for it to do what it’s supposed to!
Other gamers have reported that StarForce retards the performance of their CD and DVD drives, sometimes in such as way as to cause the physical hardware to stop working. StarForce also interferes with legitimate CD burning software such as Nero, impeding or completely disabling users from making legitimate copies of their own data.
More after the jump. There’s just too much to put on the front page.
How can you avoid StarForce? Your best bet would be to avoid games that use StarForce—including, we’re sad to say, the free Trackmania Nations demo we linked to you yesterday in our Deals Round Up. Yes, the companies using StarForce are so afraid of piracy that they are willing to put crippling software on your PC on the off chance a pirate might learn something from the demo that would help them crack the full game.
You can also use the StarForce Drivers Removal Tool, provided by OnlineSecurity-On, the only company who claims to have been “granted a sole right to distribute the StarForce Removal Tool utility.” Please note that StarForce is not providing a removal tool themselves and are implying that you need their permission to remove drivers from your own system.
David Zhidkov of StarForce Technologies has this to say about about his software and Aaron McKenna:
I am confident that every download is not just a lost retail sale. I think that because of people, who seem to have certainly downloaded the pirated game and their friends who they shared it with, each download means at least two or three lost sales.
The author certainly is a brave person. He calls the ways game publishers protect their code
. But I don
t think we are in the dark. We offer legal ways to protect other people
Another issue raised in the article deals with the StarForce driver. The StarForce just like any other system certainly doesn
t share about the technology because we protect other people
s money and it would be absurd to disclose any details about how these systems work.
The compatibility problems do occur with any protection system and the statistics of StarForce lie within the standard. As for Alcohol 120% and alike there are no conflicts that StarForce would cause, because the protection system is tested for compatibility with these programs. And our technical support received zero feedback from people who had to totally rebuild their computers because of StarForce drivers. According to our research those of users that do run into compatibility problems are beginner-level-hackers that try to go around our protection system.
If you have a problem with your computer that might stem from StarForce, you’re not a user with a problem. You’re a “beginner-level-hacker.”
See also: The typical rationale used by a game developer who chooses to include StarForce in their product on the UbiSoft Forum.