The Needles: Michael Pachter, Ubisoft and the Perils of Rights and Wrong

Andy Chalk

One Flag, One Fleet, One Cat
Nov 12, 2002
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The Needles: Michael Pachter, Ubisoft and the Perils of Rights and Wrong

Michael Pachter was right. That doesn't mean Ubisoft is.

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Jared

The British Paladin
Jul 14, 2009
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DRM is always going to be a difficult subject to skirt, and things like Ubi's system is only rubbing people up the wrong way...in a really bad way.
 

Therumancer

Citation Needed
Nov 28, 2007
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Actually I think the problem is that Michael Pachter didn't focus much on the effects on legitimate users. Their rights to own and use their own games as they see fit, which is where he fails. What a company like Ubisoft is doing does not just protect their property, but infringes on the rights of those who purchused the games legally.

Let me put it this way, if Ubisoft goes out of business, meaning no servers and online verification, how do I play the game I paid a bunch of money for? I as a consumer have the right to MY property indefinatly. Some of us do play old games, some of which are a decade or more old, and I feel that is our right.

As far as Ubisoft being legally right, I am not entirely sure about that one. I suppose it can be argued legally, but only because I feel the goverment has yet to seriously pay attention to the games industry and what it does. All of this junk about EULAs and the like are legally dubious because they are something that you run into AFTER you've paid money and can't return the product. That's a key element that all of these arguements seem to miss entirely.

I think to some extent the games industry has gotten away without signifigant legal investigation or action, that it has developed something of a god complex when it comes to their "rights" to abuse customers. Things like price fixing, arranging release schedules to avoid direct competition, and similar things are all illegal at least in the US. Heck they publicly admit to large scale "game developer conferances" which exist to more or less set industry policy and standards. Before someone questions this, consider that this is pretty much what gas companies have been under investigation/in battle over for years now, over fixing prices at the gas pumps and coordinating price hikes accross the spectrum (which is what the games industry did a few years ago when they raised game prices by $10 accross the board). It's just that nobody yet cares.

To me, I think DRM is immoral, hurts legitimate buyers (which some people do mention), and when it's draconian and affects what you can do with your property is not properly presented like a contract should be before you pay money for what is more or less an unreturnable product.

Stop and think about this some time. Pirates aren't right, but neither is the game industry. Neither has a moral high ground here. Legitimate customers are the ones getting hurt by what amounts to two groups of criminals duking it out.

Such is my opinion.
 

Loonerinoes

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Apr 9, 2009
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Heheh. Spinnn control. That's really all it is.

It's just a shame for Pachter that he outright decided not to use any. Still, in spite of some personal disagreements or points that I felt were left unsaid, a very nice article indeed. :)
 

uppitycracker

New member
Oct 9, 2008
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Regardless of everyones reaction to what he said, I think the big issue here is how he so readily agrees with the measures taken, despite what they do to the customer themselves. It all comes back to that whole treating customers like criminals response. When something clearly doesn't work against those it's intended to work against, instead punishing those who fork over the cash and support the brand name, then there's a serious problem, and him advocating the use of such measures is just yet another reason why people need to forget this tool exists.

Therumancer said:
Actually I think the problem is that Michael Pachter didn't focus much on the effects on legitimate users. Their rights to own and use their own games as they see fit, which is where he fails. What a company like Ubisoft is doing does not just protect their property, but infringes on the rights of those who purchused the games legally.

Let me put it this way, if Ubisoft goes out of business, meaning no servers and online verification, how do I play the game I paid a bunch of money for? I as a consumer have the right to MY property indefinatly. Some of us do play old games, some of which are a decade or more old, and I feel that is our right.

As far as Ubisoft being legally right, I am not entirely sure about that one. I suppose it can be argued legally, but only because I feel the goverment has yet to seriously pay attention to the games industry and what it does. All of this junk about EULAs and the like are legally dubious because they are something that you run into AFTER you've paid money and can't return the product. That's a key element that all of these arguements seem to miss entirely.

I think to some extent the games industry has gotten away without signifigant legal investigation or action, that it has developed something of a god complex when it comes to their "rights" to abuse customers. Things like price fixing, arranging release schedules to avoid direct competition, and similar things are all illegal at least in the US. Heck they publicly admit to large scale "game developer conferances" which exist to more or less set industry policy and standards. Before someone questions this, consider that this is pretty much what gas companies have been under investigation/in battle over for years now, over fixing prices at the gas pumps and coordinating price hikes accross the spectrum (which is what the games industry did a few years ago when they raised game prices by $10 accross the board). It's just that nobody yet cares.

To me, I think DRM is immoral, hurts legitimate buyers (which some people do mention), and when it's draconian and affects what you can do with your property is not properly presented like a contract should be before you pay money for what is more or less an unreturnable product.

Stop and think about this some time. Pirates aren't right, but neither is the game industry. Neither has a moral high ground here. Legitimate customers are the ones getting hurt by what amounts to two groups of criminals duking it out.

Such is my opinion.
Very, very well said.
 

Gildedtongue

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Nov 9, 2007
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Well, the big question is "Who owns the game after the consumer purchases it, the company, or the consumer?"

As time goes by, it seems most game companies, game manufacturers, and computer manufacturers believe that the consumer gave them their money for simply access to their product. Apple has been in this mindset since the early 80s, Microsoft is still trying to develop a method to make this integrated in their OSs, and Sony and Microsoft have both shown that "just because you put down hundreds of dollars on a product, you don't get a say on how it's used."

Say I travel a lot, I carry my laptop around with me for both work and entertainment. On the plane, I want to kill the seven hour flight by going around Venice stabbing people in the throat because I can't get that screaming infant two rows ahead to shut up, and the sprinting seven year old is going up and down aisles slapping chairs. Well, I can't do that, normally, but I could just crack the game, and leave the discs at home, safe, and since the company is too cheap to get me a plane with wi-fi, I can't access the 'net from the air. Why can I do that? Because it's my game. But, according to these makers, I'm a dirty, stinking pirate. Nevermind that I gave them the money, but, it's my game and I should be able to do with it as I please barring copyright law. I should have control that when I'm done with it, hand it to my friend and say "here, play this." Or to go to the store and sell it to buy a used or new game. These corporations are entrenching on these rights, and the opposition party is often ignored because they're painted as "Meh, just another pirate idiot who needs to be locked up" by their PR department and sites like The Escapist.

But, Ubisoft, and the rest of the the gaming factory, doesn't feel that what I give them money for is my game anymore. The same thing goes to companies whining about second hand games and why people shouldn't be able to do that. We give these people US$60 for the privilege to be kicked in the teeth and to listen with smiles when they complain about the mean and cruel world.
 

StriderShinryu

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Dec 8, 2009
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"It's amusing to note that a good number of people making noise about Pachter's remarks will claim piracy as essentially a right too, because videogames are so expensive, or they're not very good, or, best of all, the DRM is too restrictive. Yet instead of exercising their real-world right to simply not buy this game or that, they fall back on some imaginary sense of justice for the little guy and rip it off."

The truth has been spoken. Thank you Mr. Chalk for saving me some typing.
 

Elec0

The Master of Fractals
May 29, 2009
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I agree with Gilded. Why should someone else tell me what I can and can't do with something I've paid for legally?
 

cynicalsaint1

Salvation a la Mode
Apr 1, 2010
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I agree with this article, for the most part.

Really the problem with the argument is that there's no dialog between paying customers and the companies. Instead of looking at what can be done to stop piracy, maybe they should be looking at ways to make people want to be a paying customer. Extra content for registering your game online for example. Look at what Steam does - the reason people tolerate it is, because it isn't horribly invasive, and it adds many features that make you want to use it. This is what the model should be.

When you use things like Ubisoft's been doing, all you do is make the pirated version more valuable than the paid version. Note that I'm not advocating piracy, I'm simply stating a fact. When DRM restricts the paying customer it adds value to the pirated version that lack those restrictions, and this seems to be an entirely ass backwards way of doing things.
 

sosolidshoe

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May 17, 2010
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I will refrain from commenting on most of this, as it didn't go well the last time, and instead merely note this. Under your and Pachter's rather broad definition of piracy, loaning your mate a game that they play through to completion would also be theft.

If that doesn't show you how laughable the concept of piracy being pushed by the industry is, frankly I don't know what will.
 

Srdjan

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Mar 12, 2010
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I say that piracy isn't as bad as you all say. When I copy game, I don't steal anything and I don't stop company from gaining money from that game, if I steal DVD, I would stop them from getting money. If there were no piracy I wouldn't buy any games, so I don't see how I damaged company, if they wouldn't get my money anyway, why I can't play the game it not like I stole a car and then they can't sell that car because I stole it and it's not there, they can sell same game without any loses. And always is option that I love the game so much that I will eventully buy it, so piracy can only bring them money.

If you are going to buy a game and you pirate it because it's cheaper, then you should buy it, but if you have no intention of buying game you should pirate it, and then if game proves to be a hidden gem then you should consider buying it. I have many games that I bought, but I only buy games that I like, and I go to upper method all the time.

I also hate people that sell pirated games, that is just being asshole. Feel free to diagree, but I thought about this subject alot and this is what I cocluded. Also don't metion me it illegal, 400 years ago people who were telling that Earth revolvs around Sun were illegal and burned alive, so law must evolve with society, or you would wish that you have your genitals severed when having sex not married.
 

Delusibeta

Reachin' out...
Mar 7, 2010
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I'll be blunt: Patcher was specifically asked about Ubi's DRM, and he didn't answer the question. Ergo, he's irrelevent to this discussion.

It's unquestionable that the UbiDRM has been a failure on pretty much all counts, even before the crack was made public. To be denied acess to your game due to DRM (whatever DRM: SecuROM, Steam, whatever) is highly annoying. Hence why the pro-piracy arguement goes "I'm being treated like a criminal, I may as well become one". Of course, this is little excuse (e.g. Humble Indie Bundle, where the most popular excuse for pirating it I could see was "I don't want to fill out this [one page] form, I don't want to be a paying customer & be treated like a criminal"), but when you face a DRM that restricts your right to play the game you bought whenever or wherever, that's just going to piss everyone off (especially when you know the pirated version doesn't have this restriction).

To quote Gabe, "a pirate is a dissatisfied customer". Unless said pirate is a jerk.
 

JayDub147

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Jun 13, 2009
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As far as I'm concerned, Ubisoft has the right to put whatever dumbass system of copy protection they want on their games, and consumers have no right to pirate those games. That said, I also think that, as far as their own personal use is concerned, gamers can do whatever the hell they want with the software that they've purchased (note: purchased, not licensed), including bypassing so called "digital rights management" to rid themselves of unnecessary headaches. The customer did not agree to the terms of service when they paid for the game, so why should they have to agree when they play it? It's their property, and they can do what they want with it.
 
Apr 28, 2008
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This whole Pirates vs. Publishers thing feels like a war between two gangs.
No one wins, and the normal, paying customers are always caught in the crossfire.

Therumancer said:
As far as Ubisoft being legally right, I am not entirely sure about that one. I suppose it can be argued legally, but only because I feel the goverment has yet to seriously pay attention to the games industry and what it does. All of this junk about EULAs and the like are legally dubious because they are something that you run into AFTER you've paid money and can't return the product. That's a key element that all of these arguements seem to miss entirely.
n.
That post was well said, but I just want to address that EULA thing here and now.

EULAs are not contracts people need to stop pretending they are. Copyright laws are pretty clear in countries and all countries that are a part of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (almost all of them) share copyrights across boards and have the same basic protections.

First Sale Doctrine (using the US example but mostly the same everywhere) means you own a copy of whatever material you bought. Inherent is the rights to sale the copy, and use the copy how you please. Think of a book. This is the traditional way to view copyrighted materials sold on some type of media, and the one I believe they should force companies to abide by.

Software companies try to get around this by saying they are selling you a license to use their product, not a copy of the software. The EULAs are to that effect. However courts have held up in some situations where if the EULA was not fully disclosed to the customer prior to the sell (remember not agreeing means you can't use it, and since you have to start to install it to see it you can no longer return the opened copy of the software) that the EULA is void that First Sale Doctrine applies.

EULAs get a way with it mostly because nobody challenges them. At least in the US they have a track record of losing on many of the more restrictive clauses.

Just because they put it in writing does not mean it's legal.
 

jezcentral

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Nov 6, 2007
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I would be prepared to endure Ubisoft's DRM if they promised to patch it out after, for example, 3 months. That would counter the "Day 0" piracy that they most want to counter, and mean that I could play the game as I wanted, once that had been done.

Seriously, I would love to buy Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed 2, even EA's poorly received C&C4 (I like the story!) if the always-on DRM was not going to be an issue in the near future.
 

Bucketface

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Mar 23, 2009
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Generally I have no issue with DRM, only when it impacts my experience of the game and Ubisoft's approach does this. When i get a better experience with my legally purched copy of a game when i "crack" it, than using it with the DRM, then there is something wrong.
I still think that providing rewards and incentives to puchase a game are better methods than just using highly intrusive DRM.
I'm not sure why publishers seem intent on singleing out pc games with such extreme methods for DRM. I've know people who bought an x-box 360 and have a fairly substantial library non of which are not pirated.
why do they not force console owners to be constanly conected to the inernet as well at least then they arn't singleing out one single market segment when this is an issue spanning both consoles (at least the 360) and the pc.
 

Crunchy English

Victim of a Savage Neck-bearding
Aug 20, 2008
779
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This is a tough issue, because right and wrong are used in ambiguous terms.

There's right- like I have the right to do this
And then there's right- like this is the correct thing to do.

Let me break it down easy then, because I don't get paid by the word.

UbiSoft can do whatever is wants with its product. It can light you on fire every time you boot up, that's their right.

That would be stupid. As is their current system.

Stealing from the stupid doesn't make you a valiant renegade or justify your actions. It just makes you a jerk, the same way pushing a mentally handicapped person down and taking his lunch money would.

Stealing from the stupid, or stealing from the rich, or stealing from people just giving stuff away or stealing from the evil is all the same. Its stealing. It's wrong. You're the worst kind of person imaginable if you do it.
 

DigitalSushi

a gallardo? fine, I'll take it.
Dec 24, 2008
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Firstly, I'd like to say I mentioned Michael Pachter smelling of poo long before this furore, which means I'm ahead of the curve (go me!).

While I do like Steam remember that it wasn't all plain sailing with that either, some people kinda play Half Life 2 on the intended date because of a glitch it had, Valve are well known to playtest everything to death but that slight oversight made for very angry Valve loyalist. Also when either steam or a game was being patched it would "lock" out so you couldn't play it, it ruined a weekend pro tournament. But now its a pretty sleek and stable system, what I'm saying is these might just be teething issues for Ubisoft much like Valve had.

I like Stardocks and the guys who made Zeno Clash approach, which could be called the Green Day tactic, of "hey guys, if you pirate our game and you enjoy it, can you maybe buy it?, we kinda need the money".

And I'm liking the current trend in the video game industry where when they cock things up they give us free stuff, such as Sony with the PSPgo and even Valve to assuage PC users with regards to support on the PC we got FREE PORTAL!.
 

Wuvlycuddles

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Oct 29, 2009
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I don't think publishers have the right to do whatever they want to stop piracy, there is a line in the sand and that line is making things difficult/annoying/restrictive for PAYING customers. Ubisoft crossed it, which is why i haven't bought the latest Settlers game in spite of being a huge fan of the series.

Say there is alot of car theft in your area and as a result, the local car dealers start selling cars that get fitted with a nifty electric shock anti-theft device, but the device shocks the owner of the car every time they try to start it up too, so you'd rather run the risk of having your car getting stolen than put up with that every day, wouldn't you?
 

DancePuppets

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Nov 9, 2009
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Wuvlycuddles said:
I don't think publishers have the right to do whatever they want to stop piracy, there is a line in the sand and that line is making things difficult/annoying/restrictive for PAYING customers. Ubisoft crossed it, which is why i haven't bought the latest Settlers game in spite of being a huge fan of the series.

Say there is alot of car theft in your area and as a result, the local car dealers start selling cars that get fitted with a nifty electric shock anti-theft device, but the device shocks the owner of the car every time they try to start it up too, so you'd rather run the risk of having you car getting stolen than put up with that every day, wouldn't you?
Or you wouldn't buy the car...