EA Faces Class Action Suit over Spore DRM

Ever since EA’s Spore landed at retailers, some gamers have been chafing at the limits of DRM technology included with the game. The most common complaint was that the game’s DRM technology only permitted Spore to be installed on three computers, and provided no way to de-authorize installations to enable another. So, if you installed Spore on a notebook and that notebook was lost or stolen, one of your permitted Spore installations went with it. EA has since eased restrictions a little—installations are now permitted on up to five computers—and says it’ll work on ways for user to de-authorize installations, as well as use up to five screen names for each copy of the game.

Now, a lawsuit has been filed against Spore publisher Electronic Arts, alleging the game’s SecurROM DRM technology defrauds consumers because it involves a separate program from the Spore game itself. Invoking shades of the infamous Sony audio CD copy protection snafu a few years ago—in which Sony was found to be clandestinely installing copy protection software on users’ PCs, and that copy protection software actually exposed users to security vulnerability, the lawsuit alleges that SecurROM is an “undisclosed,” separate program that users cannot uninstall.

“Although consumers are told that the game uses access control and copy protection technology, consumers are not told that this technology is actually an entirely separate, stand-alone program which will download, install and operate on their computers along with the Spore download,” the complaint reads. The suit alleges SecurROM “remains a fixture in their computer unless and until the consumer completely wipes their hard drive through reformatting or replacement of the drive.”

The suit alleges unfair competition and seeks damages for trespass and interference, as well as violation of consumer protection laws, as well as disgorgment of unjust profits.

The lawsuit is an interesting take on the DRM issue, since it attacks the DRM technology itself, not the terms of installation the technology enforces.

In the Sony DRM snafu, the company was forced to recall copy-protected audio CDs, offer consumers exchanges, and agree to not pull anything similar for a short while. In a settlement with the FTC, Sony also agreed that it violated federal law by not telling consumers its music CDs contained DRM software.

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