Spore SecuROM copy protection system draws lawsuit


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Despite Electronic Arts’ good-faith effort last week to relax copyright restrictions in Spore, gamers aren’t buying it — the digital constraint tactic, that is. The game, on the other hand, is selling faster than you can evolve a virtual amoeba.

Spore has already sold a million copies since hitting stores earlier this month, but critics of the game’s digital rights management have been vehement, bringing their protests to reviews, message boards, blogs and now federal court.


On Monday, just three days after EA apologized for the DRM controversy and increased the number of computers each game could be activated on (from three to five), a lawsuit seeking class-action status was brought against the company in the U.S. District Court for Northern California.

The case targets SecuROM, a DRM technology meant to prevent PC game piracy. Spore installs the program on users’ computers without their explicit knowledge and cannot be easily removed, according to the 36-page document (PDF download) filed by Melissa Thomas and law firm KamberEdelson. In trying to protect its own intellectual property, EA compromises the consumer’s own property — their computers, said Scott Kamber, the firm’s managing member. EA says it doesn’t comment on matters of pending litigation.

Similarities will no doubt be drawn between this and the Sony BMG rootkit case, in which the Federal Trade Commission ruled last year that the company couldn’t install hidden software on users’ computers without their permission. KamberEdelson, which commonly covers class-action technology cases, is the same firm that led the rootkit suit. And perhaps more ironically, the SecuROM software that EA uses with Spore was developed by Sony.

KamberEdelson also won a 2006 suit against game developer UbiSoft for its invasive StarForce PC copy-protection program. ‘These corporate executives don’t see anything wrong with putting this uninstallable program on people’s computers,’ Kamber said.

-- Mark Milian

Spore image by Electronic Arts