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Lawsuit Against Ubisoft for Starforce 106

Posted by Zonk
from the punishing-the-enablers dept.
Cyber Akuma writes "Due to Ubisoft's intentional use of the highly controversial copy protection scheme Starforce, despite user protests and purposeful deletion of any forum discussions about the protection, Christopher Spence has filed a 5 Million Dollar lawsuit against the company for use of the crippling DRM in their games. Starforce has been reported to cause system instability, slowdowns, and possible damage to optical drives. As well as questionable business practices when dealing with customers and other companies, which has been reported on Slashdot before."
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Lawsuit Against Ubisoft for Starforce

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  • by DaHat (247651)
    Wait... we don't like Starforce... go get em Chris!!!

    It is often a shame IMO when legal action is the only way to take care of issues such as the wonderful rootkits, spyware and drm on music and video game disks.
    • Lawsuits such as this are totally justified. It's intentional asshattery. There is nothing frivolous about this.

      The only time a lawsuit is stupid is when someone sues over something that is, at worst, an accident. Malpractice, McDonald's hot coffee, etc.
      • But McDonald's hot coffee was a real problem.

        What most people don't know want to admit is that the hot coffe suite wasn't about someoen spilling coffe, it was about a company serving coffe that was too hot for the cups they served it in. Yes, the coffee was so hot it melted the cups and caused the lids to come off. After recieving many complaints about it at that particular (yes it was only one store serving it this hot too) store, a customer suffered third degree burns on thier crotch and leg areas.

        MCdonal
        • For an alternate view see overlawyered.com's rebuttal of this "it's an urban legend" position. Don't have the URL handy, but search "mcdonald coffee" on overlawyered. (Turns out McD's coffee then was 10-20 degrees cooler than Starbuck's is served right now. And was well within the norm for coffee temperatures at the time.)
          Then again, the whole post above sounds a bit like a trial lawyer soundbite, so not sure how much good my statement will do.
          • I've heard that line about starbucks coffee being hotter before. It is trivial because the merrits of the "winnings" rest on the coffee beeing too hot for the container it was placed in and the store knowing about it while continuing to serve it that way. Also this particular store had been recieving comlaints from customers about the lids comming off becuase of the hot coffee and injuries resulting from it. The important thing here isn't neccesarily this McDonalds compared to starbuck but this McDonalds co
  • The guy can't even spell Starforce, never mind sue them over it. Is he some kind of stalking horse, deliberately doomed to fail to discourage other people with more resources and ability to sue the company??
    • The guy that can't spell Starforce is whoever transcribed part of the filed complaint onto the Kotaku.com website. If you read the original complaint his spelling is correct. Don't always assume that what you've read is correctly cited.
  • Isn't this just the sort of thing the EFF likes to get involved in? I would think any suit like this would get a lot more traction with their backing (even if it's just adding some whitepapers/briefs in the mix).
  • Anecdotal Evidence (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 03, 2006 @09:39AM (#15049485)
    "For example, here's one of the common problems brought by Starforce: under Windows XP, if packets are lost during the reading or writing of a disk, XP interprets this as an error and steps the IDE speed down. Eventually it will revert to 16bit compatibility mode rendering a CD/DVD writer virtually unusable. In some circumstances certain drives cannot cope with this mode and it results in physical hardware failure (Most commonly in multiformat CD/DVD writer drives). A sure sign of this step down occurring is that the burn speeds will get slower and slower (no matter what speed you select to burn at). Starforce, on a regular basis, triggers this silent step down. Until it reaches the latter stages most people do not even realise it is happening."

    Proof? Out-of-specs equipment? (remember the problem one of the linux distros had).
    • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Monday April 03, 2006 @11:40AM (#15050517) Homepage Journal
      Proof.

      Installed UbiSoft's 'Silent Hunter III' and my Artec BKM-52x16 Combo drive almost immediately refused to recognize blank media directly after that. Within days of installing the program, my brand-new DVD/CD-RW Combo drive refused to even recognize a CD. Forums suggest flashing firmware, I do so, regain burning functionality, only to have the drive completely stop working the very next day. It didn't take a week for StarForce to completely kill my optical drive, force me to wipe out my hard drive, reinstall anew, and microwave the Silent Hunter CD. I paid 30 bucks for the game, and that game cost me ~$45 just to get my system back in working order due to the damage it caused.

      Personally I'd like to see a massive petition sent to Congress to totally ban Ubisoft in the USA. Add on to that a nice hint that suggests unless this happens these Congressmen won't be sitting in their seats come re-election time, and there's a slim but better than nothing chance that they'll listen.
      • by X0563511 (793323) *
        How about a complete petition to totally ban copy protection outside of cd keys and encryption.
      • Huh... You know, this sounds almost exactly like what happened to my drive about a year, maybe two, ago. At the time, though, I never actually checked to see if StarForce was infecting my system. I make it habit of always cracking any game I buy, but of course SF will be installed along with the game initially.

        One day, my CDRW/DVD combo drive just stopped accepting blank discs. At first it was only RW discs, but quickly it spread to all discs. It never got to the point of refusing to read regular CDs,

    • by cluke (30394)
      Shit!! This happened to my system about a year ago. Everything slowed WAAYY down. It was driving me mad, and after about 4 hours googling and messing about I finally worked out my IDE drive wasn't using DMA anymore (or something along those lines, it was a while ago now). Had to delete the IDE drivers for XP to 'automatically' reinstate them. That was a sweaty-palmed few seconds after that reboot, I can tell you!

      I was baffled to how this happened (just blamed Windows ;-), but after reading this I am wonderi
      • by MikkoApo (854304)
        Here's an article about resetting the the drives to DMA mode [aiscl.co.uk].

        The registry branch where the info is stored seems to be constant, so this registry file might work too:

        Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

        [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlS et\Control\Class\{4D36E96A-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE1 0318}\0001]
        "MasterIdDataCheckSum"=-
        "SlaveIdDat aCheckSum"=-

        [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\Current ControlSet\Control\Class\{4D36E96A-E325-11CE-BFC1- 08002BE10318}\0002]
        "MasterIdDataCheckSum"=-
        "Sl aveIdDataCheckS

        • Thanks, that's interesting.

          Also, in reply to myself - from looking online, it seems that particular Splinter Cell game doesn't have Starforce, so maybe it wasn't the culprit after all.
      • You don't have to delete the driver. Next time, just follow this procedure:

        Re-enable DMA using the Registry Editor

        Run REGEDIT. Go to the following key:

        HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Contr o l\Class\{4D36E96A-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318}

        It has subkeys like 0000, 0001, 0002, etc. Normally 0001 is the primary IDE channel, 0002 the secondary, but other numbers can occur under certain circumstances. Check the DriverDesc value to see which one it is.

        Delete MasterIdDataChecksum or SlaveI
    • by JordanL (886154)
      Happened to me. Completely toasted my Dual-Layer DVD/CD combo burner/rewrite drive.

      Had no clue why until the first article on /. about Starforce appeared. Checked on my computer and sure enough, there it was. Had to go out and buy a whole new goddamn drive.
  • Dude..... (Score:3, Funny)

    by WickedClean (230550) on Monday April 03, 2006 @09:45AM (#15049529) Homepage
    Such a fuss...all because he wants to play without the disk.

    Just get a crack for it like the rest of us!
    • Re:Dude..... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ZekeSulastin (965715)
      You DID read the legal brief and/or the many, MANY posts on just about every major gaming blog concerning StarForce, right? Even if it doesn't permanently damage your optical drives, cause extreme system slowdown, or make it impossible to burn a CD/DVD (all of which have been reported to happen), it grants system-level access to user-level applications - introducing yet another security hole into Windows, one within a payload much more likely to be used by many users. Also, the company itself acts far sup
  • by (H)elix1 (231155) <slashdot.helix@nOSPaM.gmail.com> on Monday April 03, 2006 @09:56AM (#15049599) Homepage Journal
    5M? Ubisoft sold a lot more kit than that. What is the damage going to be - 5$ off Splinter Cell Double Agent for us, 4M to the lawyers? Would be nice to see some of these machine horking protection schemes get held to the same 'criminal' behavior like deleting files or defacing websites...
  • Hope he wins (Score:1, Insightful)

    by VGfort (963346)
    that way maybe other companies wont use StarForce anymore, because a lot of companies usually dont listen to customers until it hits them in the pocketbook.
  • do some research (Score:4, Informative)

    by the computer guy nex (916959) on Monday April 03, 2006 @10:02AM (#15049627)
    "Such a fuss...all because he wants to play without the disk. Just get a crack for it like the rest of us!"

    I don't think you fully understand what StarForce is. Only a couple StarForce games have ever been cracked - and it isn't just swapping out a couple .EXE files.

    You need to physically unhook *all* of your optical drives and run an emulator that seriously hits system performance. UBI has released this with their Splinter Cell series - and for the most part it worked. Troubleshooting costs are way higher than normal but I know a ton of people who don't ever buy games that bought these.
    • Re:do some research (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Thalagyrt (851883) *
      Actually, quite a few StarForce game have been cracked. Try looking each game up on TorrentSpy, you'll see that a lot of them are avaliable there. And yes, it is an EXE patch as far as I'm aware. Once one game protected by a certain scheme is cracked, the rest are pretty simple to crack since you just have to look for the same patterns, provided it's the same version of the protection scheme.

      I may be wrong about this, but it's what I've seen so far. I haven't downloaded any StarForce protected games so I
      • If it's not *every* StarForce protected game that's been fully cracked it's pretty close. Just took awhile for the first one.

        Which has nothing to do with why StarForce and its maker are nasty.

        I sure didn't enjoy emailing the creators of Space Rangers 2 to tell them they'd lost a sale because of the included StarForce protection. That sucks: I don't get to play a great game, small company loses money.
    • Re:do some research (Score:3, Informative)

      by F_Scentura (250214)
      "You need to physically unhook *all* of your optical drives and run an emulator that seriously hits system performance."

      Or just use a SCSI drive.
    • >You need to physically unhook *all* of your optical drives
      >and run an emulator that seriously hits system performance.

      Or wire in a switch. Or if you are really lazy, put them in USB/SCSI enclosures.
    • Re:do some research (Score:5, Informative)

      by FictionPimp (712802) on Monday April 03, 2006 @11:24AM (#15050344) Homepage
      I have a no cd or a fixed iso (small iso that meets the cd check requirements) for every single starforce game I own (which is a lot of games). Starforce can't stop piracy. Most pirates have no problem waiting a month or two to play a new game. I personally dont buy games until there is a no CD crack. I even waited to buy Oblivion (Note that oblivion does not use starforce) until there was a fixed iso. I perfer fixed iso's to no cd cracks as I can use daemon tools and the iso without patching my game. Plus those isos are usually less then 20 meg.

      I dont like having a giant CD rack in my office to play games. I buy the game, rip it to my network and put the cd in my library room. If I can't do that, I dont buy the game. If they want to do copy protection, they should go with value added copy protection (such as unique keys to play online). Epic, bioware, and blizard seem to understand this. Hell epic even removes the no-cd crack with their first patch for Ut2004. Bioware did the same with nwn.
      • Oblivion wouldn't -have- a fixed ISO, because Oblivion was released without copy protection.

        Bethesda listened to their fans on their forums, and promised not to use Starforce. In the end, the only thing protecting Oblivion is a CD check. You can use any old ordinary imaging program to make an ISO of the DVD and then use that ISO to play the game.

        Try it! :) Worked just fine for me. In addition to that, I am extremely thankful to Bethesda for not punishing me for buying the actual game.
        • Really? Sweet, I may be able to get Oblivion after all. Now if only they remove the CD check in some patch, it'll definitely be in my list of games to purchase.

          Sometime after I upgrade my PC to be able to actually play Oblivion...

          • www.gamecopyworld.com had a fixed no-CD executable for Oblivion shortly after release. While I agree that people should be leery of installing "exes I downloaded off the Internet", I have yet to have an issue with any I've personally downloaded from GCW. In this case, the no-CD works great, and after removing an old *.ax file a codec pack had installed, the game is almost completely stable. I average maybe one crash ever 12 hours.

            Yes, I paid for my copy. I even pre-ordered it, something I "never" do. :P
        • A fixed iso is much smaller than the full CD. If I used ripped ISOs for all my games I would pry have to buy a 2 200 gig drives. With these little isos I have them all on my little 40 gig hard drive on the server in the closet.
      • I have a similar philosophy. I don't usually buy games until the price drops to $30 or so. By then, all the cracks and patches I'll want/need have been released and I avoid most bugs from the original release. It saves me money, too. :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 03, 2006 @10:06AM (#15049657)
    Less lawsuits, more *EFFECTIVE* boycotts. And no, I'm not talking about half-hearted "boycotts," where idiot gamers with no self-control warez the hell out of a title that's supposed to be boycotted, only to serve as proof that publishers need to use copy protection. I'm talking about shutting out all purchases, downloads, and even positive discussion about a boycotted title.

    It would certainly not be a trivial effort to organize something like this. But it would be better proof to the publishers that we don't necessarily need what they have to offer us. They provide us with services and products (luxuries, at that) that we can choose to buy. Don't tattle to mommy government so she can slap the publishers on the wrist and leave them looking for different means to screw you. Just starve them straight. If gamers can't do this, that's just proof that publishers can do whatever they want to you.

    After all, we are not talking about (sigh) Windows, which someone might actually need for some reason. These are *games*.
    • I'm already in this boycott. I like, for instance, GTR and GTL (racing sims) but I won't touch them due to the Starforce issue (the GTR demo slowed and eventually disabled a CD/RW for me).

      So, it's rFactor and not GTR for me. I'm sure ISI doesn't mind the business.

      • Same here. The next Heroes Of Might And Magic will have Starforce and I won't buy it (or download it) because of this. To understand my addiction to this game, I own every single title in the series (except Chronicles, those were just greedy moneygrabs from 3DO) and I'm currently replaying HOMM2: The Price of Loyalty. But I won't touch HOMM 5 with a ten foot pole because of Starforce.
    • Perhaps a more attainable stepping stone is getting legislation done that requires publishers to label the box and disk with the specific name, brand, and VERSION of copy protection used.
    • 1) Finding out ahead of time which game has which copy protection is difficult.

      2) A large number of games are sold to people who have no online contact with such groups.
      • A few solutions for problem #1:

        There are a few [similarities.org] lists [glop.org] which strive to detail all games released with Starforce so you don't have to guess.

        Ubisoft actually released an official patch to remove Starforce from their older game, X2. I can't tell you how eager I am to see a trend like that spread.
    • This isn't a dire enough issue for a boycott to even enter the vicinity of reality. A game company would have to be harming children or supporting international terrorism to incite an "effective boycott." Boycotting in general is just not an effective means of making change. Lawsuits, on the other hand, are highly effective... I'm all for alternatives to litigation, but let's look at new methods of protest that might work and let's avoid looking back at methods that have historically failed. Repeatedly.

      -If
    • Flyers that list the issues, games and what DRM is on them (including "none") and websites with more information would be a start.

      A group willing to stand outside their local EBGames, GameStop and hand out the above flyer would be the next step.

      An overall group organizing and willing to educate consumers is probably the way to go for an effective boycott/lobby group as well as a way to reach those who may not got on-line enough to care.

      A side effect of this sort of thing might be driving more consumers to c
  • by KDR_11k (778916)
    "What you reap is what you sow".

    I hope it stops these practices, I've held off from purchasing quite a few games because I'm not sure starforce is trustworthy and I'm VERY sure that I as a legitimate customer do not tolerate being treated like a criminal. Well, actually the criminals get treated much better since the warez versions usually remove such inconveniences completely. "Here's your reward for purchasing our software instead of downloading: A worse user experience! Isn't that great?"
  • I remember seeing a note about this on star-force homepage.
    They offered $10,000 reward and all-expenses paid round-trip to moscow to their headquarters, if you could replicate situation where starforce actually did some damage to optical drives.
    The competition is over by now, apparently no one tried to prove it right, link here [star-force.com].
    • I think that's interesting, though I'm not sure how many people regularly browse the Star Force website and even more, how many actually want to take a trip to Moscow and the headquarters of the company. It doesn't seem all that appealing to me. Of course, the results of their experiment are not "proof" like they claim, but what would you expect from a company trying to sell its product?

      That said, anyone that would install system-altering DRM to play a damn game is insane. Totally nuts. I am not much of
      • when Sony tried this kind of stuff a few months ago they were forced out of the market. Why haven't gamers done the same?

        This story has not reached the kind of news value, that the Sony case generated. When this happends, maybe Ubisoft will listen. I don't think that Sony was "forced out of the market" - but you could read the story in many different newspapers/site - not just in computer related news. This, ofcause, is not something Sony can live with, so they undid theri mistake. The only place I have

    • by Slashcrap (869349) on Monday April 03, 2006 @11:44AM (#15050556)
      They offered $10,000 reward and all-expenses paid round-trip to moscow to their headquarters, if you could replicate situation where starforce actually did some damage to optical drives.

      No, the deal was that you flew out to Moscow at your own expense to demonstrate it. And then they decide whether to award you the prize based on their rules. Also note that the vast majority of people aren't complaining that it physically damages their CD drives. They are complaining about system instability, poor performance and the gaping fucking security hole that Starforce opens on your PC*.

      I'm sure that you totally misrepresented the "competition" rules by accident. Everyone knows Starforce are above planting paid shills on forums.

      * The Starforce driver can elevate user processes to Ring 0**.
      ** That's what we call a rootkit.
    • Actually, the entire competition was very hush-hush and rarely spoken of, let alone known even after it ended.

      The contest page was visited 48.000 times but we received 0 applications. No one showed up.

      48,000 visits? Slashdot probably gets that many visits in an hour and we're supposed to be impressed? If they said 480,000 or even 4.8 million unique visits, I'd be more understanding but 48,000? Thats NOTHING by internet standards.

    • The competition is over by now, apparently no one tried to prove it

      Was that before or after the death threats [game-overdrive.com]?

    • I heard that a number of people did try to sign up for that joke of a contest, but they were given the runaround so they never got their applications completed. They didn't really want anyone to take them up on the offer because it looks better for them now that they can say nobody tried. Also your trip was only paid for if you could prove the damage in the alotted time and they accepted your results. How many people would really want to spend their own time and money flying to Moscow to prove to a compa
  • I know of Ubisoft as a game developer, but what is their relation to the creators of StarForce. It mentioned that they're being used for using it, not developing it... sound really it sounds more like they should be sueing the creators of StarForce or at least have a suit against both. On the other hand, Sony used bought DRM and they're usually the ones held as reponsible for its nasty rootkit, soooo.

    I do know that other game developers use StarForce though, to the same effect. Why sue UbiSoft in particul
    • UbiSoft is the focus of the suit because they are the ones putting the software onto your computer, they are the ones ultimately doing the "damage". StarForce (the company) does not install its software on your computer, UbiSoft put it there so it is their (UbiSoft's) fault when the software causes damage.

      UbiSoft, instead of a different company, is likely the target due to a recent choice to equip all their games with StarForce.

  • Maybe now they will be forced to release a nocd version of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory so I can finally put the 4GB image to some use ;)
  • Let's see... The company is based in Russia, produces harmful software and doesn't acknowledge it. It also posts links to torrents of pirated copies of games, that don't use their copy protection (Galactic Civilisations 2) and generally screws up the whole world, except Russia and other countries, where practically everybody infringes copyright, instead of buying the software. I say that this StarForce thingy is actually sponsored by the Russian government in an attempt to screw up the US and the rest of th

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