ESAC Says C-32 Needed To Guard Against Video Game Cheating

The Entertainment Software Association of Canada's Danielle LaBossiere Parr published an op-ed in the Calgary Herald supporting the digital lock provisions in C-32 (Heritage Minister James Moore saw fit to tweet the op-ed).  The op-ed doesn't contain many surprises – entertainment software is booming in Canada (and has been for years without copyright reform) but the ESAC says without reforms the future of the business is threatened.

There are three claims that demand a response, however. 

First, the op-ed suggests that without anti-circumvention legislation (which is the focus of the piece) the government "is basically forcing them [creators] to give their works away for free."  This is utter nonsense.  As many people supporting reforms of the digital lock provisions have repeatedly stated, the digital lock provisions need balance to protect those that have purchased a variety of products in digital form.  Calling for a right to circumvent for legal purposes isn't about giving away products for free since we're talking about products that have been purchased by consumers.

Second, the op-ed provides possibly the weakest justification yet for C-32's anti-circumvention rules. According to the ESAC, digital locks are needed to prevent "cheating" at games that "gives other players unfair advantages."  While it may be true that locks can be used for those purposes, it cannot possibly be the case that the government needs to enact legislation designed to stop people from gaining unfair advantages in video game play.

Third, the op-ed arrives at the astonishing conclusion that "failing to protect TPMs under the law means that the government is dictating the business model." The absence of anti-circumvention legislation does no such thing.  In fact, it once again the opposite – by providing legal protection for this particular business model, it is encouraging the use of digital locks.  The right approach from a market, business-model perspective is not to take sides at all.  No one is suggesting banning digital locks or prohibiting their use.  Those arguing for a balanced approach merely want to ensure that digital locks and their associated business models are not privileged above the basic rights that otherwise exist at law.

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  1. This is almost exactly the same editorial Ms. Parr wrote in a different newspaper last summer.

    So, what does preventing cheating have to do with copyright? Twenty years ago, Nintendo argued in US federal court (Lewis Galoob Toys, Inc. v. Nintendo of America, Inc.) that third-party cheating devices effectively created unauthorized derivative works of its games and thus violated its copyrights. However, they lost that case soundly.

    It’s worth noting that Parr is essentially conceding C-32 opponents’ point that the bill will result in state-enforced platform monopolies for video game vendors. She’s actually arguing that state-enforced platform monopolies are good for consumers.

  2. The gaming industry should know more than anyone else that adding digital locks doesn’t prevent unauthorized copying in any form. In fact, it’s sometimes the game company DRM schemes that end up hurting the customers who legally bought the product over those who pirated it.

    There’s no need to protect completely against breaking locks, only against breaking locks where you’re not legally allowed to copy the product.

  3. However, if locks can be broken on a purchased product, it is then possible to give it away to others – which is the point Ms. Parr was presumably trying to make.

  4. Anarchist Philanthropist says:

    What right does anyone have to tell me I can’t cheat a video game??? If i really wanted to play a game I couldn’t cheat, I would continue to play MMOs like Anarchy Online, like Ever Quest where everything you do is on a server you can’t access.

    If i’m on my home PC no one and I mean NO ONE has the right to tell me what i can and can’t do with a game I am playing.

  5. Russell McOrmond says:

    Misinformatino from folks who know better
    The ESA understands technology well enough to know that they are using technical measures to protect contracting terms, and nothing related to copyright.

    I believe they are being dishonest and don’t want the accountability and transparency that comes with provincial contract law. In other words, these folks are rejecting the rule of law and want Canada to offer a lower level of protection of e-Commerce and contract law.

  6. Bob said:

    However, if locks can be broken on a purchased product, it is then possible to give it away to others – which is the point Ms. Parr was presumably trying to make.

    @ bob

    The locks CAN and WILL be broken regardless of any law such as C-32. Once again DRM does not stop piracy… anyone actually believing it does it very very foolish. DRM does however effectively punish the paying consumer as has been shown time and time again.

    Therefore to legislate DRM protection does nothing to help prevent piracy.. the “game” can still be given away. And in the meantime those paying for it get to deal with ineffectual DRM that causes all sorts of headaches. And what about games w/DRM when the publisher goes under or decides it costs too much to keep the DRM server working? Check out Walmart’s DRM music for a good example of that. (thought there are many others if you search.)

  7. Russell McOrmond says:

    @mpjamesmoore has blocked me from following his tweets
    I guess I should be proud that I’m speaking to protect the interests of creators well enough that the Minister opposed to creators rights has blocked me from following his tweets. I was following in the past, and have been removed.

    “This person has protected their tweets.

    You need to send a request before you can start following this person.”

  8. Everyone who thinks publishing that naive drivel was foolish to say the least and w/o even a method to publish refuting arguments can also email their editor here and let him/her know how they feel:

  9. Russell McOrmond said:
    @mpjamesmoore has blocked me from following his tweets
    I guess I should be proud that I’m speaking to protect the interests of creators well enough that the Minister opposed to creators rights has blocked me from following his tweets. I was following in the past, and have been removed.

    “This person has protected their tweets.

    You need to send a request before you can start following this person.”

    Ahh typical… can’t stand the criticism and truth.. lets block em so they can’t speak anymore!

    Way to go Moore… acting like a tard.

  10. Now Cheating in videogames is a criminal offense!
    Great! Cheating is now a criminal offense!

    Getting information out of your videogame is a criminal offense. Using a cheater version of a videogame is a criminal offense.

  11. Great said:
    Now Cheating in videogames is a criminal offense!
    Great! Cheating is now a criminal offense!

    Getting information out of your videogame is a criminal offense. Using a cheater version of a videogame is a criminal offense.

    Don’t laugh.. if they implement DRM/TPM on a game and get C-32 passed as it stands now cheating would be illegal and a criminal act.

    Once again more proof of how fundamentally flawed C-32 is.

  12. Here we go, just like in the US they are trying to kill the used game market. And as has been shown by UBI, DRM on games cheats the law abiding CONSUMER! Noone is stopping these people from implementing DRM at this moment, and the 5% of people who will break the DRM, break it because they don’t care and would never have bought your game/music/movie in the first place. YET instead of working for the customers who love your games they’d rather concentrate on the pirates instead of innovating game play/produts.

  13. In a bit of a surprise I have already heard back from the editor in question. As a consequence I have proposed a new article refuting the BS spewed by Ms. Parr and showing how flawed C-32 is. Anyone wishing to add in some facts / links / ideas etc for this is more than welcome. In here for the moment since I do not have any better location unless someone has a better idea.

  14. I can understand why the ESAC wants TPMs to be protected… look at the tens of millions of dollars that it costs to develop a new major title for a PC, PS-3, etc (I’m not talking about iPhone apps here, but rather major gaming titles… for instance, in June of last year Ubisoft claims a major title for the PS3/XBox cost $20M to $30M, estimates for GTA IV are about $100M, although this likely also includes marketing costs). I can’t say that I agree with the sentiment, but I can understand it.

    However, making doing something like removing Punkbuster punishable by law? That stupid thing is notorious for falsely detecting a cheat. If they want to do that, then I suggest that the publisher also become legally liable for false detections of cheats, punishable by fines of $10K per incident.

  15. “According to the ESAC, digital locks are needed to prevent “cheating” at games that “gives other players unfair advantages.”

    LOL! Actually they are just charging you for the cheats now. Cheats are thrown in by the developer to help with product and beta testing. You can purchase a huge number of these “cheats” at the playstation store. You now have to pay for the unfair advantage! Digital locks in this regard are meant to protect an emerging business model, not to protect unfair advantages which can now be purchased at a price in most games on most platforms.

    It’s funny that these twits are actually ignoring the fact that those who grew up with video games are now in their mid – late 30’s, and those playing games are not all snot nosed kids.

  16. Parental Controls
    The article also mentions that “digital locks” protection is needed to be able to have “parental controls”, without “digital locks” smart kids will be able to override the controls that parents select in their video gaming console.

    This is also total bullshit. — Parental controls has nothing to do with the rest of the system, and I don’t think most people out there are going to waste time to bypass something because their parent tells them they can’t play it. — Crazy things they come up with the ESA lobby group!

  17. Parental Controls
    Making it illegal is not going to stop a kid from getting around the parental controls. Nor should it be a reason to keep the digital lock prevention since it’s something that parents should be taking care of themselves.

  18. Don’t the locks at least have to be intended to protect against copyright infringment to be legally protected by this bill? Neither the parental controls nor cheat controls are intended to protect against infringment.

    If locks are protected no matter what they are for, that would include the ones put on viruses to prevent detection and removal and a whole bunch of other malicious software.

  19. @crade
    It’s all about the prohibition against “circumvention devices”. In essence, C-32 will give the console vendors (Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony) a legal monopoly on software and hardware that works with their consoles. The only cheats you’ll be able to use are the ones the console vendor itself sells you. Any unauthorized third-party software or hardware will be a priori illegal, since it needs to circumvent the console vendor’s TPMs in order to interface with the console at all.

  20. Yeah, but it’s prohibition against devices for circumvention of digital locks used for copy protection (DRM), not all digital locks. (right??) You don’t use the same kind of digital locks to protect against copying that you do to guard your viruses or to protect against cheating or for parental controls.

  21. Edit: I should say you don’t normally… Naturally if DRM gets legal protection, they will start trying to “bundle” the protections, so you must break one to break the other, but that is a different story, I think.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Umm… are there not much more important matters than whether or not somebody gains an unfair advantage in a video game? Sheesh!

  23. You’re mistaken–the protections already are “bundled”, as you put it. A burned copy of a game, an original disc or cartridge from a different region, and an unauthorized “homebrew” program are exactly the same thing as far as the console is concerned–all of them lack the right digital signature, so the console refuses to run them. It’s been this way since the NES and the Atari 7800, the first consoles to employ TPMs.

  24. @AWJ
    Sorry, I see the difference, any lock that “controls access” to a work is protected, rather than just the ones that protect copyrights.

  25. @Glenn – My thoughts on your article
    Put it together at 2 levels, TPM in the industry and the problems with how TPM is applied in C-32.

    Level 1
    TPM is a technology based on the field of cryptology. Cryptology has a proven track record of being very effective, it protects online banking, inter-corporate communications, and many other secure communications and content.
    But the way the industry has applied TPM to their business models is apparently not very effective. The industry seems to be saying: “we want this technology to have this result on our business model, and we want to have laws passed to make it work this way.”

    Certainly a business has the right to use any technology they wish. But we should not be using our laws to force fit it into their particular business models.

    Level 2
    Connect the dots between exceptions as granted in C-32, and how TPM as applied in C-32 effectively removes those same rights explicitly granted in exceptions. Keep it logical and thoughtful. And as simple as you can.

    Point out that TPM as used in the copyright industries has a poor track record of being an effective deterrent to unauthorized copying, and does not look to be any better in the future. It will not deter piracy, it can only trump user rights.

    Captcha: an earfuls 🙂

  26. Funny how Free software games like “BZFlag” have been able to control cheating fairly well without a coveluted DRM, yet apparently “commercial” proprietary games need as much as a law to have their anti-cheating mechanisms to be effective.

    I’m fairly sure that the ESAC is just adding whatever additional arguement points, no matter how silly, in order padd out their arguement. Despiration is the only thing that would prompt such stupid statements to be made.

  27. @AWJ I still think this should mean I get legal protection against those lousy circumvention devices they call anti virus programs trying break my TPM to gain access to my copyrighted work without my consent.

  28. mckracken says:

    videogame tpm’s – the wrong way
    here is a reasonable example of tpm gone wrong, yet it is still used by a variety of publishers. securom was heralded as the way to go for the future by publishers, right up until it was discovered to effectively ‘rootkit’ (install itself in the deepest section of code it could to hide there, and then report back information about the computer and its’ activities to a central monitor server)all pc’s it was installed on. it’s funny that electronic arts had defend itself from several class action suits (as did sony when it rootkited pc’s for simply inserting a music cd in a cd drive). here’s the results of a settlement that was 2 years in the making. pdf court doc at link

    what these issues tell us is that it is not enough to enforce government regulations upon the consumer, but also the industries involved to ensure that illegal or criminal behaviour is not engaged in by them either.

    there is definitely a variety of issues that face the consumer and the industry in copyright matters, however, the playing field must be level on both sides. if a company in pursuit of security and safety compromises my equipment or causes me loss due to their technology being forced on me then we have a significant problem that can only be remedied in a court. unless the ability to remedy these issues exists within bill c32 then it should not be allowed to pass.

    good for the goose, good for the gander.

  29. Ms Parr is quite the character. Commenters from CBC destroyed her arguments in 2009. I’m surprised to see shes back again with the same rhetoric.

    “That sort of entrenches a certain business model. That’s sort of saying that everything has to be free, because we’re not offering the protection of law for people that want to be able to lock their door.” – Danielle Parr.

    o/ who would hire Ms Parr as a public relations rep. She’s completely deluded. This is the worst analogy of digital locks (technical protection measures) I’ve ever heard.

  30. Nice link Mark.. thnx 🙂

  31. That’s Absurd!!
    It’s one thing to ban me from playing a MMORPG game for cheating, but to make it illegal AND a fineable offense is absurd. These are the type of MORONs we have supporting this bill. I can’t believe she actually put that in print. I don’t play MMORPGs due to lack of time, but I know with the stand-alone games half the fun is in trying to find flaws and ways to cheat the game.

    As an example, there was a flaw/exploit in a game called Morrowwind (Elder Scrolls 3) which basically let you create items that would constantly regenerate your life. You could then don those items and stand the the water to let the slaughter-fish attack you. Your life would regenerate faster than the fish caused damage. In this way you walk in to the water, go to bed, and build you armor attribute all night, quickly reaching the max level. Clearly this was not the intent and is a cheat that needs legislation to stop.

    Again, I say ABSURD!!!

  32. Incidentally, I believe you can no longer use this exploit in the Morrowwind sequel, Oblivion. Unfortunately, Oblivion is plagued with random crashes which appear to be unfixable. Oddly, the cracked version I was using so I didn’t scratch my disks up worked better than the original….still crashed a lot though.

  33. Nameless Space Marine says:

    Remember IDDQD?
    I’ll give you a hint! the game DOOM

  34. RE: DOOM
    Ahhhhh, the infamous IDDQD, aka God mode. Turning NOCLIP on was fun too….or was that Quake…in any case, walk through walls to avoid locked doors or monsters and run straight to the exit if you so chose. If I remember right, in at least one of the ID Doom/Quake series, there were actually hidden rooms with loot in them that were only accessible if you used noclip.

  35. @Jason-K
    There are at least two types of cheats. The first is what you are referring to; there is no modification made to the game in order to take advantage of the “cheat”.

    Another involves an actual modification of the runtime of the game. For instance, a third party DLL is used to replace one of the ones used by the game; this DLL provides the cheat. This can be detected through the use of file size, modification date or checksums. I suspect what Ms Parr is talking about here is the TPM which detects these modifications.

    It is an issue when one it talking about online multi-user games. If all have the same cheat, then everyone is operating on the same plane. However, if a few are cheating, it is problematic for the ones that aren’t using the cheat.

    The problem with these detection systems is that they sometimes will decide the person is cheating based on the hardware as well. For instance, one game that I have had an issue whereby if I were to play it on full screen mode it would decide I was cheating. Why? Because I have a wide-screen monitor and it wasn’t told that was a legal hardware configuration; it considered it to be cheating because of the wide field of view supposedly afforded me better visibility of what was happening around me (the game was a first person shooter). This was subsequently corrected in a patch from the publisher.

    @AWJ: correct, even on PCs that used to occur… I have games that were distributed on 5.25″ floppy disks where copy protection was embedded. The difference now is that the techniques today are more insidious and can either inadvertently, or by design, open a path into your machine. This can be used to troll around your machine to gather information for directed advertising, market research or worse.

  36. ^ They also cause all sorts of grief because the servers are all at different update levels, the clients are all at different update levels, and they can’t tell when you are not cheating. So they just throw you off whenever your client dlls doesn’t match what the server expects, then if you manage to match that server, the next one will throw you off cuz you no longer match what it expects.. Good times.

  37. CasualGamer says:

    The major problem with the op-ed is Ms. Parr assumes that legal protection of TPMs will stop piracy. It’s obvious to anyone who cracks a game and offers it for download that what they are doing is illegal. It hasn’t stopped piracy. TPMs might make it harder to pirate content, but it always restricts personal use.

    The comment on the need for controls to stop modding and cheating is laughable. Mods are a great reason to to get a game. Remember the mods to Doom? How about Gary’s mod?

  38. Better late than never
    I play a MMORPG that utilizes a third-party “digital lock” to prevent cheating. Despite that, the locks only prevent legitimate players from modifying the game(for bad or worse,) and do absolutely nothing to prevent cheating, as cheating can be done in ways that neither break the lock, nor circumvent any physical requirement.

    In short, how to circumvent a digital lock (eg, to cheat) at a game:
    – Break the locking software (Hackshield and GameGuard, being third party software, are easily broken and thus all games that use it are vulnerable)
    – Break the software itself (Cracks, Hacks, resource editing, model edits)
    – Create a wrapper/interceptor against weak third-party parts of the game (Intel Jpeg Library, Bink Player, FMod) that patches the game on the fly
    – Emulate the server/Proxy (If the game goes out of business, then “emulate a private server” becomes viable.)
    – Emulate the game client (to cheat without being subjected to the digital lock)

    And of all of those, the only option that “innovates” is the creation of a private server, which the copyright owners loathe. The rest are simply to cheat or to profit at the expense of the copyright holder. The software license prohibits all of the above, but if someone were to reverse engineer their own server or client for the game (See Ultima Online and Second Life) then there really should be no copyright concern at all, only trademark disputes. (Eg a Private “Ultima(TM) online” server can’t be called “Ultima Online”) None of these private servers have ever gained popularity against the EA owned version of the game.

    So to criminalize breaking the digital locks on MMORPG’s just prevents any innovation or competition being made. Maybe it should be that way, but then again, if a game is popular, but the company is lousy at customer service, don’t you think someone might write a private server because “I can do it better?”

    Maplestory is the copyright-infringement version of this story. Maplestory has private servers in Europe that were created from stolen versions of the server source code.

    If a game is truely not popular, then nobody will try innovating it. With or without permission. This can be used as a barometer of the game’s value.

    On the other hand, It would make more logical sense for traditionally single player games to become multiplayer, or at least socially multiplayer. This would eliminate the need for digital locks by having an experience that is only available should the product be legitimately paid, played and completed. Players who cheat the game don’t get credit for finishing it, and players who play pirate versions don’t get the social part (we see some of this with Xbox Live Trophys.)

    I believe that DLC (DownLoadable Content) is where things are going to go, however the locking needs to be non-intrusive, part of the game, and not dependent on technology never changing.

    Every single game made before Windows XP needs to be cracked, modified or run inside an emulator in order to play it on a current system. If we start making it illegal to break locks, then playing old games without the copyright owner re-making them becomes impossible. How many classic games get remade? Almost none.