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Copyright Protection Schemes


WhiteKnight77
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There is a new breed of copyright protection scheme that is being used nowadays, most notably, by UbiSoft. I had been able to play all my games with no problems for a while, then I installed SHIII. SHIII comes with this new copyright protection software. This new software is called StarForce. It actually installs drivers onto your PC, without you knowing if you haven't heard about it before. Now, at least in the USA it is against the law for a program to install something without informing the end user. Such actions are used with spyware and trojans.

For a while, everything was fine. The game ran great even without patching. Over time, things have deteriorated on my PC. Games would crash unexpectedly, my PC would completely lock up or would restart by itself with a keypress. I had been getting really frustrated. Today, while at the SHIII forums at Ubi, I decided to read a thread about getting and keeping StarForce out of games. Right now, there are 2 Ubi games I know of that use it, SHIII and SC:CT. I decided uninstall SHII and to remove (you need to use a StarForce Driver removal too, they do not uninstall themselves when a game protected by them is uninstalled) the StarForce drivers after I kept crashing not even 5 minutes into FS2004 earlier today. After uninstalling it, I haven't had a problem so far, but will test with a longer flight.

As it stands, I asked for SC:CT for a birthday gift. I am seriously considering to return it and see about a different game instead of it. After looking around at other forums with people complaining about StarForce, I feel it is a big enough problem to say right now, that if any other UbiSoft game uses said protection, I will not be buying it and advocating that the games are not purchased by any of my friends.

The ball is in your court Ubi. Don't use something that can potentially hurt sales worse than bad gameplay.

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You do realize that the system requirement on the CT box mentions copy protection, and so does the EULA? The game is very good, and most people have no issues with Starforce, and if they do it usually has to do with running CD buring proggies or having virtual drives at the same time the game is launched. Most games now have something, and I know I've read somewhere that other protection systems also install a driver, this isn't something new and exclusive to UBI.

I'm surprised people aren't freaking out more about the updating Ads in CT, than Starforce :P

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Theres a lot of games out that are protected by Starforce and it seems to be working, Trackmania Sunrise is still not cracked as of yet and thats got the latest version of starforce on it. If you want to see where it is right click on my computer and go to properties, go into the device manager and at the top click on "View" and make sure hidden devices is checked, you should now see something new in the list called "non plug and play drivers" have a look in there and you'll see all the starforce stuff.

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If you look in C:\WINDOWS\system32\drivers you will find sfdrv01. Why does it need to install a driver into your OS drivers folder? Virii and trojans do that too. From what I read, Starforce negates some of the very things that MS patches security wise. I noticed last week, after doing a Windows update, that no games wanted to run.

As it stands now, even using the removal tool, some people have had to go in and manually delete drivers. Are there more, I don't know, I haven't found any, but some people have had to completely reformat to get rid of problems associated from Starforce drivers. I have been thinking of doing just that for at least 3 weeks, before I wanted to see if just uninstalling the drivers worked. After the reformats, people have reported that everything works the way it is supposed to.

While the US versions of SHII and SC:CT may have warnings about installing the drivers on the box, the EMEA (European and this is what I have) version of SHII does not state that at all. It only says, in the manual, that:

This game contains technology intended to prevent copying that may conflict with some disc and virtual drives.

Ubi has even gone as far as to trump fair use laws by using this and changing their EULA to show that we can't even create a back-up copy.

3- Use of the Multimedia Product

The User is authorised to use the Multimedia Product in accordance with the instructions provided in the manual or on the packaging of the Multimedia Product.

The Licence is granted solely for private use.

It is not permitted:

- To make copies of the Multimedia Product,

- To operate the Multimedia Product commercially,

- To use it contrary to morality or the laws in force,

- To modify the Multimedia Product or create any derived work,

- To transmit the Multimedia Product via a telephone network or any other electronic means, except during multi-player games on authorised networks,

- To create or distribute unauthorised levels and/or scenarios,

- To decompile, reverse engineer or disassemble the Multimedia Product.

I have no problems with Ubi protecting their products, but to try and usurp fair use laws both in Europe and the US is an abomination. Starforce encrypts not just the executable, but all the files which makes it harder to crack. No problem, just make it so it doesn't create problems with hardware or run afoul of laws.

I flew around last night doing touch and goes for 2 hours with no problems. I want to try a cross country to see if I still have any problems. Not to mention see if I can play other games without crashes of any sort.

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I just noticed that SafeDisk also installs a driver. I don't recall seeing that information listed on any recent RSE or Ubi game either. One thing Ubi rarely does is install a copy of the EULA in the game folders. Check out the secdrv driver in the device manager under Hidden Devices , Non-Plug & Play Drivers or in C:/Windows/System32/Drivers folder. How many knew that ended up there too. At least that is one driver that hasn't caused problems.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I didn't realize Chaos Theory used StarForce when I installed it. Thanks to WK for pointing it out.

Sure enough I found the driver sitting in my system32/drivers folder, but I haven't had any issues with it slowing down my system. I've pretty much put away Chaos Theory after the first 2 levels to play the system-hog BF2, and no probs whatsoever ... (someone should make a cross-fingers smiley)

I think we're pretty much stuck with copy protection systems like this, and as long as it doesn't slow down my rig I'm OK with it.

If you really want to remove StarForce, the manufacturer has a tool available at their site:

http://www.star-force.com/protection.phtml?c=91

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The User is authorised to use the Multimedia Product in accordance with the instructions provided in the manual or on the packaging of the Multimedia Product.

The Licence is granted solely for private use.

It is not permitted:

- To make copies of the Multimedia Product,

- To operate the Multimedia Product commercially,

- To use it contrary to morality or the laws in force,

- To modify the Multimedia Product or create any derived work,

- To transmit the Multimedia Product via a telephone network or any other electronic means, except during multi-player games on authorised networks,

- To create or distribute unauthorised levels and/or scenarios,

- To decompile, reverse engineer or disassemble the Multimedia Product.

I wonder what the embolden statements will mean for GR3 for PC with the new EULAs being used in conjuntion with SF? Will GR3 be moddable or not? As I read it, it will not be. This could spell disaster for the GR community as a whole if it is true.

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The User is authorised to use the Multimedia Product in accordance with the instructions provided in the manual or on the packaging of the Multimedia Product.

The Licence is granted solely for private use.

It is not permitted:

- To make copies of the Multimedia Product,

- To operate the Multimedia Product commercially,

- To use it contrary to morality or the laws in force,

- To modify the Multimedia Product or create any derived work,

- To transmit the Multimedia Product via a telephone network or any other electronic means, except during multi-player games on authorised networks,

- To create or distribute unauthorised levels and/or scenarios,

- To decompile, reverse engineer or disassemble the Multimedia Product.

I wonder what the embolden statements will mean for GR3 for PC with the new EULAs being used in conjuntion with SF? Will GR3 be moddable or not? As I read it, it will not be. This could spell disaster for the GR community as a whole if it is true.

My first reaction was "are they crazy???"

But then I believe that UBI whould hate our community because it was "our" mods that kept many players away to buy new games and spend their money.

As far as I believe the game will not be moddable...

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But then I believe that UBI whould hate our community because it was "our" mods that kept many players away to buy new games and spend their money.

As far as I believe the game will not be moddable...

Ubisoft made Chaos Theory PC moddable out of the box, albeit only with the Unreal Editor to create new MP levels.

I think there is some hope for modding support in GRAW, although it may be limited to a few aspects of the game.

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  • 2 months later...

starforce has been cracked on many a game and is not a deterent to piracy, but can turn into a headache for a user of a licensed program. Ubi has stated that they will use it for protection on GRAW but are open to other scources for copywright protection which should tell you that they do not like it either.

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WK, nice read. Pretty bold of makers of Starforce saying the EULA covers them from causing harm to someone's personal property. I bet they are banking on no one wanting to spend the time and money to fight them in court.

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Nice find WK77. :thumbsup: GTR is the only game I have that uses Starforce and I haven't had any PC problems with it but it sure sounds like it can create all kinds of headaches for honest gamers who purchase a game that uses it. :(

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Starforce really seems rediculous. I have no starforce games because i havent bought a new game since GR because my computer is too crappy to run anything else, but it sure seems like malware to me. When something is installed on your computer that conflicts with other software like nero and windows media player and even your hardware, all of the above are totally legal software, man... THAT is illegal. Unless someone can give me some amazing reasons to buy a starforce product, count me out.

The same problem still remains with copyright protection as it always has: If it can be built or made, it can be taken down, and there will always be a way to bypass copyright protection.

Just my 2 cents :rocky:

Edited by element11
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i'm in with the hardware lock on games.

it's easy, and it's been used for a loooong time in software security

( i'm quite sure that if it wasn't good anough, it would have been exchanged for something else a long time ago...)

i'd guess that about 75-80% of the softwares i use @\for work, does have a hardware lock on it...

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The problem with any software protection tool is that it is simply a game of oneupmanship. And just a matter of time before people beat it. It took a while to crack Safedisk 2, which also generated numerous issues for various DVD players. And in case you did not know Starforce has been beaten. I didn't say cracked, I said beaten. I am not going to go into how here.

The point is that soon enough those that want to get around a software tool will find a method. During the interim there will be quite a few cases of misery for the honest. As protection tools get better and better, there will also be countless billions of dollars saved because the average kid with Roxio, Alcohol 120%, or Clony XXL can't get around it. Devs work hard for their money and I will try to assist where I can, even if it means a few aches and pains. I do shake my head when there is an obvious issue and the company knows it and basically says, "Well you are a small percentage so screw you." They don't actually tell you that but lack of communication with the fanbase reveals the obvious.

It is bad when the average hard paying user gets shafted by a protection system. However system reconfiguration can be worth it for some titles. I AM SAYING DO NOT FOREGO THE OPPORTUNITY TO GAME SPLINTER CELL CHAOS THEORY!!! :thumbsup:

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Even back as far as the zx spectrum and commodore 64 there was copy protection, anybody remember the lenslock? Used on Tomahawk

http://www.ysrnry.co.uk/articles/tomahawk.htm

No matter how complicated the protection gets sooner or later there is a way to get around it, I think even hardware dongles have been gotten around in some manner. So thats about 20 years plus of copy protection and it still doesnt work.

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Even back as far as the zx spectrum and commodore 64 there was copy protection, anybody remember the lenslock? Used on Tomahawk

As far as I can remember copying spectrum games was just a case of a simple tape to tape copy! How things have changed!

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Here it is in all its glory, once you'd configured the lens to your tv an image was shown on the tv set and the lenslock decoded it to give a combination of letters and numbers which you entered and got the game to run

lenslock_s.jpg

larger image is here

http://www.x-speed.de/computer/kuriositaet...pg/lenslock.jpg

Edited by CrowmanUK
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Here it is in all its glory, once you'd configured the lens to your tv an image was shown on the tv set and the lenslock decoded it to give a combination of letters and numbers which you entered and got the game to run

lenslock_s.jpg

larger image is here

http://www.x-speed.de/computer/kuriositaet...pg/lenslock.jpg

Hahahahahahahahahaha that's awesome, I never saw that before.

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