EA Sucks at DRM Enforcement

    December 6, 2011

Digital distribution is the wave of the future (present?) when it comes to content delivery, and I’m not sure an industry has embraced this method of content delivery as much as the video game industry has. Well, not counting the music industry. Oh, and the book industry too. Hell, let’s just say the video game industry is successfully following in the footsteps of other entertainment industries and has in relation to delivering content without the need for a physical copy.

At least in regards to the PC gaming environment.

The success story of Steam’s online service is the industry standard, but there are others like Direct2Drive and Impulse. Electronic Arts, famously known as the makers of the Madden NFL Football series of video games, has also jumped on the digital distribution service with Origin, which offers EA-published games available for immediate download. The concept is a brilliant one as long as you aren’t one of the people who requires a jewel case with some cover art to legitimize your purchase.

There is, however, one issue in regards to using EA’s Origin service: consumers are at the mercy of EA’s DRM, which can apparently be applied whenever EA sees fit. Take the plight of an Origin member by the name of MaximumTacos. While the silliness of the name may be hard to overlook, the shafting he received from EA concerning access to games he’s already purchased is not.

The story of MaximumTacos’ EA issues hit the web yesterday, and after popular threads on Reddit and The Escapist’s forums, everything began to take shape. What we have is another user going to the EA forums and posting a profane message that made mention of the MaximumTacos user name.

Mind you, the post was not made by MaximumTacos, it just mentioned the user name during the profanity-filled rant, and because MaximumTacos had the audacity to allow his name to appear in a TOS-violating forum thread, he, and not the user who authored the post, got banned. Not banned as in banned from the forum, but banned from accessing the EA games he had purchased via digital distribution methods.

Or, as EA’s online customer support put it:

Angad: Please note that your account [maximumtacos@gmail.com] has been permanently terminated from the Electronic Arts Online service for violating the terms of services. The account will no longer be accessible in any way, and all property, items, and characters associated currently are or will soon be deleted.

This bears repeating: Electronic Arts banned the account of a user in such a way, they no longer have access to games they’ve already bought and paid for, all because someone else mentioned their user name during a profane rant.

Does that even make sense? Apparently to EA, it does, because they aren’t backing down even in the face of being so completely and utterly wrong with their punishment. As for the offending post in question, EA even referenced it when they informed MaximumTacos about the suspension, which turned into an outright ban:

Chat log: soldier shapes / camo to watch for, and the people camping in corners with it./quote so its no longer INFARED = IR YOU NOOB B—- C— maximumtacos

As you can see, MaximumTacos was the target of the profanity, not the author, but yet, he’s the one who gets banned? Does that make sense? Furthermore, does cussing on an EA-owned forum warrant an outright bannishment from EA, one that prevents access to content that’s already been bought and paid for? Here’s an image of what MaximumTacos was greeted with when he tried to access his copy of Battlefield: Bad Company 2:

Account Banned

Not only does EA’s punishment seem to completely overstep the severity of the crime, they aren’t even punishing the right person. This is, apparently, DRM at its best and most powerful, something Boing Boing’s post points out:

For years, DRM advocates scoffed at the idea that it would be used for bullshit like this — the refrain was always that it was about preventing piracy. But managing rights is what DRM was built to do, so that is what it’s used for.

What’s next from EA? Banning a reviewer who didn’t like their 2013 version of Madden? Or, perhaps banning someone who tweets about their dissatisfaction with an EA product? To cover his plight, MaximumTacos is starting a blog to document his dealings with EA, but at this point, I’d seriously consider legal representation, because not only is EA’s punishment entirely too severe — complete banishment from products for swearing at an EA forum? Isn’t that like 10 steps beyond what’s appropriate? — but it wasn’t even enforced against the right person.

It’s in the game, apparently.