Over the past weekend, my parents decided to pick up a Keurig on the cheap to replace the rarely used coffeemaker in the house. Of course, not knowing much about the models of cup coffee makers, they asked me about the models before making a purchase. Well, I don’t know much about coffee makers either, so I just effectively used google to find the correct information instead of my parents doing so. To some mild surprise, I found that I had to check to make sure that the machines my parents were considering did not have Keurig’s kcup DRM. While I did vaguely remember news of a backlash against the practice of adding ownership checks to coffee cups, it wasn’t really something that I took note of, as I don’t really drink coffee or use any sort of caffeine in the morning. In the end we got a model of coffeemaker that did not have anything so annoying and ridiculous, but even if we did there were ways around it. They cost extra, but allow users to bypass the “protection” that restricts caffeine addicts to officially sold (and therefore expensive) coffee cups.
This surprise encounter with DRM reminded me of the hassle I have to deal with on my computer, as for me, DRM has always been associated with annoying legal verification checks on my assortment of various games and applications. But just like the way people worked around the restrictions on a simple coffeemaker, people have long since found ways around the “protection” on computer software. Many developers of computer software have some form of security in their application to prevent piracy and file sharing. Some older examples of this include giving users physical goods and having the users manipulate the physical good to get a code phase or password, giving users license keys, or requiring that the CD (remember those?!) that the program came on be in the CD drive of the computer. Today, developers have resorted to methods like online verification, an extra program to manage limited installs (like the infamous secuROM), and giving partial releases (so that people can’t run a game before release day).
These are all great in theory, but in practice none of them work. Physical goods can be lost, misplaced, or damaged, meaning that a paying customer can lose access to the program they paid for. The same goes for license keys and CDs. Well, those are older methods, so there is some leeway given. For the newer methods, however, there are newer issues. Online verification methods rely on the online method staying online, and not going down. DRM programs are nightmares that might as well be viruses. Finally, partial releases mean users must have a good internet connection to download the missing parts of the program (that they paid for!). To drive it in, none of these methods do anything to prevent the ever-feared piracy. Required code words and passwords are readily available online, with a bit of searching. There are keygens that make fake license keys, and no-cd patches to remove the cd requirement. Similar cracks for the newer methods of going online and required programs also exist, and partial releases...well, the most recent example I can think of was Fallout 4, where the game was cracked and released a full day early ahead of the official release. With the hassle required to deal with a legitimate purchase, it’s a wonder that developers even use DRM anymore, given that piracy seems to offer a faster, more convenient, and most importantly free service.