EA sued over Spore DRM

Class action filed in US District Court contends that publisher hides fact game installs irremovable SecuROM, violating two California laws.

Ever since Spore was released on September 7, an uproar has been growing. Many gamers have taken great exception to the fact the PC game comes bundled with SecuROM digital rights management software. One criticism is that SecuROM only allows the game to be installed on three computers before locking. As a result of the outcry, EA expanded the number of Spore installs to five PCs last week.

Still, a more persistent complaint is that, once installed, SecuROM cannot be removed. Accusations have also been leveled that the program amounts to malware or spyware, since it monitors computer use to prevent duplication.

Spore's use of SecuROM has sparked a major backlash, with pirates using the DRM as justification to download illegal copies of the title. A recent Forbes article pointed out that the game was widely pirated in the days after its release, with the blog TorrentFreak claiming 500,000 illegal downloads of the game were made in just one week.

Now, two weeks after the illegal response to Spore began, EA faces a new, legal challenge to its DRM policy. This week, a class action suit was filed in the North District of California Court by the law firm KamberEdelson on behalf of one Melissa Thomas and all other Spore purchasers. According to the filing, which was made available by Courthousenews.com, the suit contends that EA violated the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act and Unfair Competition Law by not informing consumers installing Spore will also install SecuROM.

"Although consumers are told the game uses access control and copy protection technology, consumers are not told that this technology is actually an entirely separate, stand-alone program which will download, install, and operate on their computer," read the complaint. "Once installed, it becomes a permanent part of the consumer's software portfolio. Even if the consumer uninstalls Spore, and entirely deletes it from their computer, SecuROM remains a fixture on their computer unless and until the consumer completely wipes their hard drive through reformatting or replacement of the drive."

The suit accuses EA of "intentionally" hiding the fact Spore uses SecuROM, which it alleges is "secretly installed to the command and control center of the computer (Ring 0, or the Kernel) and [is] surreptitiously operated, overseeing function and operation of the computer, and preventing the computer from operating under certain circumstances and/or disrupting hardware operations." The suit also claims the SecuROM takes over a portion of the PC's processing resources "to transmit information back to EA."

The filing asks the judge to certify the action as a class action, and award anyone in it damages equal to the purchase price of Spore and "actual damages, statutory damages, or treble damages." Given Spore's success, paying back thrice its $49.99 price tag could prove costly for EA, which had not responded to requests for comment as of press time.

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