JBStone1981 / Member

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We Have Not Yet Crossed the Rubicon

Though today's reversal in policy by Microsoft is worth celebrating--the first time in gaming history that internet outcry has forced the hand of a console maker to radically change their practices--the war is far from over. Even Sony, whose gamer-friendly DRM policies were announced at E3, and subsequently used to take a jab at Microsoft, has limited the sharing and resale ability of their titles to disc-based content. Your first reaction to this is probably something like, "Well, duh," but take a moment and ask yourself why this limitation is acceptable. 

As of today, there is no infrastructure for the resale of digital content. Ebooks, apps, games, movies and television shows downloaded digitally are tethered either to one device or one user account. Even music, which is far more accessable now than it was at the advent of the MP3 era, enforces digital rights management beyond what you'd find on a compact disc featuring the same content. Gamers have now successfully thwarted attempts to enforce digital-style DRM against physical content in the new generation, but the same policies considered draconian for disc-based content still exist for identical content in digital form. By the time the PS5 and XBox -9 (I mean, who knows with them, right?) roll around, it's entirely plausible that neither console has a disc drive. If and when that happens, our fight for "true ownership" will come up against a stronger barricade than the weak attempt to reinvent the wheel Microsoft just tried. Here, we'll be up against a very real inability to transfer digital content between parties, and the conception that such limitations are perfectly normal and acceptable.

There will be no last-minute changes next time. While I'm sure it's not exactly a piece of cake to completely overhaul Microsoft's DRM infrastructure, the pill will come in the form of a software patch; if the XBox Kittenfart is exclusively digital, the change will have to be fundamental. In other words, it ain't gonna happen.

The moral? We can't afford to wait for the rumors to begin on the next-generation of gaming consoles to get uptight about how digital content is managed, and how ownership is defined in that arena. You've probably never heard this next bit of advice before, but consider doing as the Germans do, and sue the pants off of Valve (or any other distributor of digital gaming content) for the right to trade, resell, or return digital content the same way you can with a disc. After all, there is no logical reason disc-based content should be treated differently than physical content, at least in terms of owner's rights. Owning a disc shouldn't grant me more rights than someone who downloads the same content from an online store, so why does it? 

I think it's time to let the courts decide.