EA uses DRM to punish forum behavior

Just because you buy a DRM-restricted game doesn't mean you can play it. An unfortunate forum comment temporarily left a gamer unable to play a single-player game purchased through the EA Store. Bioware forum poster Arno recently had his EA account suspended for 72 hours and then found he could not activate his previously preordered and purchased copy of Dragon Age II.

How is this possible? When a game is purchased through the EA Store, one of the things the buyer pays for is the “licensed right” to access DRM which EA has made necessary to play their games. In the case of Dragon Age II, a single-player game, the DRM takes the form of an online authentication upon installation and then periodically afterward. While this form of Digital Restrictions Management is sometimes seen as less intrusive, this incident shows it can be more crippling than the average person perceives.

"Entitlements" are licensed rights granted, awarded, provided and/or purchased by you to access and/or use online or off-line elements or features of EA Services and/or products. Entitlements include but are not limited to paid and free downloadable content, unlockable content, digital and/or virtual assets, rights of use tied to unlock keys or codes, serial codes and/or online authentication of any kind, in-game achievements and virtual or fictional currency not otherwise governed by a Digital Services Agreement.Electronic Arts Terms of Service

EA has since reversed its actions and claims the forum suspension was not meant to be a full account suspension. However, the fact is that EA still has the ability to lock paying consumers out of their games at their discretion — even single player games without an online component. EA's actions were within their Terms of Service, which remain the same despite their recent backtracking. Even if this was a true mistake, it shows how a glitch in a DRM system can result in a total loss of access to digital media. EA is keeping control over how you can play their games, and giving you a good reason to avoid DRM-restricted games.

Hi everyone, I'm Helen and I'm the newest intern here at the FSF. I'm going to be updating Defective by Design and I hope you will find these topics interesting and relevant. You can reach me at campaigns-interns@fsf.org.