GOG Connect, remove DRM from select Steam games

GOG Connect uses Steam as proof of purchase to add titles to its library. Whaaaat?!

I am not sure how I stumbled upon it, but GOG has a new thing called Connect, which checks for the existence of certain games in your Steam account and adds them to your GOG library. The result is that it essentially gives you a DRM-free version of those games. Well, it lets you have a copy of a game in another library, which means a lot of things, but the DRM removal is the exciting part! ^_^

Currently only a handful of games can be copied (or unlocked, or de-DRM-ed? What are we calling this?). And they are only available for a couple more days, so hurry up and check it out, and see if you have them. They say more games will be coming, and implies it is dependent on the game publishers, which of course makes sense.

I am surprised Steam did this, though I don’t think GOG is technically doing anything to take money away from Steam. They are essentially working with publishers to give free copies of their games by proving prior purchase. But it all feels really weird, ne? I mean, at least for me; I don’t know how to talk about it. But we’ll talk about it, a lot!

Immature by design

I signed a petition opposing DRM as part of HTML. That is a no-brainer. But I am embarrassed by the other activities the Defective By Design campaign is doing. Specifically, giving the W3C a mock award for supporting “Hollyweb” (a dumb moniker, by the way).

My hunch is this display feeds into a type of catharsis for frustrated people who are trying to deal with capitalism in general, and “big” media specifically. But I am struck by how immature the campaign’s actions are. I didn’t sign the petition as a punitive gesture towards the W3C; I wanted to lend my voice to a chorus that should be heard louder than the corporate seats at their table.

I am going to be suspect of future campaigns run by Defective By Design. I think that the ongoing work the FSF does with licensing and stewarding the GNU project is vital to our current state of open computing, but their advocacy work is pushing me away.

Books, and how I read them

Current DRM practices for digital books is really stupid, making it difficult for people to share books the way they have for hundreds of years, while refusing to leverage the cool things about digital items.

A friend asked me how I preferred books that are bought for me. My reply was:

DRM-free ePub. Paper book. I can also read PDF, but it isn’t that great. Oh, I guess I should mention HTML, just in case. ^_^

Yeah, I put use that smiley everywhere.

Eir reply was simple enough, “how does one find a DRM-free ePub?”

That is an excellent question! If you haven’t read it, Mako posted about how publishers show the DRM status of an ebook, which is to say, they don’t. And while there are publishers like Smashwords that do not use DRM, they are mostly an indie publisher, so one wouldn’t expect to pick up the digital version of a recent bestseller there.

The short answer is, I don’t know. At this point, the digital book scene is obscure on the few points that we would all agree are easy features, like informing a person if their purchase is going to be locked. It is ironic that one of the ubiquitous practices of avid readers is sharing books, which is easy with physical items, but now require additional information from the receiver, such as their platform, devices and/or principals. Way to encourage buying digital books as gifts, mainstream publishers.

Of course, we always have the fallback of The Pirate Bay.

Consoles suck

Sony and Nintendo called. My video gaming membership is expired; I won’t be able to renew. T_T

Every time I hear about Sony or Nintendo I get a sick feeling in my stomach. For the first time in my life I feel like an aspect of my childhood that I actually enjoyed is being trampled upon.

I got an e-mail from Sony a couple of days ago:

Thanks for your patience and continued support during
our service outage. To show you how much we value that,
we want to let you know about our “Welcome Back”
appreciation program:

Two Free PS3 Games
Select two PS3(TM) games from the following list:
(yours to keep*)
– Dead Nation(TM)
– InFAMOUS(TM)
– LittleBigPlanet(TM)
– Super Stardust(TM) HD
– WipEout(R) HD Bundle

Two Free PSP Games
Download two PSP(R) games from the following list:
(yours to keep*)
– Killzone(R): Liberation
– ModNation(TM) Racers
– LittleBigPlanet(TM)
– Pursuit Force(TM)

PlayStation(R)Plus–30 days free**
A premium subscription service that gets you access
to free games, huge discounts and great exclusives.

100 Free Virtual Items
To welcome users Home, PlayStation(R)Home will be
offering 100 free virtual items.

This is our way of saying thank you for being a loyal fan.
And once again, welcome back to PlayStation(R)Network.

Sincerely,
The PlayStation(R)Network Team

The thing that disappoints me the most about this message is that I have a feeling it is going to work. Millions of customers will decide to trust a company with their private information, for no apparent reason. A company that will sue them if they try to modify the device they thought they owned. People are going to see these “gifts” and will forgive, but even worse, they will also forget.

A little over a month ago I was planning on buying Portal 2 for the PS3. Instead, I sold my PS3 and bought a 3DS. My hope was that Nintendo, which doesn’t sell devices at a loss, would be more sane in their business practices.

Apparently someone hit me in the head with a brick.

I like the 3DS. I liked my PS3 (despite it not being able to play all my PS2 games, which I also liked). But I can’t stand Digital Restrictions Management, or companies claiming copyright over my creative works, or companies using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to stifle expression and tinkering.

So, now I am selling my 3DS (because I am not monetarily well-off enough to destroy the device). I will use the money I recover from it to start a laptop fund, so I can get rid of my other broken computing device (a 15″ MacBook Pro, ugh).

I just can’t do this anymore. I don’t identify as a video gamer, because video gamers give up so much for so little in return. There has to be a better way.

Thou shall not read aloud

Someone wrote that a digital book shall not be read aloud. I am sorry, that is a real thing.

When linking to the Outliers Open Library page I saw there was a borrow link next to the search results. Curious, I followed it, thinking that maybe someone could check out an ebook. I had a bad feeling about it, since the idea of digital libraries doesn’t sit well with me (the current state of digital libraries seems to be heavily inundated with DRM). However, what I saw really blew me away.

The page was normal enough, it had some information on the book (which is great, by the way!):

Look closely, specifically, at the part about Adobe ePUB Book Rights:

Okay, so we can’t copy, print, lend or read aloud.

Someone actually wrote that. Never mind what it means, just think about how insane that sounds. DRM is inconvenient, always circumventable, and combats things that computers are really good at, making copies. That is where the copy, print and lend come in, those are all things that you do to create copies of the file. They are all things that a company or technology can attempt to keep you from doing.

But reading aloud?! What a joke. A calculated, antiquated and, hopefully, deprecated joke.

Edit: Reading aloud isn’t even a digital action. How do I wave my arms in the air in exasperation any more than I already am? Who do I arrange a meeting with to see for myself if they are humans or Cthulian homunculi who come up with these things?

Relearning the joy of reading

I have Pride and Prejudice on my tablet. Now I can be like the cool kids (who know English and are into reading, or something).

I am going to admit something…

Sheesh.

I stopped enjoying reading books.

Ouch.

I am not sure when it happened, but it was sometime in the last couple of years. I’ve read books in that time, but not as much as manga, some magazines, and oh my god so much Wikipedia. I’ve read a lot! But I have gravitated away from books.

It is funny, because I am often the person who surprises people when the question of books come up. I don’t want any more books. I don’t want any manga, CDs, game discs, any media that is not art work or an art book, really. I want those things because they are still relevant to me, I have a physical ritual that I share with other people. However, I am past the ritual of holding a book in my hand; I am especially past the ritual of gathering dead trees and storing them on IKEA shelves. I like looking at my collection of books, but if I could replace that media, I would.

See, I know that we can translate nearly all of our media into the abstract electrical (hat tip to Paul). I believe the reason we don’t isn’t because we can’t, nor is it that people are not comfortable. It is because our tendency is to try to monetize the hell out of our culture. But hey, you know me! Creative Commons, libre and free culture, blah blah blah. We are getting there.

Recently I was chatting about beta males (I am not sure I fully acknowledge that categorization). I admitted I hadn’t read Pride and Prejudice, and it was recommended to me.

I was kinda bummed, because I knew that I probably wouldn’t. I’ve looked for it at Half-Price books, and found plenty of copies, but I just couldn’t bring myself to buy it. I didn’t want to carry it around, I didn’t want to bookmark my place, and I didn’t want to store it afterward (though that isn’t a problem, I could have passed it on).

In other words, I don’t enjoy physical books.

Well, I am in luck! I am holding in my hand a copy of Pride and Prejudice. It is beautiful and slick, and has adjustable brightness. Also, the typeface is great and easy to read, though I can look at the original pages if I am so inclined. This is because I have a copy of the book through the Google ebookstore, and it is on my Galaxy Tab.

Just as an aside… I AM THE HAPPIEST EARLY ADOPTER! EVAR!

So, yeah. I am not drinking the Google kool-aid or anything. I just think they are in a good position to offer a large collection of media, much of which is DRM-free. It gives us a chance to show publishers that we want to support creators who release their work without DRM (bring on the CC licensed books!). I am not betting my hopes that Google avoids douchebaggery. Rather, it is a step in the right direction. And in the meantime, I can read all of Jane Austen’s novels.

Goodbye dead tree collection; hello electrons and pulsing light.

Edit: Release early, release often. Hopefully the ebookstore will get more fields and searchable parameters. There is apparently no way to see if a book is DRM-free at this point: How do I make sure I’m only buying DRM-Free titles?

Sucks, because the Mark Twain autobiography sounds dope!

Another edit: Let’s hear it for sanity! From Takedowns and removals:

Sometimes a publisher will decide to take a book off sale for their own commercial reasons, or Google will take a book off sale, because for instance we find it violates our content policies. In such cases you will no longer be able to purchase the book at Google eBooks. However, if you have already purchased the book, you will still be able to access it in your shelves, you will still be able to read it on the web reader and on all supported devices, and you will still be able to make downloads. Your use of the book will not be affected.

In certain very rare circumstances it may be necessary for Google to remove an ebook you have purchased from your shelves. This could happen if someone represented themselves as the rightsholder in offering the book for sale, but someone else came forward and disputed their ownership of the rights and sent us a legal demand for removal. In these circumstances we would make efforts to persuade the disputing party to allow the book to remain on your shelf, but if unsuccessful we would be obliged to remove it, and we would not be allowed to inform you in advance. You would no longer see the book on your shelves, and you would then be unable to download the book again or to read it in the web reader. We would contact you to inform you that this had happened, we would refund your purchase, and in addition we would make efforts to find you an alternate copy of the book, whether available in ebook form from another provider, or as a physical paperback or hardback, new or used. We would ensure you kept access to any reviewer comments or other content about the book that you had entered into Google Books.

Seriously, what was Amazon thinking?