|Type||Optical disc copy protection, Digital rights management|
SecuROM is a controversial CD/DVD copy protection and digital rights management (DRM) product developed by Sony DADC. Its purpose is to resist home media duplication devices, professional duplicators, and reverse engineering of software, primarily commercial computer games running under the Microsoft Windows platform. The method of disc protection in current versions is Data Position Measurement; this may or may not be used in conjunction with online DRM components.
Opponents, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, believe that fair-use rights are restricted by DRM applications such as SecuROM. SecuROM has generated controversy because it is not uninstalled upon removal of the game. A 2008 class-action lawsuit was filed against Electronic Arts for its use of SecuROM in the video game Spore.
SecuROM limits the number of PCs activated at the same time from the same key. SecuROM 7.x was the first version to include the SecuROM Removal Tool, which is intended to help users remove SecuROM after the software with which it was installed has been removed. Most titles now also include a revoke tool to deactivate the license; revoking all licenses would restore the original activation limit. As with Windows activation, a hardware change may appear as a change of computer, and force another activation of the software. Reformatting the computer may not consume an activation, if the Product Activation servers successfully detect it as a re-installation on the same set of hardware. The activation limit may be increased, on a case-by-case basis, if the user is shown to have reached this limit due to several hardware-triggered re-activations on the same PC.
- SecuROM may not detect that the original game disc is in the drive. This can occur on virtually any configuration, and reinserting the disc or rebooting the computer usually resolves the problem.
- Under Windows Vista, SecuROM will prevent a game from running if explicit congestion notification is enabled in Vista's networking configuration.
- Software that can be used to bypass copy protection, such as disk drive emulators and debugging software, will block the launch of the game and generate a security module error. Disabling such software usually fixes the issue, but in some cases uninstallation is required.
- SecuROM conflicts with other software, the best-known being SysInternals' Process Explorer (prior to version 11). Use of Process Explorer before an attempt to run the protected software would produce an error caused by a driver that was kept in memory after Process Explorer was closed. This is solved by either ensuring that Process Explorer is not running in the background when the game is launched, or updating Process Explorer.
- SecuROM has a hardware-level incompatibility with certain brands of optical drives. Workarounds exist.
Purchasers of BioShock were required to activate the game online, and users who exceeded their permitted two activations would have to call to get their limit raised. The limit was raised to five activations because an incorrect phone number had been printed on the manual, and because there were no call centers outside of the United States. Separate activations were required for each user on the same machine. 2K Games removed the activation limit in 2008, although online activation is still required.
EA announced in May 2008 that Mass Effect for the PC would use SecuROM 7.x and require that the software be reactivated every 10 days. Customer complaints led EA to remove the 10-day activation, but SecuROM remained tied to the installation, with its product activation facility used to impose a limit of three activations. A call to customer support is required to reset the activation limit. Unlike BioShock, uninstalling the game does not refund a previously used activation. A de-authorization tool was released for the main game, but EA's customer support must still be contacted to deactivate the downloadable expansions.
Spore, released by EA on September 7, 2008, uses SecuROM. Spore has seen relatively substantial rates of unauthorized distribution among peer-to-peer groups, and with a reported 1.7 million downloads over BitTorrent networks, was the most-pirated game of 2008, according to TorrentFreak's "Top 10 most pirated games of 2008" list. Journalists note that this was a reaction from users unhappy with the copy protection, although TorrentFreak's list shows that the presence of intrusive DRM does not appear to increase piracy of a game. Many of the games on this list use basic SafeDisc copy protection with no install limits, no online activation, and no major reports of protection-related issues. Several popular games which do use more intrusive DRM, such as BioShock, Crysis Warhead and Mass Effect, are absent from the list, an indication that intrusive DRM is not the main reason why some games are pirated more heavily than others.
EA requires the player to authenticate the game online upon installation. This system was announced after EA's originally planned system, which would have required authentication every 10 days, met opposition from the public. Each individual product key of the game would be limited to use on three computers. This limit was raised to five computers, in response to customer complaints, but only one online user (required to access user-generated content) can be created per copy.
A class-action lawsuit was filed by Maryland resident Melissa Thomas within the U.S. District Court against Electronic Arts over SecuROM's inclusion with Spore. Several other lawsuits have followed.
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3
Dragon Age II
Reports emerged in March 2011 that EA's Dragon Age II included SecuROM, despite assertions from EA to the contrary. On March 12, 2011, a BioWare representative stated on the official Dragon Age II message boards that the game does not use SecuROM, but instead "a release control product which is made by the same team, but is a completely different product" which later turned out to be Sony Release Control. The consumer advocacy group Reclaim Your Game has challenged this claim, based on their analysis of the files in question.
Final Fantasy VII PC re-release
In early August 2012 an updated version of Final Fantasy VII was re-released for PC. The updated version included SecuROM software, which was discovered when an early purchase link was included in the Square Enix store. Users who purchased and downloaded the game were unable to activate the game due to the activation servers not recognizing the activation key for their purchased games.
- Digital rights management
- Extended Copy Protection
- Sony BMG CD copy prevention scandal
- Electronic Frontier Foundation's website's DRM section
- Commentary by Fred Lohmann of the EFF, "So this is just another example of the way in which the MPAA companies use DRM not to stop piracy...but rather to control those who make devices that play movies." (emphasis added) 
- Pigna, Kris (24 September 2008). "EA Hit with Class Action Lawsuit over Spore DRM". 1UP.com. Retrieved 9 January 2009.
- SecuROM Removal Tool Information from the SecuROM website
- "2.5 What is revoking?". SecuROM. Retrieved 27 March 2011.
- "2.4 What happens if I change my hardware (e.g. I bought a new graphics card)?". SecuROM. Retrieved 27 March 2011.
- "2.7 I have formatted my PC without revoking the application before, does that mean I have lost an activation?". SecuROM. Retrieved 27 March 2011.
- "PC Game Piracy Examined: Page 9". Tweakguides. 2008-12-14. Retrieved 2011-11-25.
- "Casual Friday: Why Spore Won't Work". PC World. 2008-09-12. Retrieved 2008-09-16.
- "SecuROM troubleshooting website". SecuROM. Retrieved 2009-01-12.
- "Process Explorer Blacklisted". Sysinternals. 2007-03-17. Retrieved 2009-01-12.
- "2K: Tell your brother to buy his own Bioshock, you didn't buy it for the whole family". maxconsole.net. 2007-09-04. Retrieved 2007-11-12.
- "One copy of BioShock per family (member)?". Neoseeker. 2007-09-05. Retrieved 2007-11-12.
- Linde, Aaron (2008-06-19). "2K Games Lifts BioShock PC Install Limit, DRM". Shacknews. Retrieved 2008-06-19.
- "Mass Effect, Spore To Use Recurring Validation". Retrieved June 3, 2008.
- "Electronic Arts Responds to Copy Protection Outcry, Removes 10-day SecuROM Check for the Troops". Retrieved June 3, 2008.
- Schonfeld, Erick (2008-09-14). "Spore And The Great DRM Backlash". TechCrunch (washingtonpost.com). Retrieved 2008-09-16.
- Ghazi, Koroush (2008-12-14). "PC Game Piracy Examined: Page 4". Tweakguides. Retrieved 2011-11-25.
- "Copyright row dogs Spore release". BBC News. 2008-09-10. Retrieved 2008-09-17.
- "Spore, Mass Effect PC to Require Online Validation Every Ten Days to Function". Shacknews. 2008-05-06. Retrieved 2008-09-17.
- "Ars puts Spore DRM to the test—with a surprising result". Ars Technica. 2008-09-16. Retrieved 2008-09-17.
- "EA retools 'Spore' DRM activation features". CNET. 2008-09-19. Retrieved 2008-09-20.
- EA Faces Class Action Lawsuit Over Spore DRM gamepolitics.com
- PDF copy of the court file against EA's use of SecuROM DRM in the game Spore.
- Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3#SecuROM
- Webster, Andrew (2011-03-11). "Dragon Age II features hated SecuROM, despite previous EA claims". ARSTechnica (arstechnica.com). Retrieved 2011-03-11.
- "RYG News: Connecting Dragon Age 2's "Release Control" To SecuROM".
- "Final Fantasy VII PC released early, then pulled".