back to article Is Amazon censoring anti-DRM reviews?

Amazon.com customers are once again accusing the online retailer of removing video game reviews that criticize the use of SecuROM Digital Rights Management (DRM). The site says unfavorable reviews aren't being censored, claiming they have accidentally been removed due to a "technical glitch" in automated filtering. Electronic …

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It could be a legit excuse.

If they were filtering out everything with the word "SecuROM" so that people couldn't discuss ways to get around DRM measures.

But if was just heavy-handed filtering, why weren't the reviews filtered for "questionable content" before they were posted?

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Unhappy

fishy

better keep an eye on the FarCry2 reviews then as well, because the DRM is getting slated too.

When are the software publishers going to realise that incorporating DRM onto a disk is going to alienate more potential purchasers, than put off hackers/crackers.

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Happy

Sneaky

Good work, all of those involved in highlighting this dubious "glitch". Regardless of the ins and outs of the issue. The views folk have on all aspects of a product should defo be given a fair hearing.

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Anonymous Coward

Conspiracy or cockup?

Always vote for cockup. It's always the more likely of the two alternatives...

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Untitled

Amazon have every right to censor whatever they want; it's their bloody site.

Of course there is the small matter of having set themselves up for a fall with the customer review system. Sooner or later people are going to start seriously slagging off some product, of which you bought and planned to sell an absolute fuck-ton (thank you Ted).

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"System glitch or industry bitch?"

Oooh, that's a tough one. (not).

"requesting reviews focus on specific features of the product."

IMHO, any DRM software that comes as part of the product, is a "specific feature".

Be the last time I trust any rating on Amazon.

I suspect I won't be the only one.

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Duplicates?

I've not bothered to look but if I were writing a site like Amazon I'd make an attempt to filter out duplicate/substantially similar reviews to stop people gaming the system by posting multiple reviews from different accounts. If all these reviews are just focusing on complaining about the DRM then I'd imagine that a large proportion of them would be very very similar to each other and so may full afoul of such a filter even if they were in fact written by different people.

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Basically...

they have been caught with their pants down and now trying bullshit and PR to smooth it over...

Still, they arnt exactly going to say "Of course we deleted those reviews... we have crap to sell here!"

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It's a shop.

It's American. It'll be as honest as Kerry Katona's nutritionist.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Politics

"encountering technical difficulties"

Idiots...

"We deleted the comments of people who did not make a purchase", would have been a better response.

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Gates Horns

EA has to be the son of Satan

EA buys good game studios, guts them, and repackages the game in a sorry fashion. And when they cannot buy the competition, such as in sports games, they make moves to squelch the competition by getting exclusive rights deals.

EA is pure evil. The company is definitely a spawn of Beelzebub himself.

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DRM

Spelt: D.U.M.B

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Alert

Others too

Perhaps we should keep an eye on the PC versions of Dead Space and Red Alert 3 as they too are suffering the same fate at the moment.

I'm sure there are some others too.

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Happy

Love DRM

Well I must say I hated DRM at first, but when I look at all the money I saved not buying games because of it I am not so sure any more. It defends me against the hunter-gatherer in me.

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Boffin

List price = $20.00

Price $27.99

You save $2.00

Obviously the same technical glitch applies to their accounting methods as well.

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Anonymous Coward

Righty so technical problems

are now pattern matching algorithms doing their job?

Has the hatred of regular expressions come to this ( =~ s/hatred/hatred \& prejudice/ ).

Cheeky buggers, spokespeople what is the point, replace them with a magic eight ball, it would make more entertaining remarks, and might at some point tell the truth.

The algorithm is probably designed to stop mass organised negative advertising of a product, and an attempt to allow those who actually own the product to comment and rate, rather than be used as a mass we have a grudge tool. Kinda simple explanation, oooh must keep top secret, it is like an AI isn't it.

Ridiculous, why on earth do people with no technical background get involved with technical businesses, there is just no point for them to do so, except to exasperate the rest of us.

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Anonymous Coward

Draconian copy protection just makes people pirate more

It's been said countless times and it is completely true. All of these copy protection schemes are punishing legitimate owners of the software. They are not punishing pirates who just crack the schemes in a matter of days. Any torrent site would immediately show how useless these schemes are.

So why do they even bother? They may as well plough the pennies saved on not using useless copy protection schemes into rewarding legitimate owners. Stuff a serial number in the box and allow users to download patches, new content and play online. You could even organise tournaments, seasonal material (Christmas levels) etc. Hell, why not make your game so it requires online validation at least once a month if you're really paranoid about pirates.

If some cracker wants to play the buggy 1.0 version with no online / multiplayer and no extra content then screw em. Chances are they wouldn't have bought your game in the first place if they're that disinterested in it.

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Pirate

Pressue

Sooner or later Amazon and other big retailer will get really annoyed with everyone complaining about DRM, and rather than try and silence the customers, they might put the pressure where it belongs: with the publishers.

And once the major retailer start complaining at the publishers, they will have to stop treating customers like criminals and drop this useless DRM cr*p. Thousands of potential customers shouting certainly doesn't seem to bother them.

We all know that DRM doesn't stop a single pirate, yet publishers insist on it. I can imagine a certain amount of ignorance about this in the upper echelons of publisher decision makers, but no one can truly be as stupid as they appear to be at the moment. (Or can they? *shudder*)

So what is the real, hidden agenda behind sticking with DRM?

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Seems fair to me

Amazon has every right to delete "reviews" from people who haven't even bought the damn game, which i'm sure is ALL of those 1-star whiners.

I hate DRM too, but i hate anyone who abuses a review system for their own ends more.

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Pirate

Rent the game

That's what EA are doing. For forty quid they're effectively renting the game to you. 3 or 5 installs only, so better upgrade your PC before you install it, and it does phone home, probably with all the details of what you do on your computer, when and how often. Paranoid much? too right. The Bioshock demo also contained the SecureROM program - why? As someone else said, once installed it's hidden on your computer for good and not uninstalled with the game it's protecting - why?

I mean, even MS, with their DRM, phoning home & genuine windows malarkey allow you to install its software as often as you need.

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Flame

You only have yourself to blame for DRM

Torrent users and the like are destroying businesses. They need to protect their rights and their labour somehow. DRM is the current solution.

If you don't like it - stop illegally file-sharing and play fair.

If you are doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear from the likes of SecuROM, get over it. Calling it "malware" is spurious. This is commercial garde software, traceable and installed for a very good reason; crime prevention.

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Let's be honest

This isn't about DRM at all at the most basic level, so why bother arguing whether it's a good thing or not? Most people on this site agree with the opinion that it is a BAD THING, so repeatedly going on about it isn't going to make the blindest bit of difference, looking at what really happened might. With Spore, and probably with this as well, there were a load of reviews from people that were either throwing out anti-DRM one-liners, or were stating in their review that they hadn't bought the game, they just hated DRM. That's not how a review system works, and is what the forums are for. The review system is purely for people who have bought a product to say whether they liked it or not, and if they didn't to explain why. If you haven't bought the product, then you can't comment on it, and if Amazon removes people for it, they've got no grounds for complaint..

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Unhappy

I wish they were as proactive

in deleting reviews of things that haven't even been released yet...

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Good on you, amazon.

I'm no fan of Amazon, and I'm certainly no fan of DRM.

However, looking through reviews of Far Cry 2 yesterday pissed me off no end. Not one of the (several) reviews said anything about the actual game. They all just slated the SecuRom with rants and innaccuracies (such as you can't reinstall the game if you reinstall Windows) etc.

If you're just wanting to read a review (or judge a game to buy from it's star rating!) then such use of the reviews system is a royal pain in the tits. I'd be quite happy from them to remove ALL reviews which did not mention the merits of the actual game.

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@blackworx

Have you heard of "lying by omission"?

By removing negative feedback Amazon are lying to people about the product. Unless the product DOESN'T have DRM.

It isn't their site to do with as they wish. They are requesting our money and using the site to do it. Getting money off someone by lying to them is fraud.

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@Joe K

Do you have to have bought the game to say "It has SecuROM, don't buy it"?

No.

The specs of the game given "officially" do not mention it. SecuROM don't mention the downsides nor that you can't uninstall SecuROM either.

So this is information like a review (which doesn't require a purchase either). Hell, many places don't actually play the game for review, they just take the official screenshots and talk about what the game *could* play like (whilst forgetting to mention that they never actually played the game for review).

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Make it simple

Require all manufacturers to place a "DRM Present" label on their products. Something bright, shiny and eye-catching... let 'em know their getting a well written piece of extra software. The installation should have the first screen inform them that this wonderful software is being installed to give them an advantage over some nasty pirate who'll be able to run the game without the extra feature.

Pressure all retailers to post on their web-sites that said software has DRM. If it's an added benefit to the consumer, it really needs to be promoted. Maybe in the first line of the description.

All notices should be in a readable sized font, not the "I need a microscope to read it" size generally found in medicine side effects columns.

Don't forget about the added memory, hdd and processor hits that'll make sure you're getting the full use out of your rig that would be wasted for want of some work.

For some reason, I thought installing software on a person's computer without their express permission wasn't legal.

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"requires online validation at least once a month"

And make sure you say so. And if you stop server validation, refund the money. After all, you got to invest and use that money in the meantime, didn't you, and inflation means it's actually worth less now than it was "new".

Just like the game.

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So what if they do?

It's their site, it's not a bloody social community or some Facebook clone!

Look at the mess that Spore caused, 20,000 geeks high on their own self-worth, writing clever one word reviews like:

"Spore suxxors cus it got SecRom sheet! I int bying man! This suxxors!"

Well with wonderfully astute comments like that filling the reviews section, hardly surprising that Amazon feel need to come down a little more heavy handed. At the end of the day it's a business and it's their business so they can do what they like. Don't like it? Then go to another online retailer or pay twice the price on the high street!

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@ blackworx

"Amazon have every right to censor whatever they want; it's their bloody site"

I have to take issue with this. Yes it is their site, but they are trying to sell me stuff.

Customer reviews are part of their marketing method used to try to increase sales. Censoring bad reviews must be at least as bad as false advertising. Has anyone asked Trading Standards for a take on this practice?

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Why?

Why are people upset about being told about non-obvious potentially painful aspects of a product... simply because the person telling them about it was smart enough not to experience the pain first hand?

If I warn you that the stove is hot and will burn you if you lick it... do you really care how I know? Are you going to complain that because I didn't lick the stove and find out first hand just how much it burns that I should STFU and stop telling you that it'll hurt when you do it?

That just seems like a really silly attitude to me.

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Gates Halo

@The Fuzzy Wotnot

"Don't like it? Then go to another online retailer or pay twice the price on the high street!"

Or just pirate it.

You'd think businesses would learn. If the majority of your target audience hates something you do, don't do it.

Thanks go to StarDock, Direct2Drive, and Valve. Also to all those games companies that don't include DRM in their software.

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Stop

Naive and Uninformed

@Anonymous Coward:

"Torrent users and the like are destroying businesses. They need to protect their rights and their labour somehow. DRM is the current solution.

If you don't like it - stop illegally file-sharing and play fair."

I can't let this rest. So much misinformation and naiveté in so few sentences.

Piracy is a problem, yes. Publishers and developers have a right to pretect their IP, yes. But we're talking about people who would have bought the game had it not come with DRM, which _only_ affects legitimate users, and _not a single_ pirate. (See http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?tag=drm for further discussions on this.)

Publishers are currently driving what would otherwise have been customers to piracy. I don't condone that, but neither do I condone customers being treated as criminals until proven otherwise (and sometimes, repeatedly so).

Instead of trying to stop piracy (a futile endeavour), publishers should _encourage_ sales. How? By not including extra hurdles in installation and running of their games that will only ever affect legitmate customers. By finally displaying an understanding of the damage they're doing.

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@AC

>You only have yourself to blame for DRM

Er, no, I have only other people to blame. Frankly, I don't give a rats-ass about whether it's the game publisher or the pirates fault that there is DRM on a product.

I don't really care if there is DRM on a product either, because, as you yourself point out, I'm not doing anything wrong.

What I object to is software that stops my fair usage of a product. I bought the game, it's mine, I only play one copy at a time, and I don't let anyone else install and play my copy. SecuROM (note, not DRM, but this specific DRM) prevents that, and it does it in a way that is intrusive, inconvenient and annoying.

As for your Malware label, you are utterly wrong - Malware is any software that has a deleterious effect on what my machine does (mine notice - not the game studios, not the developers, not MS's machine - it is mine). Again with the rats-ass - I don't care if it's commercial, stable, supported or whatever, it breaks something I want to do, and it does by design. It is therefore malware

The only fix for this situation is for the studio to remove broken DRM from their game, and yes, I was one of the one-star comments who was removed - I gave the game itself 4 because it deserves it, but the DRM is so annoying, I'd rather let people know that it's crippled and not worth buying.

And it's worth repeating - I am not doing anything wrong, but I'm being punished. Therefore your comment about "nothing to fear from SecuROM" is a flat out proven lie.

<Gods, I love Trolls - I was so bored...>

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Unhappy

Bad DRM, bad Amazon, bad freebie downloaders

Personally I agree that DRM in general punishes only those who pay for software/music/films - whatever. Ideally we'd do without it.

Amazon possibly need to police against the review process being hijacked by a few individuals with single theme issues possibly posting under multiple identities. Perhaps as has been suggested, only allowing posts if you've purchased through Amazon/market place would help.

Either way it does seem to be a real way to bring pressure to bear on the purveyors of DRMd products.

What really amazes me is the number of adults I know, with decent jobs/salaries who download illegally - music, films, software. Even for their children and with absolutely no shame. Although it feels a lot less tangible that stealing things from e.g. an electrical retailer for your kids - that's basically what it is. Don't like the price - don't buy it/wait for the price to go down.

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re: Let's be honest

And once one has said "I enjoyed the shooting things", why do they have to have someone else saying they liked it? They aren't adding any new information, are they.

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@Lozzyho

Well your DVD writer going on the blink and your older game that is installed not being able to run because the DRM with the game breaks this isn't part of the game either.

But I'd like to know because such actions reduce the utility of the game.

The difference between a freehold and leasehold has nothing to do with the HOUSE, but it does render your property less or more desirable.

Same here.

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re: You only have yourself to blame for DRM

DRM was before BitTorrent.

DRM hasn't STOPPED BitTorrent carrying the games.

Therefore, how can BitTorrent be the cause of DRM?

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Alert

@Mark, AC

Yes I have heard of lying by omission, but Amazon have not omitted anything since they acted after the fact. This is removal, not omission. Anyway, that's just me being pedantic.

Regardless, it is still not fraud because:

1) They did not remove all the anti-SecuROM rants; there are still plenty there for you to read and use to make your mind up. All they have done is manipulate the star rating. This is dishonest certainly, but not illegal and absolutely not fraud. Still, this is what I meant when I said they were setting themselves up for a fall by allowing 3rd party opinions on their site.

2) At no point have they stated or implied anything false about the product, or caused any material fact to be suppressed in order to sell anyone anything. They have suppressed opinion, not the fact of SecuROM's presence in the product.

3) If the buyer does not agree to SecuROM, or the knowledge of secuROM's presence was somehow kept from them by Amazon, then they have every right to send it back and get a refund.

BTW I am very anti-DRM in case it looks like I think I'm just taking a potshot at a bunch of freetards.

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@Anonymous Coward Posted at 10:38 GMT

Quote: "If you don't like it - stop illegally file-sharing and play fair."

But this is the point isnt it? File sharers and pirates arnt bothered by this. They get the DRM free version anyway. The pirates may be making it worse for the legitimate purchasers but not for themselves. They arnt going to stop because of DRM and it just pisses off legitimate customers.

My copy of Spore is wonderfully DRM free and i dont need a CD in the drive to play and as i am on dial up then i don't need to connect to the internet to verify it either. Remarkably bug free game so i don't even need to go to the hassle of finding a new hack for the patch... maybe they should have put more bugs in the initial release... but of course that would really piss off the legitimate owners and kill reviews and ratings that even Amazon wouldnt be able to cover up.

I like Stardock for their efforts and think Sins of a Solar Empire is a good game.... its a game i would have paid good money for if it wasn't virtually impossible for me to get the games in English where i live being an ex-pat.... funnily enough the local market does supply me with the English versions at a nice cheap price that i cannot get in the shops.

Not going AC here because i don't feel the need. I admit to purchasing pirated versions because a) its DRM free, and b) the suppliers don't give me any option to purchase an English version (i cannot do internet orders).

As a side note in my defense when i was in the UK i did purchase a majority of games rather than pirate, but this was long before the whole DRM idiocy when the copy protection was basically a CD check and a serial number for most games. A quick d/l of a no-CD patch and i could feel happy i had a legitimate copy while not having any hassle looking for the CD when i wanted to play.

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SecurROM is not maligned -- its malignant

I don't think its the DRM as such that people are annoyed about but rather the SecurROM code. This type of software has side effects and can be the very devil to get rid of, even if you delete the program. I got burnt by this type of thing years ago with a non-game program and I've refused to buy any software with it in since (its cost that vendor alone plenty.....).

There are easier and more effective ways to manage copies of games.

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To all the shills;

Don't copy that floppy. It's destroying software.

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@ Bill Gould

Valve / Steam is basically DRM but it's DRM done well as it includes benefits to the customer instead of treating them like criminals. However, there seems to be a disturbing trend to include DRM on third party releases over Steam, Bioshock had it until it was patched out and if you buy Far Cry 2 on steam it still comes with limited activation DRM. The strangest one though is the new X3 game that includes limited activation DRM on the Steam release but not on the DVD release. I guess that the producers of these games don't want to remove the DRM from the Steam versions so that the pirates can't potentially take unprotected files from them but it hardly makes much of a difference as most games are still cracked on day 1 anyway.

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Anonymous Coward

won't run? DRM?

I will be looking for a cracked version of this game the same as for Warhammer. The reason? I bought the game through Steam and it won't run. I am having the same issue with Warhammer. They both appear to be using the same DRM. Coincidence?

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Economics

There are three on-line retailers who sell similar goods at similar prices. A new game comes out, and consumers take a look at the on-line reviews. Site 1 has no reviews at all, so you take a mental note of the price and go looking elswhere. Site 2 has reviews, but most are negative - put off by this, you decide to leave buying the game. Next day, you are browsing site 3 and notice that all their reviews of that game are pretty positive. You give in to temptation and buy the game there and then, having already forgotten that site 1 was actually cheaper.

The moral for the seller: having no ratings is bad as consumers will go to a site with reviews unless they already know they really want the game. However, having bad ratings is even worse because not only does it put people off buying something from you they actually want, it also means you're less likely to be a site where people buy stuff from you on a whim. The only review system that makes economic sense to the seller is one that keeps scores as artificially high as possible without loosing the credibility of the review system. As there is no legal requirement to have unfiltered reviews, there is a clear benifit to bias reviews when the conditions are right. Even in this specific case, the number of sales made through this 'accidental' biasing of reviews will probably hugely outweigh the people put off by the El Reg article.

Basically, never trust review scores for an item on a site that makes money from selling that item.

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Value For Money?

>Instead of trying to stop piracy (a futile endeavour), publishers should _encourage_ sales. How? By not including extra hurdles in installation and running of their games that will only ever affect legitmate customers. By finally displaying an understanding of the damage they're doing<

I remember when I bought Ultima6 (late 90's?), I got a cloth map (still got it), 3 manuals (a bestiary, game manual and short pre story) on nice paper, a plastic trinket (Anhk) as well as the game - and no, it wasn't an enhanced or deluxe version. I recall Falcon3 coming with a 500+ ring bound quality manual as well as maps of flight plans / battle lines.

It's not just the pirates who have become cheap. The publishers would rather spends hods of money protecting their property and give you a DVD with a cheap pamphlet, and if they stick in an extra DVD with 'the making of' and an artbook they want to charge you an extra tenner and call it an LE.

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@blackworx

Yes it is lying by omission.

The reports are accurately stating that the game as DRM and as such will not be bought (because, despite the DRM meaning it can't be copied, you still can't return it) and so they rate the game one star. And by removing them, Amazon are lying by omitting these truths.

Now how are the manufacturers to know people who have enough interest to WRITE a bad review were never going to buy the game in the first place? Each potential loss is counted as a real loss, remember! So if you remove them all, it looks to EA like there's only one person out of 21 who didn't like DRM. A 5% failure rate is acceptable. If it really was 120 out of 140, then an 86% dissatisfaction rate is notable.

So by removing 119 complaints about DRM amazon is lying to EA too.

And if EA think there's only 5% put off by DRM? They don't remove DRM and continue to use it. We continue not to buy it and this number is 86% not 5%. The discrepancy is taken by EA to mean that out of 21 people, 119 are pirating now, so we must have more strict laws. The problem isn't piracy, it's Amazon lying about how many people are put off by DRM.

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