Thoroughly recommended reading.
The way StarForce and a couple of its cousins does this is one of the more disturbing developments in the videogame war on piracy. StarForce installs a hidden driver onto your machine along with the game itself, without any explicit warnings. This driver is required to play the game and is not uninstalled with the game. It also has a rather disturbing tendency to re-install itself after either manual removal or cleanup using a provided tool that has to be hunted for across the Internet.
These new protection systems do not simply protect software from direct attempts to pirate it - they also proactively search out potential piracy threats on one’s system and then prevent them from working. Programs such as Nero and Alcohol 120% are obvious targets here, though I have seen far more erratic and often times seemingly random tantrums taken by these systems. These range from disabling the recording device in Windows Media Player, to preventing access to the CD drive both on the software and hardware side. I usually find myself pressing the button to open the CD drive and then having to log out of Windows for it to do what it’s supposed to!
The specifics of how many of these systems work is kept a secret - for obvious reasons - but the results of their usage are no secret, and can be extremely disruptive. I have even heard first hand accounts of people having to totally rebuild their computers after a nasty run in with them.
In an interview with Firing Squad, the makers of StarForce strenuously denied the fact that their driver causes problems to all but a slim minority of user systems. They then went on to state that the EULA covers them and the publishers from all liability of damage done by their copy protection. In other words, “we state that it doesn’t cause problems, but if it does, we’re covered by the EULA and you’re not.”
The real joke is the fact that the cracked versions of the games do not come with the disruptive copy protection - meaning that the pirates do not suffer the ill effects of the driver that are inflicted upon legitimate paying customers.
In a related thread:
What about other claims made in forums ?
There is a short and there is a long answer to this question. I’ll give you both, starting with the short one : these claims are invented (to be polite).
Onto the long answer. No, Starforce doesnt destroy of prevent the use of other softwares (CD burning, emulation or others). It doesnt break down your computer, doesnt spy on your use of a computer, it doesnt require a web connection (unless in the case of a protected download of course). There was no report of such problems, and the installed base of Starforce with Ubisoft games alone is quite enough to be considered a good statistic. There were problems with the previous protection systems we used, and I dont think there was such a rant.
So what about all that can be read here and there ? That’s called a hate campaign. Its fueled by people who are indeed made angry by the protection, and the only group that is made angry is the crackers. As they and their friends are pretty much living online (a quirk I share to some extent), they can be quite effective in spreading rumors. And it seems that many forum readers can be impressed when two or three persons keep repeating the same thing over and over, even if it happens to be false. I’m afraid this is how politics work too.
I will keep checking problems reported here, but let me just say that I wont break a sweat about false claims, and about crackers and their friends being annoyed.
To conclude this part, in order for everyone to get hard facts about Starforce, here is a small document on how it works.
FWIW, the post above could be construed as libel by implication, for suggesting in a very prejudicial manner that people who complain about problems with SF have no legitimate reason to do so and are, in fact, crackers.
By the way, I don’t have the T&C of Starforce in front of me. Can someone with a Starforce game post up the full EULA so that I can scrutinise it?