Article on Starforce at Tom's Hardware

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?

Hi. Here is the EULA if you still need it:


Please read this Licence carefully before installing the game (“Multimedia Product”).
This Licence is an agreement between you, the “User”, and Ubisoft Entertainment and/or its licensors and/or its beneficiaries (“Ubisoft”), which grants the User the non-exclusive and non-transferable right to use the Multimedia Product.
By installing the Multimedia Product, the User is undertaking to respect the terms and conditions of the Licence.

1- The Licence

Ubisoft grants the User a non-exclusive and non-transferable Licence to use the Multimedia Product, but remains the owner of all the rights relating thereto.
Any rights not specifically transferred by this Licence remain the property of Ubisoft.
The Multimedia Product is licensed and not sold to the User, for private use.
The Licence does not confer any right or title to the Multimedia Product and cannot be understood as a transfer of intellectual property rights to the Multimedia Product.

2- Ownership of the Multimedia Product

The User recognises that all of the rights associated with the Multimedia Product and its components (in particular the titles, computer codes, themes, characters, character names, plots, stories, dialogues, places, concepts, images, photographs, animation, videos, music and text contained in the Multimedia Product), as well as the rights relating to the trademark, royalties and copyrights, are the property of Ubisoft and are protected by French regulations or other Laws, Treaties and international agreements concerning intellectual property.

3- Use of the Multimedia Product

The User is authorised to use the Multimedia Product in accordance with the instructions provided in the manual or on the packaging of the Multimedia Product.
The Licence is granted solely for private use.

It is not permitted:

  • To make copies of the Multimedia Product,
  • To operate the Multimedia Product commercially,
  • To use it contrary to morality or the laws in force,
  • To modify the Multimedia Product or create any derived work,
  • To transmit the Multimedia Product via a telephone network or any other electronic means, except during multi-player games on authorised networks,
  • To create or distribute unauthorised levels and/or scenarios,
  • To decompile, reverse engineer or disassemble the Multimedia Product.

The User cannot sell, sublicense or lease the Multimedia Product to a third party.
The User can only transfer the Multimedia Product if the recipient agrees to the terms and conditions of the Licence. In this event, the User undertakes to transfer all components and documentation relating to the Multimedia Product. He also undertakes to delete any copy of the Multimedia Product from his computer. In this event, this Licence is automatically and immediately terminated.

4- Termination of the Licence

The Licence is effective from the first time the Multimedia Product is used.
It is terminated automatically by Ubisoft without notice if the User fails to adhere to the terms and conditions of the Licence.

5- Warranty

Ubisoft offers Technical Support. When you call, please be as specific as you can be about the problem you are experiencing and have the below details available:

  • The name of the manufacturer of your computer system
  • The brand and speed of the processor
  • How much RAM you have
  • The version number of windows you are using (if you aren’t sure, right-click on the my computer icon on your desktop and select ‘properties’)
  • The manufacturer name and model number of your video card, modem, and sound card.

Ubisoft guarantees to the original buyer of the Multimedia Product that the compact disc (CD) supplied with this Multimedia Product shall not show any fault during a normal-use period of ninety (90) days from the invoiced date of purchase, or any other longer warranty time period provided by applicable legislation.

Please return any defective Multimedia Product by registered letter together with this manual and your registration card if you have not already sent it to us. Please state your full name and address (including postcode), as well as the date and location of purchase. You may also exchange the multimedia product at the place of purchase.

If a disc is returned without proof of purchase or after the warranty period has expired, Ubisoft will choose either to repair or to replace it at customer expense. This warranty is invalid if the disc has been damaged through negligence, accident or misuse, or if it has been modified after acquisition.

6- Warrantee Limitation

The User recognises expressly that he uses the Multimedia Product at his own risk.
The Multimedia Product is provided as is, without any warranty other than what is laid down in Article 5 of the Licence. The User is responsible for any costs of repairing and/or correcting the multimedia product.
To the extent of what is laid down by law, Ubisoft rejects any warranty relating to the market value of the Multimedia Product, the User’s satisfaction or its capacity to perform a specific use.
The User is responsible for all risks connected with lost profit, lost data, errors and lost business or other information as a result of owning or using the multimedia product.
As some legislations do not allow for the aforementioned warranty limitation, it is possible that it does not apply to the User.

7- Liability

In no event can Ubisoft be held liable for any direct, consequential, accidental, special, ancillary or other damages arising out of the use or inability to use the Multimedia Product, as well as out of the ownership or poor functioning thereof, even if Ubisoft has been advised of the possibility of such damages.
In particular, Ubisoft accepts no liability regarding use of the Multimedia Product contrary to the precautions for use set out in the manual and on the packaging.
As some legislations do not allow exemption from liability in the event of direct or incidental damages, it is possible that the aforementioned exclusion does not apply to the User.
This Licence to use the Multimedia Product grants specific rights to the User and he may have other rights depending on the laws in his State.

In short, “Should any defect in our software screw your computer and your legislation doesn’t protect you, that’s hard luck.”

Along with…

“If you copy the disc to make a backup we’ll sue you for infringement of the DMCA.”

EULA should in this instance mean Effectively Useless License Agreement.

I think its BOYCOTT TIME!

Plenty of people are boycotting sf already. There is at least one documented case of the distributor of a game (I forget which one) changing their mind and abandoning their projects of using starforce in consequence of public uproar.
Of course, the fact that the spawns of the Dark Lord^H^H^H^H^H nice people behind starforce are striving to make their protection worse every passing day isn’t helping their situation.

It has never bothered me one bit - I would strongly advise people to use a separate Windows XP partition dedeicated strictly for games and a main one for applications, etc… That’s what I do… I keep my work related stuff, office, applications in one partition and strictly games in one partition along with a CLEAN registry backup before installation of any game which I can revert to anytime. I don’t condone the tactics used by game companies to couner piracy because it is NOT countering piracy it is doing the opposite. :slight_smile: But why should I boycott my favourite games ? The hell with them, they can star force my system anytime on my separate partition.

You may have a separate partition, but it’s still something they shouldn’t be doing.
Besides, you’ll need more than just a clean registry backup if your computer gets screwed enough. Granted, you could just keep an image and restore it, but starforce is guilty of damaging hardware as well as windows installations. I bet you wouldn’t be so happy about them starforcing your system on your separate partition if starforce made your optical drive go tits up.
Even if it didn’t, though, I don’t see why I should bother with the creation of a separate partition and all just to accomodate the idiots who made this protection and the idiots who decided to use it in their games (or in those they publish, anyway).

Besides, even if you are happy with a separate partition and don’t get hardware damage, starforce still makes it a pain to play backed up copies. You may be ok with the idea of paying multiple times for a game should you need more copies for legitimate uses; I am not.

And when you think the whole of this argument is completely pointless, because starforce is, as any other protection, completely useless at preventing piracy, you just have to wonder just how stupid can the game companies get.

Oh, by the way, read this.

Oh, by the way, read this.

Starforce = Crap! Thankfully, I don’t have any games that has Starforce but just the idea of it makes me shudder…