Ubisoft Having A Crack?

By John Walker on July 18th, 2008 at 12:26 pm.

'Now arrest ourselves for terrorism.'

Piracy, as we are so frequently told, is wrong. Apparently it funds child abuse and terrorism (by means they’re not quite ready to explain just yet). It’s a serious business folks. Which makes it a bit odd when Ubisoft get spotted apparently doing it.

People who bought Rainbow Six Vegas 2 via Direct2Drive were having a bit of a problem with the 1.02 version of the game, with it refusing to install. So Ubisoft or Direct2Drive released a v1.03 patch to fix it. Unfortunately for them, canny people took a closer look at the solution in place.

So what happened? Well, to ensure that players no longer needed the CD to play, the iniative was taken to use a No-CD crack. For those unfamiliar with the seedy underworld of piratic evil, a No-CD crack is an illegal patch that when installed means a game will run without the CD in the drive. This means you can then do such horrifically despicable things, like lend the game to your friend. (Or worse, play a game you’ve bought without having to find the disc every time). But, see, the problem here is Ubisoft didn’t botch their own No-CD fix, but rather, er, one was borrowed from cracking group, Reloaded.

Oops.

So, in short, Ubisoft or Direct2Drive took a bit of a silly shortcut, and nicked an illegal crack and put it in their code. Which raises the question: is this an official endorsement of No-CD cracking? Or is it their belief that since the game is theirs, and these people illegally created code to manipulate it, they believed it morally theirs to take? Or is this piracy of piracy? While it’s a little unlikely that Reloaded will be suing Ubisoft for the theft of their intellectual property, it’s slightly amusing that this is essentially what has happened.

'And there does seem to be an awful lot of people trafficking going on.'

The discussion thread on the Ubi forums has now been locked, with a closing comment from UK Community Manager, Ubi.Vigil:

I’d say this discussion has run its course, as such it is now locked.

The file was removed from the site over a week ago now and the matter is being thoroughly investigated by senior tech support managers here at Ubisoft.

Needless to say we do not support or condone copy protection circumvention methods like this and this particular incident is in direct conflict with Ubisoft’s policies.

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76 Comments »

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  1. Dexton says:

    I don’t know why they don’t just remove the requirement for a CD/DVD in the drive to play games nowdays, I download a crack or mini image for every game I own that requires one so I don’t need to fumble around with CDs or hear my DVD drive spinning up needlessly.

  2. Pidesco says:

    I would be appalled if this wasn’t so awesome.

  3. cullnean says:

    ubi will pwn D2D if they made the crack available

  4. Pidesco says:

    I just remembered something. Perhaps the crack wasn’t stolen, it was just that developers generally are the ones who release the no CD cracks to help the honest buyers with all the cd in drive hassle. Perhaps one of the guys who did the fix actually works for Ubisoft or D2D.

  5. propanol says:

    We’re not stealing it – we’re taking it back!

  6. The Sombrero Kid says:

    @Pidesco

    are you [serious – Ed]? if a reloaded cracker was working on the game he certainly wouldn’t tell his bosses about it or he’d get locked up!

  7. kuddles says:

    I’m with Dexton. I know there was a lot of fuss over the Mass Effect DRM, but I would take one online authentication check followed by never needing to put the disc in the drive again any day of the week over constantly putting my disc in to run something that’s fully installed on my hard drive.

  8. brog says:

    that hilarious advertisement: since when does piracy even make money?

  9. Al3xand3r says:

    I think they’re talking about console piracy, the way it happens is some bloke with some smarts downloads and burns a ton of copies of console games then sells them to ignorant fucks for what they think is a cheap price, but more than enough to let him live the life without doing actual work since discs are dirt cheap. All the big and small stores do it somewhere @ the back…

  10. MetalCircus says:

    I always wondered that. Most pirates here in the UK just operate out of the back of thier car boots, flogging obviously fake games to punters at car boot sales.

    I read an interesting article yesterday, though, on piracy in the philopenes and the guy argued that basically instead of being this big evil empire, it acctually supports hundred and thousands of familys who depend on piracy to live, because poverty is so bad there. Made me think twice about it all.

  11. Radiant says:

    No no what they are talking about is buying games at the local market.
    Like its 1994 and you need a C64 turbo loader.
    btw the captions on the pictures made me chuckle.

  12. Pidesco says:

    @The Sombrero Kid: I was jesting, of course. Although you have to wonder how is it that groups like these reloaded fellows get their cracks out so quickly.

    But perhaps the bosses are all in on it! Conspiracy!!!!!!!

  13. bobince says:

    It’s actually a level worse than simply piracy, it’s plagiarism: making an unauthorised copy and claiming it as one’s own work.

    On the other hand, we can forgive them because it’s so very amusing.

    Nitpicking re: “a No-CD crack is an illegal patch” – it’s not necessarily illegal, depending on where you live. In the US it would probably fall under DMCA’s anti-circumvention measures, but elsewhere there may be no clear-cut or tested law against it.

  14. Albides says:

    The IT Crowd movie one is better.

    But this story is awesome.

  15. cliffski says:

    just goes to show that online verification is a far better system of copy protection than CD drive checks. hurrah that my two fave games (COD and COH) both work that way.

  16. Amake says:

    I don’t get it, are CD cracks illegal? AFAIK they’re just like file sharing programs or cars, perfectly legal even though you can use them to do bad things. And is it illegal for someone to use someone else’s CD crack in their program? I’d assume the developers of those things have little to no interest in copyrighting them.

  17. propanol says:

    @Amake: the EULA usually specifies that you are not allowed to modify any part of the software without explicit permission from the developer – so yeah, they are illegal.

  18. UdM says:

    no it’s not illegal, in eu anyway. eula’s are usually void out of the US and the nocd/dvd falls under the “fair use” rule…

  19. MetalCircus says:

    I use NO-CD cracks for games I already have and i’m sure there are many people here that do, to save them from having to put the disc in everytime they want to play. Why is that considered illegal?

  20. vvff says:

    @propanol: To be nitpicky, there’s a difference between ‘What the EULA specifies” and “what is legal”; and (not referring to no CD cracks particularly, as I don’t know) but in the past certain portions of EULAs have been found to be unenforceable.

  21. John Walker says:

    My favourite aspect of EULA’s dubious legality is the untested likelihood that simply not reading them might make them invalid. Forcing one to scroll to the bottom of them before clicking ‘accept’ doesn’t seem likely to get around that, were it to prove true.

  22. vvff says:

    @John Walker: To be honest, I don’t really see *that* holding up (not holding up?) in court. A more likely throwing-out-of-the-whole concept would be how nobody actually accepts returns on opened software, which is theoretically what you’re supposed to do if you don’t accept the EULA.

  23. roboninja says:

    @ propanol: EULA’s have not been proven to be legally binding. Companies use them all the time, but think about it this way: they are making you agree to something you cannot read until you open the game, at which time you can no longer return the game for a refund if you do not agree? Such a thing has yet to be proven to be legally binding or not, it is still a question.

  24. NateN says:

    @bobince: Further nitpicking – the EU appears to have it’s own DMCA known as EUCD. Of course, there are still gigantic swaths of the world that aren’t the EU or the US, so it’s still quite possible that it was legal where it was created.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EU_Copyright_Directive

    (Many other countries either have a DMCA-ish law or are pushing for one, Canada’s recent attempts come to mind as being particularly restrictive for consumers.)

  25. rocketman71 says:

    What this is is further proof that Ubi and his use of DRM are no more than a pathetic joke

    (anyone remembers Silent Hunter 3? Raving Rabbids?)

  26. ZeroByte says:

    @MetalCircus: I would be very interested in reading that article. I’m from the Philippines and quite interested in piracy and copyright in general.

    I wonder what kind of laws this would fall under. If the crack was made in America, wouldn’t it fall under their blanket copyright law of instantly having copyright once a work is created? An interesting thought in general really, how would copyright breaking programs be regarded in the eyes of copyright law.

    I looked up the status of BnetD after reading this article. Seems like some UK guys are hosting it despite Blizzard’s win due to the DMCA not being valid in the UK.

  27. Joe says:

    Oh, snap.

    Someone is going to get fired for this.

  28. RichPowers says:

    Boy does this story crack me up.

  29. Amake says:

    AFAIK again, breaking the EULA doesn’t actually do anything except possibly void the warranty or, in case of an online game, give the developer right to ban you. That is if it is legally binding. The question is if making a mod for a game is ‘criminal’, or if this article’s description of the crack as illegal is sensationalist hokey.

  30. RED says:

    Yet somehow theirs still no 1.03 crack on gamecopyworld ;-}

  31. No Problem says:

    Kind of funny but can’t say I care about this ‘event’ the least bit, even if I did own R6V2.

  32. cliffski says:

    The whole “didn’t read the EULA’ is a bit tricky though, because generally ignorance of the terms of a contract is not a valid defence in court. I haven’t read all the small print in the contract I have with my gas supplier, or for that matter, with my ISP, but my ignorance of the wording of those contracts basically gets me nowhere in court.

    EULA’s should be short, simple, to the point and in plain English. The problem is, that there are so many people determined to find a gap in logic to misuse stuff and claim their use is legal (not talking CD cracks, but reusing art assets, p2p piracy etc), that over the years EULAs have been constantly expanding to make it clear and obvious that no, you cannot claim you killed someone because you played DOOM, and no, you cannot reuse the sounds from this game in your own etc etc…
    I hate harsh and long EULAs, but there is no surprise they have got to where they are. There are just too many assholes in the world :(

  33. Chris Evans says:

    SI Games Miles Jacobson on piracy:

    Unfortunately, every copy protection system penalises the legitimate user in some way (normally by insisting that the disc is in the drive all the time), so, with the huge help from Sega, we spend quite a bit of time researching newly available technologies that could be less intrusive for legitimate customers, whilst hopefully doing it’s job and stopping the game from being copied.

    More of what he says here.</a

  34. Nick says:

    This is genius. It’s pretty evident from the game itself that the Ubi employees who made it are lazy and incompetant.. this just makes me smile.

  35. Bobby says:

    @bobince:

    “It’s actually a level worse than simply piracy, it’s plagiarism”

    Um, no, not a level worse. Piracy is copyright infringement, which the law cares about, while the law doesn’t actually concern itself with plagiarism.

  36. brog says:

    Bobby:
    I don’t think “a level worse” necessarily means “more illegal”. There are plenty of legal things I consider worse than some illegal things.

  37. Bobby says:

    Brog: yeah, but for this one it strikes me because plagiarism and copyright infringement are technically the same thing at the legal and illegal “levels”.

  38. KindredPhantom says:

    This is hilariously ironic.

  39. brog says:

    Bobby:
    Plagiarism is claiming someone else’s work as your own. Pirates don’t (in my experience) claim that they created the works they’re distributing.

  40. SuperNashwan says:

    Whether you read the licence agreement or not is irrelevant, the issue is whether you agree to the licence agreement in a legally binding way. The tricky part for software is you’re only presented with these terms and restrictions well after you’ve parted with your cash. If your contract is with the retailer and they’ve given you the software, you’ve given them your money, at what later point does the publisher offer you any consideration for agreeing to the licence agreement?
    As to no-cd cracks being legal or not, they’re generally not because they’re modified exes, which of course contain copyrighted code.

  41. matte_k says:

    @albides: ahh, brilliant. That ad wouldn’t have been out of place on The Day Today. Wish they’d put that on DVDs, i might not try and skip it then…

  42. Smoovious says:

    So… re: piracy vs plagiarism… if I’m understanding Bobby correctly…

    If I take a copy of some intellectual property, and keep the attributions the same, the law cares about that… but, if I take the same copy, but change the attributions to myself, it isn’t piracy anymore, but plagiarism… and since the law “doesn’t actually concern itself with plagiarism”, I should be good, and not have to worry?

    Is this actually what Bobby is saying? cuz… it’s just stupid. :P

    — Smoovious

  43. perilisk says:

    I think (IANAL) generally contracts made under duress are not legally binding, and given that an EULA is essentially a company holding a person’s property hostage until they agree to an invariably unfavorable contract, it can be argued that it falls under that category.

    Of course, if that argument found traction, then one could go further and assert that the practice of adding EULAs to software could be considered extortion, so perhaps I’m way off the mark here.

  44. RichPowers says:

    Either print the EULA on the box or get rid of it. If I disagree with the EULA after I’ve opened the game, how am I going to get a refund? Or is EULA roulette acceptable?

  45. Champagne O'Leary says:

    Piracy actually did fund terrorism in my native Nothern Ireland in the 80s and 90s. I’ve tried to explain this in the past, but last time someone told me on Penny Arcade that it was “very hard to believe,” so I walked away.

  46. Bobby says:

    @Smoovious & Brog: it’s a bit more complex than that, you only have a limited understanding of plagiarism and copyright infringement.

    To take your example, smoovious,
    but, if I take the same copy, but change the attributions to myself, it isn’t piracy anymore, but plagiarism… and since the law “doesn’t actually concern itself with plagiarism”, I should be good, and not have to worry?
    Its main failing is that in the eyes of the law it IS copyright infringement, and thus is illegal.

    Copyright infringement doesn’t limit itself to piracy, and plagiarism doesn’t limit itself to just taking another’s work (close imitations and homages are part of it too), and the two overlap, in fact as I mentioned earlier they’re two degrees of the same problem.

    In other words while in the eyes of the law plagiarism doesn’t exist, most of what would be considered serious plagiarism is copyright infringement in the eyes of said law.

    Any plagiarism strong enough that it should exist legally is in fact not plagiarism but copyright infringement.

  47. Frosty840 says:

    Well, the WoW EULA is currently holding up in the Glider case. Random googling turns up this take on the story, which basically holds the EULA to be signed-in-your-own-blood-legally-binding and the Glider chap to be very, very naughty indeed.

    According to other stories I’ve read, this is the third ruling on the case and the other two have been completely different, and so this is likely to go to the American bigwigs’ appeals court to set legal precedence, where the entire US software industry will pay off Bush’s broken judges to swing things in favour of enforcing the EULA in its maddening entirety…

    Which should be interesting…

  48. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Piracy actually did fund terrorism in my native Nothern Ireland in the 80s and 90s.”

    This is such a nonsensical statement. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that proceeds from selling pirate games didn’t sometimes go to terrorists – I’m sure it did. But the IRA and all the rest of them were also funded from all sorts of sources, particularly from America. If an accountant gave money to Noraid, nobody said “Accountancy funds terrorism”. If an IRA bomber was a plumber in his day job, nobody said “Plumbing funds terrorism. Money is money wherever it comes from.

  49. Scandalon says:

    Rev – I wouldn’t dismiss Champagne out of hand like that…I’m guessing he has more actual info than you. (I, uh, I visited Ireland once and got mugged, but I don’t think that counts.)

    So yes, any illegal/imoral/unsavory activity(and many legal ones!) that generates revenue will have a certain percentage of proceeds going to people we’d prefer don’t have money. But of course, hardly anyone in the states, and I expect this hold true in the UK as well, is buying “pirated” stuff. Installing a no-cd crack, whether you bought something retail, bittorrented it or borrowed from a friend, of course, funds terrorism as much as me picking my nose. (Heck, the gas I use to get to work and back every day does more in that regard than most are willing to admit.)