Sony patent describes RFID-infused DRM

DRM schemes were introduced to curb piracy, and they’re increasingly being deployed as weapons against used-game sales. While most have been cracked or otherwise bypassed, a new approach developed by Sony could be more difficult to thwart. The PlayStation maker is working on a DRM system that combines optical media with a programmable ROM chip and RFID tag. The extra components would be used to tie the contents of the disc to a specific playback device or user account. They could also be employed to restrict access to certain on-disc content, such as pre-loaded DLC.

As Ars Technica points out, the scheme should work without an Internet connection, eliminating one point of contention for DRM detractors. Gating access to the contents of an optical disc using ROM chips and RFID tags would certainly make life more difficult for the Yarrr crowd, since piracy would entail more than downloading an image file and burning it to off-the-shelf media. Locking content to specific devices or users could also restrict used game sales that might otherwise be considered legitimate. Presumably, the usage permissions would be flexible enough to let developers choose how much of a game could be resold—and how many times.

The DRM scheme is outlined in this patent application, which was filed last fall and published today. The application is still awaiting approval, and it’s unclear whether Sony is far enough along to put this kind of technology in its next console. Odds are the RFID tech won’t be used for PC games, since that would require additional hardware in every system. Besides, hardware-based authentication has been cracked on the PC before. I suspect most PC gamers are moving towards digital distribution services like Steam, anyway.

Comments closed
    • jonjonjon
    • 7 years ago

    if you are so worried about used game sales just sell the game digitally. i cant figure out why ms and sony don’t offer the games digitally on the release day. they cut out the middleman store so the publisher and console maker can either charge less or make more money, no used game to sell, the consumer can download a new game at midnight on release without leaving home, more likely to make an impulse buy if you can just download it. especially when you see all your friends playing the game. win-win-win for everyone but gamestop. who cares if gamestop doesn’t like it what can they do about it? they will be blockbuster in a few years anyway. xbox starts selling the games online 1-2 months after release but by that time most people have already played the game. just because you do digital distribution doesn’t mean you cant also sell physical media in store.

    • Bauxite
    • 7 years ago

    This “new” idea is older than dirt.

    Software dongles have been around a long time, they even migrated from parallel ports to usb. If your proprietary software has a 5+ digit price tag theres a good chance it uses dongles.

    Of course this fail comes from a place like sony.

    • Chrispy_
    • 7 years ago

    Sony don’t deserve paying customers.

    • Wildchild
    • 7 years ago

    And I’m sure Sony won’t be the only company trying to pull this shenanigans. I can’t help but feel that some console veterans are going to abandon this upcoming generation in favor of PC gaming. Not a lot, but enough to make a difference.

    • odizzido
    • 7 years ago

    If you’re a game company, you always need to be looking for a new way to stick it to your customers.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 7 years ago

      Sony is also a movie and music publisher, and an electronics manufacturer. It’s the stick it to your customer trifecta!

    • HisDivineOrder
    • 7 years ago

    When there’s a new form of DRM, count on the fact that Sony probably thought of it first. They may not have ran with it, but they certainly love to come up with new and different and often annoying forms of DRM. Plus, they installed rootkits on people’s PC’s if they put in certain audio CD’s.

    So yeah. The devil. Stake. Burn. Pitchforks. Rawr. Mobs. Death to the user. Er… I mean, Death to the Corporations.

    Etc.

    • albundy
    • 7 years ago

    is this their new revolutionary product line now? they must be the only company that still believes in 20 year old optical media tech! back in the good ol days, they actually made and invented electronics, not that any of it survived massive reprisals. i guess screwing the public over with proprietary devices doesn’t have to be reinvented. With this, gone will be the days when you can bring a game disc to a friends house for dual play on a console. Should I presume that walmart will no longer accept returns on these games?

      • HisDivineOrder
      • 7 years ago

      They barely accept returns as is. Only when it’s defective. Seems no different if this comes through.

      The biggest effect is the death of gaming rentals for Sony consoles that include this “feature.”

        • l33t-g4m3r
        • 7 years ago

        That only means all my walmart returns are “defective”, but I haven’t bought anything from them for a long time, considering they don’t have competitive prices.

    • Generic
    • 7 years ago

    I’d gladly sign away my right to resell software/media if the content provider guarantees my right to access the content I purchase on any device I happen to own ad perpetuum.

      • designerfx
      • 7 years ago

      guess what that requires?

      hint: no DRM.

    • Arclight
    • 7 years ago

    I don’t get it. Why don’t they just push for online distribution? Steam works, copy it, why cling to the past?

      • StashTheVampede
      • 7 years ago

      Online distribution works very well for some games, but not all.

      Many Bluray games are 20GB+ in size. Imagine if you had to download all of it in order to play, your bandwidth at home wasn’t all that fast AND you were hitting bandwidth caps along the way. Considering what the PS4 is likely trying to accomplish with visuals/audio (especially 3D), the games are likely going to grow in size.

      100% digital distribution, for a game console, is a ways off IF you are trying to deliver the AAA+ titles that will be on billboards, magazines, TV commercials, etc. Many of these titles are tens of millions of dollars with the budget and Sony would be filled with a huge nightmare if many users couldn’t simply go to the store, buy the game and start immediately (or near) playing it.

      Taking a step back and you’ll find many other titles are fine with digital distribution. XBL and PSN have a good selection of titles that don’t take days to download and I’m sure Sony want to help promote that system a bit more in their next generation system.

        • Arclight
        • 7 years ago

        [quote=”StashTheVampede”<]Many Bluray games are 20GB+ in size. Imagine if you had to download all of it in order to play, your bandwidth at home wasn't all that fast AND you were hitting bandwidth caps along the way. [/quote<] I'm already playing games with 20GB+ folders downloaded through Steam without a hitch The problem here is that the US and a few other countries have such a ridiculous thing as download caps. It's 2013 and lesser countries than the US have internet without download caps. The dl cap is an artificial problem and it is the result of the monopoly created by a few ISPs. My question is why doesn't Sony and componies like it lobby for a capless internet? Wouldn't that be more noble of them than patenting new hardware DRMs?

    • Grigory
    • 7 years ago

    There is a cure for that: Don’t buy it.

    • maxxcool
    • 7 years ago

    Now with 37% more fail!

    • LostCat
    • 7 years ago

    Having a patent means nothing. They mean ‘We might look into this in the future, and we don’t want to have to pay some troll if we do.’

    • provoko
    • 7 years ago

    Pay for pre-loaded DLC????? So now you have to pay for parts of a game that’s already in your hand………..

      • superjawes
      • 7 years ago

      …wasn’t that already a thing?

      What you’ll actually see will be games like BF3 for consoles, where the multiplayer was locked by default, but the retail version came with a code to unlock it, so anyone buying a used copy would have to shell out the cash to unlock it.

      • BobbinThreadbare
      • 7 years ago

      This has been happening for at least 2 years now.

    • tanker27
    • 7 years ago

    Yawn…..It will be hacked.

    • willmore
    • 7 years ago

    Owww, let me take a swing at this. Ryhadar has a good point. The ‘Yarrr crowd’ has shown for a long time that they’re not afraid of hacking the hardware of devices to bypass the DRM. Those even involved soldering thing into the machine.

    To break this, you only need some RFID capable tranceiver with a tiny bit of processing power. It doesn’t even need a power source! I’m not sure if Sony could have made this easier to hack if they had that as a design goal.

      • l33t-g4m3r
      • 7 years ago

      Right, but it’s about us, not them. This is to curb resale, although it’s already been ruled that you own your license and they can’t limit resale. Which immediately prompted steam to claim you can’t initiate a class action lawsuit against them, which of course is illegal to claim. This battle probably needs a RICO lawsuit at this point.

        • sweatshopking
        • 7 years ago

        who ruled [quote<] although it's already been ruled that you own your license and they can't limit resale [/quote<] ? europe? are you in europe?

          • l33t-g4m3r
          • 7 years ago

          Don’t act like first sale doesn’t exist, troll. There’s been actual suits in this country that have ruled the same as Europe, albeit nothing recently. The problem here is the corruption is too rampant and people don’t care to waste their time, energy, or money fighting a protracted battle against a well entrenched enemy. Class action would be the way to go, but Valve has preempted that, now haven’t they? Like I said, this needs a RICO suit, and IMO that would completely end this statewide. DRM would simply cease to exist.

          The whole argument stems from property rights. Do you own what you pay for? Of course you do, but getting content providers to admit that is the problem, especially when they’ve set up everything with DRM that artificially limits your usage. Buying protected content is funding your own enslavement, and the easiest way to fight this right now is by voting with your dollar. Don’t buy DRM products. Worked with music.

          PS. Screw Canada.

            • superjawes
            • 7 years ago

            [quote<]PS. Screw Canada.[/quote<] Now that is just uncalled for. What did Canda ever do to [s<]you[/s<] anybody?

            • l33t-g4m3r
            • 7 years ago

            SSK lives there. He should be deported to North Korea where he belongs, then maybe I’d have some respect for the country.

    • Ryhadar
    • 7 years ago

    Can’t wait to see the article titled, “Hacker thwarts Sony RFID-infused DRM”.

      • Chrispy_
      • 7 years ago

      History all-but-guarantees that the hack will be readily available before the DRM is implemented in a retail product.

      The worst-case scenario is that there’s a way to circumvent this rubbish the same day it come out.

    • yogibbear
    • 7 years ago

    Nice, now you can walk into a game shop, steal the RFID code for the DLC and walk out without ever touching a thing. GG Sony. Another nail in the coffin for brick and mortar stores. Not that I’ve been in one in years thanks to GOG, Steam, GMG, etc.

      • mesyn191
      • 7 years ago

      Ayup. RFID’s are not really secure by their very nature.

      • CB5000
      • 7 years ago

      Wutz a brick n mortar store? Lool

      Steam killed the video game store. Could even be a song.

        • Srsly_Bro
        • 7 years ago

        lol nice reference.

      • brute
      • 7 years ago

      patent filed -> PATENTED IDEA IS NOW RETROACTIVE REALITY

    • wizpig64
    • 7 years ago

    Sony, like most huge companies, has a history of making patents like this and never using them. If anything, the industry is moving away from physical media and towards a digital download model that already disallows reselling of games. Gen8 consoles will probably be the last ones to even use disks.

      • Kevsteele
      • 7 years ago

      This is Sony, king of the proprietary media format and perpetual loser of the media format wars.

      They must be heady from finally winning a physical media format battle (Blu-Ray), despite the fact that their “victory” will be short-lived as the world moves beyond physical media…

      I think Hubris was invented at Sony.

        • superjawes
        • 7 years ago

        Blu-Ray will probably stick with dropping prices. Sure, we’re already dropping most physical media (PC gamers seem to have divorced completely), but there’s still a big market and a lot of benefit to release physical media for various purposes, namely getting things like movies without requiring an internet connection. On top of that, Blu-Ray’s protective layer is a great addition for optical disks and physical copies in general.

        I do very much like the thought of Hubris being invented by Sony, though.

    • superjawes
    • 7 years ago

    Remind me, how did Ubisoft’s super-DRM initiatives work out for them?

      • Mightyflapjack
      • 7 years ago

      You heartless wench,

      Don’t you remember our Lord Guillemot’s claim of 95% PC piracy!

      How dare you get in the way of ‘great justice’

      Think of the children.. and pandas. Yeah, pandas are awesome.

        • MadManOriginal
        • 7 years ago

        For the panda children!

          • superjawes
          • 7 years ago

          Every time you pirate a game, a major publisher clubs a baby panda with a baby seal.

            • LostCat
            • 7 years ago

            as good a reason as any to start đŸ˜‰

        • Srsly_Bro
        • 7 years ago

        So as long as they aren’t drowning newborn kittens, I’ll continue to not care.

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