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Sony patent proposes way to stem second-hand game sales

on 3 January 2013

We’ve already seen how intrusive DRM can infuriate a gaming community with Ubisoft, EA and others all coming under fire for including the controversial “access control technology" in some of their games.

But while the gaming community abhor such measures, some publishers say they need to implement the technology to protect their IP, in a bid to make games harder to copy for the pirates and to stem second-hand game sales. After all, publishers want you to buy new copies of games rather than to nab them off eBay, where they make no money.

Well, it looks like Sony is now investigating ways to stem second-hand sales. Uncovered via NEOGAF, Sony Japan has filed a patent in December 2012 that describes how it may attempt to do just that.

The main thing to pick out of it is that Sony proposes to implement a tag on games that can check whether the title you’re playing has been used on a different machine or account. It could then prevent you from playing that game.

Here’s a small chunk of the patent:

“By employing the game playing system 1000 according to the present embodiment, the use permission tag 220 together with the game disk 210 is supplied to the user, and the use permission tag 220 actively determines the use permit/rejection of electronic content. Thereby, the use of game AP stored in the game disk 210 can be restricted as appropriate according to the attribute of a reproduction device. Consider, for example, a case where used is a game package 200 distributed in the second-hand market. Then the ID of reproduction device for the game disk 210 differs from the legitimate use device ID stored in the use permission tag 220, so that the game disk can be reproduced in a mode which is predetermined for those bought and sold in the second-hand market. Also, for example, a content key may be supplied to the reproduction device 130 and the encrypted game AP may be decrypted using the content key only if the reproduction device ID matches a legitimate use device ID. Hence, use of game APs bought and sold in the second-hand market can be eliminated.”

In this section, Sony explains how it may work:

“As a technique to suppress the second-hand sales and purchase, a user may be first required to send a password or the like to a remote authentication server from a reproduction device (game player) via the Internet and the reproduction of content may be permitted only for the device that has succeeded in authentication.”

“However, where the reproduction device is not connected to the Internet, use of the content cannot be controlled. Also, where the connection to the Internet is an absolute requirement, user’s convenience may be significantly reduced. Besides, users may communicate to share the password between them and therefore the second-hand sales and purchase cannot be eliminated reliably.”

Of course many patents don’t come to fruition and many will be hoping that this particular course of action doesn’t rear its head at PS4 launch. Are you happy for publishers to add security measures to protect their IP? Let us know in the community forums.

Check out the full patent here.