No DRM for Second Life, please

Today is the day – September 5 – when Steam promised to unveil a whole new stable of creativity and productivity programs on its site. Nothing in sight yet. I am watching the Steam site like a hawk, and I see no announcement of new apps yet. But then, Steam operates on what is affectionately known as “Valve-time” – in its own universe, a little sideways from the rest of us.

If this leak from Steam’s iOS platform is correct, we could be talking design, video production, accounting … accounting?  Imagine doing your taxes while getting your next achievement in Portal 2!

(Photo “leak” courtesy of http://www.joystiq.com)

Sitting on Steam’s doorstep

As a Second Life resident sitting on Steam’s doorstep, able to see inside the window but not quite see my room yet, waiting for somebody to make a move, I begin to brood. I am brooding on the fact that  every other Steam game requires the user to run the lumbering Steam program as well. This is a form of DRM – a limitation on using a product after buying it. There is an offline Steam mode, but even that requires the Steam program to be running.

I hate DRM on principle. I think it trades freedom for easy, and that’s never a good thing. But Steam thinks it needs DRM to prevent piracy. In other words, if you have to run Steam to play the game, then you can’t use a stolen copy of the game. If you believe this, try googling any of Steam’s titles, with the word torrent tacked onto the search string. Think Steam is preventing piracy?

Will Steam wrap Second Life up in DRM chains?

As I said, here on Steam’s doorstep, I begin to brood in these quiet, nail-biting days. And I wonder: When Second Life finally does arrive on Steam’s platform, will it be associated with Steam’s DRM? In other words, for us to run SL then, will Steam have to tag along too, running behind us clicking our usage, reporting in its walkie-talkie to the Steam website, sort of like a Secret Service bodyguard — as it does for every other Steam game? In the press release announcing the Steam partnership, Linden Lab assured us: “You’ll still be able to access Second Life just as you can today; there won’t be any change to that.”

Hope lightens my brooding heart. Maybe we’ll have it both ways: play Second Life on Steam, accept Steam’s DRM bodyguard. Or, run it on your own desktop with your freely downloaded SL/Firestorm/Exodus viewers, and we trundle along on our own as we always have. Maybe the Steam version of SL-if there even is to be such a thing-could have a Steam-affiliated game-building ability that could be absent in the standard version. Just a thought.

People will ask: Why not just wait til we see what Linden Lab and Steam do? Well, I’m the pro-active sort. If we don’t want Second Life to be affiliated with the DRM that every other game on Steam currently has, then now is the time to let Linden Lab CEO Rod Humble know – @rodvik on Twitter. Our shouts may or may not have an effect. We’ll never know unless we try. And for once, let’s not wait to make our voices heard until it’s too late.

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