ArcSoft Mulls Pulling SafeCast DRM From Free Trials

By Mark Hachman  |  Posted 2003-02-07 Print this article Print

ArcSoft officials said they "would look into" choosing another DRM technology after viewing ExtremeTech reader threads decrying the Macrovision SafeCast/C-Dilla software.

ArcSoft officials said they "would look into" choosing another DRM technology after viewing ExtremeTech reader threads decrying the Macrovision SafeCast/C-Dilla software. ExtremeTech reader and forum member "trukablegod" noticed that a free trial demo version of ArcSofts PhotoStudio photo editing application installed the Macrovision SafeCast/C-Dilla software. The software allegedly slowed down "trukablegod"s PC, but also remained resident until he personally hunted down most of the C-Dilla files. "Trukablegod" noted that the softwares uninstaller also worked pretty well. "Unfortunately, C-dilla lives on embedded in System.dat and Classes.dat (the references in User.dat are inconsequential) tasked with the job of displaying a permanent time/frame reference of when I originally installed the PhotoStudio trial program...just like many other trialware programs do," he wrote.
According to Macrovision, the SafeCast technology scatters files around a users hard drive, both to prevent users from disabling the content-protection features as well as to allow a fragmented or corrupted hard drive to retain a record of the softwares activation status.
Multiple threads have sprung up in the ExtremeTech forums complaining about the software, most involving Intuits use of the technology in the latest version of Intuits TurboTax tax-preparation software. According to ArcSoft, a German e-commerce provider named Element5 "wraps" ArcSofts trial software in a DRM package using the Macrovision technology, including ArcSofts 3D Text Factory Trial, PhotoPrinter 2.0 LE, PhotoStudio 2000 Trial, and PhotoStudio 2.0 SE. "All our demo versions include Macrovision as part of their wrapping process. Our online ecommerce provider is actually setting up these (try-before-you-buys),and is using Macrovision to wrap the system," a company spokeswoman said in an email. "Our demo versions are full-featured, time-limited, try before you buy versions, where the user has the possibility to purchase the product during or after the trial period," the ArcSoft spokeswoman added. "(The) user then receives an unlocking key and can benefit from the product without any other restriction." The ArcSoft representative said that they originally used the Macrovision SafeCast technology because users essentially download a full-featured trial version, which expires after approximately 15 days. The technology stays resident on a users PC, she said, "because if you dont like it, why should you download it and try it again?" After viewing some of the reader response on the ExtremeTech forums, however, the ArcSoft representative said the company may reconsider. "Im going to pass this along to the ecommerce provider and see what the possibility is to have this uninstalled," she said in a followup interview. "Well check that and see how we can improve that," she said. At Element5, an ecommerce provider based in Germany, officials said they could not disclose the names of their clients and therefore other customers who might be using the SafeCast technology. Through a spokeswoman, Element5 chief executive Gerrit Schumann said the company uses several e-commerce technologies of which customers may choose. "Of course this issue concerns us as well, if there is concern on the consumer side," Schumann said. "If that is the public view and concern, that is something that needs to be addressed, and I am sure it will be addressed by Macrovision, as I know them to be a reliable and trustworthy company and partner. "Will we use SafeCast technology in the future? Our clients have a choice between different options and technologies, so there are always alternatives available," Schumann added. "We leave that choice up to our clients. I am sure Macrovision will be able to address the existing concerns, and we will closely monitor the development of the discussion. So, at this point it is a bit too early to make that decision. If the market does not support the technology, then our clients will most likely choose not to use it. So in our case, the market will regulate that itself to a high degree. "Personally, the outrage surprises me a bit, as most uninstallers I have used, always left something on the PC that they had previously installed," such as directories, setup files, and other electronic remnants, Schumann concluded. "The SafeCast license manager does not really do anything -- and definitely does not transmit any information -- so it is non-critical, in my opinion."

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