MADRIGAL: Making sense of DRM in Game Development

The MADRIGAL research project  funded by FIF (Fusion Investment Fund) was successfully concluded on the 31st of July. The project was led by Dr Marcella Favale, a Research Fellow from the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy & Management (CIPPM), and Co investigated by Dr Christos Gatzidis, Principal Academic BSc Games Technology and Dr Shamal Faily, Lecturer in Systems Security Engineering, .

As an interdisciplinary research project, MADRIGAL aimed at understanding how game developers make sense of Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology when developing video games, and explored the complex perspectives of content producers, users and legislators. Copyright self-enforcement through the widespread use of DRM technology is one of the hottest issue of the digital age, expecially because DRM is found on most digital products, from computer games to coffee machines. The  difficult issues – both legal and technological -raised by the use of digital locks are not sufficiently explored.

The project recruited Neil McDonald, a mature undergraduate law student with a background in IT consultancy and network engineering on a work placement in the BU Cyber Security Unit. Neil carried out a critical analysis of the scholarly and practitioner literature in copyright law, rights management and game protection technologies. In April Neil attended the Centre for Digital Entertainment Celebration 2015 event hosted at the Assembly Rooms in Bath and networked with games industry professionals who agreed to participate in the interview stage of the project.

An interim working paper was produced after the first phase of the project. This was submitted and accepted for the 9th International Symposium on Human Aspects of Information Security & Assurance in Lesvos Greece and was presented by the Dr Shamal Faily on the 3rd July. The paper was well received with the audience and has subsequently been published in the conference proceedings.

Within MADRIGAL, a number of UK-based game developers were interviewed on the subject of DRM deployment across a variety of gaming platforms. The interviews yielded some interesting and unexpected results. This data has led to the ongoing development of a qualitative model which will clarify the different factors that influence how video games developers appropriate content and rights protection.

Through the fusion of research, education and professional practice combining the fields of law, game technology and cyber security, MADRIGAL has given BU and the research centres involved an important track record in interdisciplinary research in content protection and human values, in line with the BU 2018 strategic plan. The data from the MADRIGAL project will also advance the development of a project proposal currently being drafted; this will target a Horizon 2020 Creative Industries call in late 2015.

The working paper is available here