Posts By / mfavale

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

Fusion Investment fund 2014/15 – Making sense of DRM in game development (Madrigal)

The United Kingdom is Europe’s second largest video game market and the fifth largest in the world. Almost all videogames developers now implement techniques that are designed to protect and enforce copyright law. This restrictive technology is now beginning to hamper the ability of gaming companies to innovate by imposing platform boundaries and these measures now appear to also be problematic to the game development lifecycle. The roots of this complex problem are grounded in several disciplines including copyright law, cyber security, and creative technology. This restrictive technology can prevent you from copying certain CDs or DVDs to a portable device to watch during your train journey or even go as far as to dictate which brand of coffee capsules you put in your expresso machine.

This is Digital Rights Management (DRM).

The Madrigal project has been awarded a Fusion Investment Fund to investigate, identify and communicate how game developers make sense of DRM technology when developing video games. At present virtually no empirical research exists on how much videogame developers really know about the relationship between DRM and copyright law in terms of boundaries to DRM implementation, or on their real expectations from currently available DRM technology. Do they really understand it? Do they like it? Do they implement it regularly? Do they respect the boundaries? Is DRM legal? Other pressing issues that need addressing include, does DRM really stifle competition? After all the developers are protected by copyright law, but where do the issues with DRM really lie?

These questions surrounding the issue of DRM have gained more coverage recently thanks to the Apple trial. In which Apple was accused of anti-competitive behaviour because it refused to disclose its DRM to competitors. The collection of this entirely new data on the complexities of DRM will form part of the basis for a wider-reaching research project involving not only legal and IT scholars at BU but also international academic and industry partners. With its research expertise in copyright law innovation, usable security research, and game development, and its institutional drive for fusion across inter-disciplinary research, education, and professional practice, BU is uniquely situated to start tackling this problem.

If you would like further information on this research feel free to contact us or to tweet us. We look forward to any feedback. Also, if you are interested, keep tuned, as we will tell you what we learned from our experience at the end of the project (July 2015).

Dr. Marcella Favale (Principal Investigator) Centre for Intellectual Property Policy and Management, BU,, @MFavaleIP

Dr. Shamal Faily ( and Dr. Christos Gatzidis (, Faculty of Science and Technology, BU

Neil McDonald (Research Assistant ) BU Cyber Security Unit (BUCSU) @BUCybersecurity (