Digital Distribution: Should we be allowed to share games?
I had a conversation with a friend today regarding a Kotaku article about sharing games over digital networks.
While it is true that digital distribution services like Steam have their benefits in buying and organizing video games, there are obvious limitations on how I can share games with my friends. I can choose to let them borrow my account details, and login on their computer...but unless they engage in offline mode we can't both be online through my account to have access to all my games. This is one of the downsides on essentially buying a license to download games through a service, rather than owning a physical good you can transport.
Sadly, what I didn't like about the article is that it never even bother to present ways to tackle the sharing issue with digital distribution. If anything I was seeing people with a viewpoint that they should be able to just copy the games over to a friend's machine, like you can easily do with DRM free games on GoG. I find this viewpoint flawed though, because they're asking to be able to make copies of games, which is not at all the same as sharing. If I share a physical console disc with a friend of mine, the point is that I'm lending it to them to use, keeping only one copy in circulation. Then you have the options of split-screen or LAN for multiplayer with one copy, but those are features the developer reserves the right to include in their games or not...and they're for sharing my experience with friends using one copy for a temporary experience.
I would still like to propose that digital distribution services allow people to share their content with friends. Many digital distribution companies I can see balking at the idea of sharing, because it could dig into their business...but I think it can be done fairly with the same restrictions of retail discs.
What I would like to see in a service like Steam, is the ability to trade off any given game to a friend, where I set a temporary time to lend them use of it. During said time, Steam will lock off the game from launching on my account, and give time for my friend to download the game, so only one copy is in circulation...and the game would still be locked off even if I later engage offline mode. Of course during that time I should be able to keep the main files, and my saves so that it's not hard to revert back when lend time is over. Online services can be a tricky issue, but I do belief that since it is a service (not a product) to connect people over the internet to play, companies reserve the right to restrict its use to just the original owner.
I'm sure some of you will say that people can exploit this feature, and get around Steam locking off my game. My rebuttal would be that a retail disc can also be illegally exploited through case mods and disc copies, but not enough of the average joe game player base knows how to do this, so if you make the loop hole hard enough they will majorly go legit.
I'd like to hear any of you fellow polynauts' viewpoints on sharing games through digital distribution. Do any of your agree/disagree with my points, and/or my proposed method of implementing sharing?