The U.S. Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA), which speaks for computer game makers, has proposed a new method of curbing the shoplifting of game DVDs from retail stores.

It’s similar to the well-known security tags that retailers put on clothing and other items, which explode spraying the product with ink to ‘deny the benefit’ of the theft to the shoplifter or coat the perpetrator with indelible dye which can link them to the crime.

The EMA proposal would require game buyers to have their copies of each game ‘unlocked’ by the retailer at the cash register, after the sale transaction took place. If the game was not properly unlocked by the sales clerk, it would remain ‘inoperable’ (technical details were not revealed) and shoplifters would be denied the benefit’ of their theft.

The EMA stresses that this new activation scheme is different from the existing one, which requires buyers of games or other software to activate their copies via an online process at the game maker’s Web server before they can use it. Online authentication would be phased out with the implementation of the new in-store scheme.

Skeptics point out that — as happened with online activation — it will probably just be matter of time before hackers find a way to circumvent the new in-store activation system.

The EMA claims that shoplifting — known in the industry as ‘inventory shrinkage’ — costs its members more than (US)$300 million per year.

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