FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle #539814-00543

Submission Number:
Ben Warhol
Initiative Name:
FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle

As a law-abiding consumer, I find myself disgusted at most DRM schemes on several levels. Even the name is a ridiculous attempt at spin control, a contradiction-in-terms worthy of Newspeak in its backward meaning. After all, anything with 'Rights' in it must be a good thing, correct? That quibble aside, my other reservations are of a more practical nature, chief among them the fact that DRM doesn't actually work. No one needs technical knowhow to bypass it, they only need to be able to find the work of one person who does, and then that's that. The only people who it does interfere with are those cases where online activation fails, or those with a specific brand of optical drive that a popular DRM scheme refuses to accept, or other similar situations. In short, the only two real victims of an end-user-inflicted DRM scheme are the customers who obey the law and the EULA, and the companies that pay money to DRM firms in a misguided attempt to curb copying. On that same subject, of course, are the dishonest figures that the software industry uses to attempt to justify their crusade. I don't deny that piracy is a problem for the industry, but not every download is a lost sale, and that's a simple point of fact that the industry as a whole has attempted to reject for many years now. The fact is that a thief steals because he either cannot afford to buy something or because he is not willing to pay full price for something. I can certainly sympathize with the latter in many cases, given the truly amazing number of really, really terrible games and music on the market...who wants to pay inflated prices for substandard software that they'll tire of in half an hour? On top of even that is the reality that a downloaded disc image isn't a shoplifted boxed copy...it's got a chance (and not a large one) to be a lost sale, and that's it. It's not a stolen corporeal product, and no amount of 'would you shoplift?' commercials will change that. The one anti-copying scheme that does work reliably is free content downloads tied to a legit CD key. Sure, it's not foolproof, but if a game is well-made and well-supported with free content, there's incentive for people to actually buy it. Poorly-made games that attempt to gouge more money from the customer via microtransactions, conversely are more likely to produce dismal sales figures and higher piracy numbers, simply because there's very little to make people actually want to buy them. Oh, and there's a little company called Stardock that's been floating around for a while...they sell games and other non-entertainment software DRM-free, and make quite good money doing it. The reason is twofold...they make good games, and their actions win the respect of the community. If companies spent more resources on that and less on phony 'DRM' schemes, maybe they'd be better off? -Ben