FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle #539814-00620

Submission Number:
Kenneth Damborg
Outside the United States
Initiative Name:
FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle

Dear FTC, I was greatly encouraged upon discovering that the FTC has taken it upon itself to examine the increasingly distressing spread and overreach of digital rights management (DRM). There can be no question that any person, company or other organization has the right to try and protect his/her/its property. Yet the problem that arises with DRM is that certain versions of the programming code appears to actively hide itself from the computer user and then inserting itself into the registry giving it access to the deepest resources of the computer. This is problematic for a number of reasons: 1) It is done without the informed consent of the legitimate owner of the computer. 2) It needlessly exposes the computer to additional potential security risks as there is reason to believe that certain versions of DRM datamine the computer for personal details and send them to an external server via the internet. This means there is a backdoor that the owner/operator of the computer is not aware of and since the vast majority of PC security programs at present are not able to detect DRM it means there is a point of entry to the data on the computer that is not secure. If this can be used by a legitimate company then it may also potentially be used by IT criminals, hackers, etc. 3) The DRM is justified by those who use it as a means of stopping online piracy and yet there is no evidence at all that DRM has stopped the mass pirating of software, on the contrary in the case of Electronic Arts' "Spore" - a PC game - a pirated version was available before or around the official launch of the game and this is not an isolated incident. So much for DRM stopping piracy. 4) DRM has been known to cause firmware damage, in my case I had a 3 month old computer which had been working fine until the moment I installed Electronic Arts' "Crysis" PC game (which is known to carry DRM in the form of SecuROM). Upon completion of installation I found that my DVD-drive made disconcerting noises when trying to read a DVD-disc and would in fact no longer recognize any DVD-discs inserted. I can only presume that DRM led to this considering that the only new element to be introduced to the workings of my PC at the time was the aforementioned game with DRM. If a company knowingly introduces such risks into its products without fair warning to the public the should be held liable for any and all potential damages caused by their software. 5) DRM is also increasingly utilising limited activations which amounts to a "rental" scenario, while it is true that the publishers and developers of software hold the intellectual property rights to the actual programming it is also equally true that the individual that legitimately purchased a valid copy of the program - be it in the form of a DVD-disc, CD-ROM, MP3, etc. - owns that singular unit physically. This in turn grants the customer who purchased the product the right to "First-sale doctrine" as established by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1908 which was subsequently codified in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 109. The doctrine allows the purchaser to transfer (i.e., sell or give away) a particular lawfully made copy of the copyrighted work without permission once it has been obtained. That means that copyright holder's rights to control the change of ownership of a particular copy end once that copy is sold, as long as no additional copies are made. Limited activations operating in tandem with DRM effectively prevents an individual from doing so in the sense that it artificially undermines the value of the product by essentially sabotaging it since it can only be used on average 3-5 times before a company refuses to recognize further activations. At that point an otherwise operationally-speaking still functioning product becomes needlessly undermined which would seem to go against the intended spirit of the First-sale doctrine. Government and law exists to protect everyone, not just big companies. Help us.