FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle #539814-00806

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

I am writing to urge the FTC to adopt regulations--or ask Congress to pass laws, as appropriate--to protect consumers from the ill effects of DRM. Among other things: 1. Consumers who purchase DRM-protected works (including songs) that require access to servers provided by the seller to continue using those works must rely on the goodwill of the seller to continue operating those servers. As we learned in 9/08 (http://boingboing.net/2008/09/26/walmart-shutting-dow.html), when Wal-Mart announced that it was shutting down its DRM servers, sellers cannot be trusted to keep their servers running indefinitely. Thus purchasers of DRM-protected works face the potential loss of their purchases at the arbitrary whim of the seller. This is unfair to the consumer. Sellers who insist on using external servers to manage DRM--whether music, software, or anything else--should be required by law to make keys available to all purchasers when and if they decide to shut those servers down, so that purchasers can continue to use their purchases. Anything less is patently unfair. 2. DRM allows sellers of protected works to control the use of their works beyond what copyright law permits--by, for example, preventing buyers from using works in ways that would be protected by the fair use doctrine. This presents a risk to the freedom of journalists, artists, and others to express themselves in ways protected by the Constitution and by copyright law. 3. The intersection of DRM and the ill-conceived Digital Millennium Copyright Act actually could be construed actually to make it illegal for people to exercise their fair-use rights, as the DMCA makes it illegal for anyone to attempt to circumvent encryption or other protection technologies. Thus a video artist who could, under the fair use doctrine, have made use of a clip from someone else's video, cannot do so if to use it thus would involve circumventing DRM technologies, because to do so would involve a breach of the DMCA. Thus the use of DRM technologies actually usurps the right to fair use, which is otherwise guaranteed under federal law. An exception should be carved out permitting anyone to circumvent such technologies provided that the ultimate purpose of the circumvention is legal. 3. DRM is just plain bad business. For movie studios and record labels to attempt to sell a product that they can arbitrarily deactivate, leaving the consumer unable to use what they have purchased, is simply idiotic. How many people would buy a car that the maker could deactivate by remote control at its whim? I would not, and I have never--and will never--buy any music or other intellectual property that is so encumbered. As a photographer, I have a great deal of respect for others' intellectual property rights and for the concerns of the rightsholders. However I do not embed DRM in any of my images sold online because I believe it is unfair to the buyer, and I urge the FTC to take action against those that do. Sincerely yours, Andrew Slayman