FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle #539814-00824

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Outside the United States
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FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle

There are two main problems with DRM schemes: 1) Incompatibility 2) Truth The first issue means that digital rights management will inevitably not work at some point in time either through a conflict with another piece of legitimate software (such as CD or DVD-making tools) or because of a lack of access to a particular service (such as activation servers). The second issue comes from the fact that the people using DRM schemes are hiding the true nature of the sale of a product to their customers. Some companies (especially in highly specialised areas such as short-hand computer software in legal areas) make it easily apparent to the consumer the legal and literal limits of the purchase whether that is a short-term rental license or a one-time purchase of an expensive hardware 'dongle' to enable the software to work. However, in more mass-market areas, companies are less forthcoming with the truth behind a sale: they hide behind click wrap agreements and non-refundable/returnable purchases (e.g. Video game and software sales) which effectively lock the consumer into buying a full priced rental copy due to the DRM restrictions that are never fully disclosed on the packaging at the point of purchase. Companies that have revealed the exact limitations on their DRM schemes in the past have not faired well in under the public eye - DivX, a company that provided fairly expensive, one-time or limited use disc-based movies which would become unusable after a short period quickly removed itself from the consumer market in this area: DVD rentals were cheaper and allowed repeated viewings. Therefore it can be interpreted that the general consumer does not like and will not tolerate DRM schemes of this nature on their full-priced purchases and that the reason why these schemes are still ongoing today is because the majority of consumers do not know they exist or how they limit their purchased goods until this limitation is met. In fact the CEO of EA (John Riccitiello) has stated as much (http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/riccitiello-i-personally-dont-like-drm) "We implemented a form of DRM and it's something that 99.8 per cent of users wouldn't notice. But for the other 0.2 per cent it became an issue, and a number of them launched a cabal online to protest against it." Having performed a brief survey of my social group (none of whom are hugely technologically literate) none of the surveyed people would wish to pay for items which cost the same as a similar or same product in recent history but had a DRM scheme applied to it once the term DRM and the specific limitations of that DRM were explained to them. However, some of them had unwittingly done so. This issue is further compounded by the fact that the majority of online retailers fail to display the DRM limitations at the point of sale and once a piece of software has been opened it cannot be returned. In fact many DRM schemes on videogame and home-use software have been discovered by the users themselves only for these schemes to be denied and then finally confirmed by the companies responsible. I'm a big advocate of consumer choice but when companies fail to trust consumers with the knowledge that allows them a fair choice then the burden of employing a fair outcome falls on legislation. I may not live in the USA, however, many of the companies employing these techniques are headquartered within the USA or have a large proportion of their business based within the USA and thus any positive consumer decision will also affect the world outside of the USA.