FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
The computer gaming and software industry is rapidly dwindling, the reason for this is two fold: piracy and oppressive DRM software. Each of these feeds the other, causing a feedback loop that ultimately will result in the collapse of the computer gaming and software industry if left unchecked. When a company puts out a product, they have every right to protect their intellectual property, please note that I am not attempting to defend piracy. When their intellectual property is stolen and distributed for free, the company loses money, meaning they'll be less likely to provide quality products in the future. Enter DRM. DRM in itself isn't bad, but certain DRM software, such as SecuRom, creates more piracy by creating an undesirable product. For a perfect example, let's look at the recent release of Spore, a game I had been looking forward to for, literally, years. Spore was released with SecuRom, and given several limitations. The end user had to have an internet connection to activate the game, the end user had a limited number of activations, the end user would have a separate program, SecurRom, installed without consent on his computer along with Spore, yet this program would require a lengthy and complex uninstallation process separate from Spore itself. This program collected data about the user to be sent to EA, this data could not be viewed, modified, or deleted by the end user. This program would also constantly run in the background, slowing down the performance of the computer, the only way to turn off this program is to uninstall it. Typically, this kind of software is called Malware. This doesn't sound like a good product to buy. I certainly have not bought it, and will refuse to spend money on a product that I can only install on my computer a limited number of times. I like to reformat my hard drive once or twice a year to give my computer a fresh start. I want to purchase a product that I can install as many times as I need. After all, who keeps the same computer for more than 5 years anymore? Should I purchase a new copy of a game every time I get a new computer? That's asking too much. However, since I refuse to support piracy, as it is another cause of the collapse of the computer gaming and software industry, I have not been able to enjoy Spore, and I regret that Maxis, the developer, has lost my money and support because EA, the distributor, chose to use such an oppressive DRM program. I really don't know if I will ever be able to play Spore on my computer, and will certainly not do so if it requires SecuRom to be installed on my machine. As a DRM program, SecuRom's purpose is to try to prevent piracy. Does it work? No. Spore is actually one of the most pirated games of 2008. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/14/AR200809...) While DRM may be necessary to protect intellectual property, it should never inconvenience the customer more than it prevents piracy. This is also the opinion of Stardock (http://uscpwned.blogspot.com/2007/03/developer-stardock-explains-no-drm....), a computer gaming company that I gladly support. They are in no financial trouble, piracy of their software is much lower than other software companies, and their customer base is extremely loyal. Coincidence? I think not. Piracy is like the common cold, you'll never see it go away entirely, but there are steps you can take to reduce its spread. Replace oppressive DRM schemes with sensible ones that don't restrict the customer's access to the product s/he purchased, and you will see a decrease in piracy of that product.