FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
The motto on the FTC's webpage states, "Protecting America's Consumers." In the case of DRM, the consumer is not being protected by the FTC. The consumer is being literally short-changed when buying any media, whether a song, a movie, a game, only to discover that the purchase is crippled by DRM prohibitions on what can legally be done with the product. Portability from one device to another is denied or severely restricted. Archival protection from loss or damage is hampered or prevented. The consumer's "Fair Use" is routinely circumscribed by corporate decisions motivated by fear and/or greed, and the consumer who honestly just wants to enjoy the product he paid for is instead forced to find ways to work around or defeat this insidious abuse of his right to enjoy his purchase. That DRM does not benefit the corporations and content producers is becoming abundantly evident. With record sales plunging, the large recording companies recently decided to eliminate DRM on music sold by digital music stores including Apple's iTunes. As Tim Bajarin, an analyst with Creative Strategies, a market research firm was recently quoted as saying, "I think the writing was on the wall, both for Apple and the labels, that basically consumers were not going to put up with DRM anymore. This is good news for customers across the board." Hopefully this revelation will spread to other companies faced with the challenges of digital innovations in the production and distribution of media. For example, book publishers are facing the spread of electronic printing and the growing popularity of various devices for reading ebooks and other print material. Relying on DRM to control the distribution of books or to lock their use to specific proprietary devices is similarly doomed and reflects a business model unwilling or unable to adapt to change. It would be as though publishers had tried to restrict every library to only one copy of each book and required them to charge every patron its full purchase price before they could check it out. The FTC should take this opportunity to urge hardware manufacturers, publishers, and other media companies to abandon coercive DRM strategies and to recognize, instead, the financial benefits, not to mention goodwill, of enabling greater consumer access to and use of their products.