FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
Use of DRM is a way to fool a consumer into thinking they "purchased" a product, when in fact they have only an extremely limited use "rental" of the product under very specific rules that they are not made aware of at the time of purchase. If DRM equipped items like AAC songs (iTunes) or encrypted & region restricted DVDs were sold with IT support staff and lawyers to help explain exactly how, on what devices, when, and where the consumer could make use of this product rental, then the items would not sell. So instead, companies have taken to obscuring the restrictions, stretching the truth about the potential uses, and limiting the consumers use of the product in order to maximize their perceived profit. This serves to confuse consumers who then get angry when they find out that the songs, for example, they purchased cannot actually be played on a different device on in a different manor than expressly indicated solely because of corporate agreements and technical efforts at vendor lock in. This has created an entire industry of "unlocking" or "cracking" where by consumers attempt to make use of their perceived purchase by jumping through hoops of workarounds, transcoders, and hacks to make use of the product in the manor they initially wanted to, but were unaware was not expressly part of the providers corporate strategy. These efforts are then branded as "illegal" by indecipherable legislation passed by ignorant legislators written by the content providers to help protect perceived market share and profit margins. All of these creates incredible waste in the economy where by people waste money on duplicate "purchases" of products and waste time attempting to figure out the narrow set of devices compatible with the rented media they wanted to consume. Evidence of the popularity of open media need be found no further than a common MP3 music player, which in addition to the producer's own proprietary DRM equipped format, is certain to support the unhindered MP3 format. Why? Because were a device to not support MP3 playback, it would be virtually useless to all consumers due to the unreasonable restrictions placed on the producer's desired DRM format. An example of an industry that functions with out DRM is the national highway system. With relatively simple guidelines for width, weight, speed, and a few other guidelines, any manufacturer can build cars that will function on the nation's highways. If highways were like technology, then each person would need to own a unique vehicle for each state they wanted to drive through, because each state would have different requirements for vehicles to be able to travel on their roads. A car from California would be too wide to drive down an Oregon road, and would need either a duplicate road system to accommodate its use, or the owner would need to rent a compatible vehicle at the border in order to travel inside of Oregon.