FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
Digital Rights Management technologies are a major problem in the digital entertainment industry. Content publishers are constantly turning to ever more intrusive methods of copy protection, which invariably have little to no effect on piracy. The people who wish to illegally copy and distribute content are many, and they are dedicated and skillful. It is almost inconceivable to think of a copy protection method that would be truly successful in stopping them. The copy protection methods currently employed by many providers often have a negative effect on honest users, while being easily removable by illegitimate owners. In no other industry is this more true than the video game industry. More and more computer games are being shipped with limiting, unfair, sometimes even harmful copy protection software. For example, a copy protection method called StarForce was recently employed by several game publishers. Game pirates were able to easily "crack" the protection within just a few days. People who had legally purchased the games on the other hand were forced to deal with long StarForce "checks" at the beginning of each game, common false positives where StarForce would refuse to open the game even when no illegal activity was occuring and, in some cases, StarForce even caused permanent, irreversible damage to DVD drives. A more recent example of this is the DRM software employed by Electronic Arts on their game "Spore". The DRM limited the user to only 3 installations of the game, before they would be required to contact Electronic Arts support to "renew" their licenses. This also created the problem of whether or not the game would be usable a long time from now. Electronic Arts' support services will of course not exist forever. The DRM that was in place on the game would prevent users from playing the game that they had legally purchased, should Electronic Arts' support ever fail or be closed. On an ironic note, "Spore" was listed as the single most pirated game of 2008. This is a perfect illustration of the idea that DRM systems only serve to hinder the legitimate user, while pirates are able to easily bypass them and, in many cases, obtain a more functional product. When those who steal a product get a better, more functional experience than those who pay for it, there is clearly something wrong. Thank you for your time, Jeff K.