FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
Digital Rights Management, also known as DRM, is the single greatest threat to the digital revolution occurring in America today. In this day and age, DRM permeates every kind of digital media. DRM is on purchases made through the popular digital music service "iTunesquot, , it is present on many popular video game titles,, and it is present in eBooks, books purchased and read electronically. However, the actual benefits of DRM software have not been proven. In fact, due to the negative public perception, and ineffectiveness of DRM software, several video game publishers, such as Stardock (www.stardock.com), and Good Old Games (www.gog.com), have completely eliminated DRM from their products. Others, such as Apple, the proprietor of iTunes, have announced their intentions to remove DRM from their products, and offer DRM removal services for a fee. However, you, as members of the committee investigating DRM, know all of this. What you do not know is that DRM limits the freedom of legitimate consumers, all in the name of stopping piracy, which it most certainly does not. A cursory glance at a BitTorrent website reveals many easy ways to circumvent, disable, or outright remove DRM from protected products. DRM has been linked to the failure of disk drives, the corruption of vital system files needed for regular operation of a computer, and other failures. DRM software limits the freedoms of legitimate consumers in many ways, the most common of which include limiting the number of times a product can be installed under a certain passkey, the requirement for a disk to be in a drive to use software when the program does not require files from the disk to run, and refusing to allow a program to run if a certain program is installed on a computer. A recent example of a program limiting the number of installs arbitrarily is the video game Spore. Spore utilized SecuRom DRM, developed by Sony, to limit the number of installations that could be performed before the software locked a user out of further installations. This method not only insults legitimate consumers by treating them like criminals, but it also creates a gigantic hassle for legitimate consumers by requiring them to call Technical Support, or forcing them to download tools that are granted deep access to a system, and which may be unreliable. In addition, this method, which almost always utilizes the SecuRom software suite, installs a program called a "rootkit" which hides the program, and its operations on a system. Rootkits are common features of internet worms, viruses, and trojan horses. A program which uses such techniques surely should not be trusted with unfettered access to our computers, yet it is allowed such access on a regular basis. However, not all DRM is unneeded. In programs such as Adobe Photoshop, there exists a DRM feature intended to stop multiple uses of the same product. This is the necessary sort of DRM, needed to accurately report usage statistics based on which keys are reporting, and provide accurate and dedicated support to products consumers are actually using. In conclusion, DRM is the greatest threat to the Digital Revolution. I had hoped to elaborate more on my points, but the character limits imposed by the program the committee is using does not allow me to do so. I trust the committee will take the appropriate course of action and recommend that DRM be regulated tightly, to end the oppressive tactics of such organizations as the ESA. MPAA. and RIAA in deploying DRM.