FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
I feel that the recent "overuse" and "abuse" of DRM by companies recently has been taken too far. In some cases, DRM can be unobtrusive to the customer however it is sadly a burden the majority of the time to the paying customer, while the pirate who has illegally downloaded such a product does not have such limits placed on it. DRM is especially annoying when placed on any form of music or video, since this basically locks down the number of devices which it can be used on. If someone legally buys and pays for a song online, they should legally be allowed to put that song onto whatever device they choose to and then be able listen to it without the limits of DRM saying it can only be played on certain or "certified" devices. In terms of computer games, excessive DRM can severely limit the functionality of a purchased game. CD checks are okay but when companies take it further with garbage like online activations and limiting the number of computers that the game can be installed to, it's hard to blame people for downloading the superior pirated version which has no such annoyances. When someone legally buys a computer game, they should have the right to install it and re-install it over the years as many times as they see fit. The fact of the matter is that excessive DRM scares away potential customers and encourages piracy. Even the absolute best protection that companies can think of to protect their games and software is broken within a couple of days by hackers and pirates. This negates any effect DRM would have against piracy. Penalizing the consumer of such products with lengthy installation procedures or limited activations does not help to curb piracy in any way, and only make's the customer's use of that product to be more aggravating. Many people simply avoid purchasing products with such excessive DRM, and its hard to justify buying digital music that is crippled in functionality as the result of some half-baked idea that it is somehow going to prevent piracy. The only DRM that is ever really necessary I think is the absolute simplest, most unobtrusive technique that is transparent to the consumer. Examples of this are CD-checks, which prevent someone from installing a game onto every computer and being able to play it simultaneously, and also Valve's Steam Service. Steam I think is a shining example of DRM for computer games done right. You can install your purchased games onto as many computers as you like, however you can only log onto your account in one location at a time. This also lets you log into other computers away from home with steam games installed, and then play them by using your own account. Since you are allowed to download and reinstall the games anywhere and as much as you desire, the service works. Music and Video should ditch DRM altogether, because when someone buys the song, they should actually be buying the song itself for their use in any form, not some "license" to the song that allows them to play it only under very rigid, specific conditions. I think the only exception to this is subscription based song services that let customers download an unlimited number of songs for one monthly fee, a case in which the songs are only playable when the subscription to the service is active. The same applies to video.