FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
DRM technology has been the subject of much debate for many consumers of digital media. The reasons for the introduction of these technologies are widely known, there's no need for me to reiterate them. The issue today is the impact of DRM on the paying consumer. Simply put, while there exists a significant number of people who want to get their digital content for free, the majority of consumers do not believe in getting something for nothing. The popularity of the iTunes music store, along with other legal music download services, proves this. Problems start to occur when DRM starts to hinder the Fair Use rights of the consumer. Your average digital media consumer is not interested in distributing copies of his newest DVD across the internet. He just wants to have it available for viewing on his iPod. When the DRM prevents this, Joe Consumer is forced to download a digital version from the internet. This is a prime example of why DRM is an outdated paradigm. It focuses on the prevention of losses from non-paying individuals, while ignoring and under-serving the forward-thinking, paying customer. It's Business 101 - serve the needs of the consumer, and your company will make money. By not keeping that as the primary goal, many media producers and distributors are alienating their customers. In PC games, DRM (most often Securom) is used to ensure that the game is a legitimate copy. Most gamers do not have a problem with DRM, especially when it provide value and service to the user, not just to the publisher. DRM "services" such as Steam are a good example. Steam is a robust DRM program, and like any DRM program it imposes some inconveniences on the player, but it provides so much additional value that players do not mind it. The bottom line is this: DRM should be a partner to the consumer, not an enemy of the consumer. Content companies should work with distribution companies to make DRM technologies transparent, simplified, and most importantly, desirable to the consumer.