FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
The biggest problem with DRM has remarkably little to do with piracy. The issue is that the current implementation of DRM punishes only those who will not pirate software. If I wanted to, I could go hit the Pirate Bay, which is not governed by any of the same copyright laws as America, and get cracked copies of anything within days of its release. DRM does no prevent this, because it is one small company versus millions of hackers all over the world. Even if the Pirate Bay is shut down, a similar site would crop up in some other country with different laws. From a legal perspective, DRM is a violation of several longstanding copyright laws all by itself. Books have always followed the first sale doctrine. If I buy a copy of Cryptonomicon, I can sell it or give it away as much as I want. I cannot, however, copy it. If I buy a copy of Spore, it only allows for a few installs. I can no longer exercise my right to first sale because EA believes that it retains all of its rights to the physical container that holds their IP. This is far different than distribution over the internet, which usually is copying, and is not covered under the first sale doctrine. Yet this form of DRM serves no purpose to restrict an illegal act. It is nothing but a way to make consumers buy more stuff. Software companies have not faced the realities of international business and law. There will always be a place where those who steal data can hide. And yet, those companies have chosen to battle the pirates with techniques that harm consumers and do not stop pirates at all. This is a terrible idea. Further, it encourages piracy. I would sooner steal music than buy it on iTunes where someone can track me. I would rather steal Spore than buy it because if I upgrade my hardware it won't work anymore. And yet, I will purchase digital downloads from MC Frontalot and Jonathan Coulton who use no DRM. And I gleefully dropped 50 bucks on Fallout 3, because it has no DRM. Theft cannot be deterred by making consumers angry with the providers, while those same consumers have an unlimited ability to steal that same product.