FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
As a consumer, I have despised DRM ever since it was first introduced. It is a fundamentally unenforcable technology since there will always be means by which determined criminal elements will eventually find ways to circumvent it. At the minimum, it can provide minor annoyances to consumers that legitimately purchased a product. At the extreme, it can violate customers' civil liberties, deprive them of their privacy, prevent the function of the very product that they legally purchased through normal use, install software on their computer without their consent, or cause damages to other software/data on their computer. In the interest of protecting their intellectual property rights, software makers and digital media owners are hurting their customers and in some cases, actually encouraging the very piracy that they seek to prevent. This is not good for consumers, and I feel in the long run this will hurt companies that use DRM as well. Additionally, as an opponent of DRM, it has started to factor into my purchasing decisions. When I first heard about Microsoft's intent to put DRM functionality into the operating system level of Windows Vista, I actually switched to a competitor's product (the Linux operating system) almost exclusively on this basis. I do not like people snooping into my affairs, controlling access to the data on my computer, or installing software without my full consent. In the foolhardy pursuit of piracy prevention they lost a customer. I shy away from any product or data format with intrusive DRM attached to it, and I do not care how much lipstick they put on that pig. Additionally, the methodologies involved with DRM are imprecise and error-prone. I have heard of numerous instances of Microsoft's "Genuine Windows Advantage" program turning up false positives that have locked people out of using their product that have legally obtained copies of it, and due to hardware failure or upgrade, have been locked out of their computers. That really sucks and deprives people not only of access to the product with the DRM, but all data and other programs residing on their computer. Moreover, the means by which this DRM system was deployed was something akin to a virus, spyware, malware, or other malicious/illegal program in that it was done without any advance warning or consent from the end user. Additionally, it periodically "phones home" and transmits data to other computer systems over the Internet with no authorization from the user. While the consumer might have it on good faith that the data being transmitted is not of a sensitive or private nature, there is no transparency or consent about what data is being transmitted or when in this fashion, so all we have to go on is the good intentions of the manufacturer. In an increasingly digital world, this is a scary proposition since in the future it could mean that you might be deprived of most of your legally obtained possessions without notice (assuming most products you purchase are digital in nature), your identity or other personal information could be stolen or transmitted insecurely without your knowledge or consent, and other groups/organizations could eavesdrop or spy on your activities/data on the legal basis of "piracy prevention." This is definitely a case where I very strongly feel that the ends DO NOT justify the means, and I question the Constitutionality of any laws which attempt to uphold these misguided technologies.