FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
The intent of copyright law is to encourage authors to create works and release them to the public, initially in commercial publication and eventually as part of the shared wealth of culture in the public domain. DRM subverts this bargain by preventing a work from being copied, with the desired effect of preventing it from ever providing a long term cultural benefit by entering the public domain. This effect is only made worse by device specific digital storage. When the storage format or device is obsolete or off the market, a DRMed work will only be available to dedicated archivists. Imagine if Charles Dickens had only released his novels as DRMed downloads for a proprietary e-book reader. Some people would have bought and read his books. Some of those would have passed their e-book readers to others, who might have read Dickens. But we certainly wouldn't have gotten that chance, nor our parents, nor our grandparents. Perhaps Dickens is popular enough to have stayed in print, with a constant chain of rights holders, and non-DRMed originals that were carefully preserved to allow new DRMed copies to be produced and sold (long after even a modern copyright would have expired). But would that have been true for most authors? How about for modern works that are even more closely tied to specific devices, like video games? DRM is clearly incompatible with the copyright bargain. Copyrighted works should not be made subject to DRM, and DRMed works should not be subject to copyright. Anything else is a betrayal of the basic concept of copyright: to encourage the creation of works to be added to the general pool of human culture.