FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
The big media and publishing companies for books, video games, software, music and film would have the government and media believe that DRM is to cut back the amount of piracy that goes on. In reality this can not be further from the truth. DRM is an attack on fair use, something the media companies have seen as a barrier to further potential profit and DRM coupled with the DMCA by passes the consumer right to back up their DVDs, make non-commerical mixtapes for family members, to lend a friend a book, to play legally purchased movies on their computer, or to allow more than one child to play the same video game on the family computer. DRM does nothing to prevent piracy. There's an infinite pool of human resources to break the DRM and to have the "cracked" versions leaked before the full product even hits store shelves. DRM is only meant to punish and to extort legal paying customers and does absolutely nothing to prevent piracy. I'll cover a handful of scenarios below. Amazon Kindle and Amazon E-books. Amazon came out with an electronic ebook reader. It's quite a novell device. You have a one time payment for the device, the device will connect wirelessly to the amazon store and you pay for electronic versions of books. These books are DRMed. Meaning, you cannot share these books with other PC users. Only those who purchased the book can read the book. How many of us have rented books from the library? How many of us have bought a life changing novel or self help book and lent it to a friend or family member? How many of us, when times were tough, sold our books back to book stores to re-sale? Or donated them to charity? In Amazon's world, this shouldn't be reality. Everytime the book is read by another individual, that individual should pay the full price of that book directly from the distributor. The trouble with Amazon's thinking though is this, the DRM scheme was broke before the Kindle even shipped it's first 10,000 units. Another example is the recently blockbuster Batman: The Dark Knight. A huge hit in the theaters. The parent company really hoped to cash in on it's holiday DVD sales. They implemented a DRM protection scheme on the disc. Even though fair use laws says it's legal for me to back up my data, even though fair use says I can do with my data as I please for non-commercial purposes, the DMCA states that I'm legally not allowed to by-pass DRM protection schemes. All the DVD players in my home are Linux based media centers. I purchase DVDs, I rip these dvd's to the media center's hard-drive and keep a library of these files so I can watch them any instant I wish, from any room of my home. Unfortunately, the Batman DRM scheme disallows me to play this DVD anywhere on my computer, on Linux, on an Apple computer and on Windows. The media companies decided to be pro-active and allow me to go to a website, type in a promotional code to download a digital copy of Batman so I may watch it on my computer. The catch? It gives you two choices, a format of the file to be watched on Apple computers, and another to be watched on Windows computers. Each of these digital download files are also DRMed and can only be viewed with certain software on their respective operating systems. Neither which I own. Furthermore, after paying money for the Batman DVD they wanted customers to pay again for the digital download. Essentially they wish to charge twice for the same product. The hilarity in the case of the Dark Knight, is that it is available on major illegal file sharing networks in quality that surpasses the DVD quality. I can download it via these networks faster than I can download the paid for restricted and official digital download, and this pirated copy I can play on any device I wish, in any software I wish. Another example is the Spore video game. This installed an application known as SecureRom onto customer's computers without them ever being informed this software would install. The software imbeds itself in the Windows kernel and removing it could damage the consumer's PC. The point of this software? To ensure that if this game was installed on a computer, only a certain number of accounts on that computer, could play the game. It also limited the number of times the game could be installed on the computer. Of course, like Batman the Dark Knight, this game was easily cracked and was the most pirated game of 2008. There are far too many technical scenarios to go into where this prevents legal paying customers from using their purchased software. Almost as a rule, when a new DRM scheme comes out, it is broken within days and it increases the likelihood of piracy. The piracy problem is simply this: Piracy will not go away. Not ever. But the way many "pirates" look it it, is it is becoming too problematic to purchase legal media and to be treated as a common criminal, or forced to spend their money 2, 3, and 4 times for the same media just so they can change the device it plays on. A long time ago, the media companies in terms of movies and music, were able to get someone to buy an album or movie 3 and 4 times in their lifetime by simply switching technology from vinyl, to tape, to cd or from vhs to dvd. But today we live in an era where the physical medium is not the important part. The data is. And data can be put on any device by anyone easily. If you're going to criminalize and punish legal use through a one - two punch of DRM and DMCA restrictions, the consumer see's themselves as a "criminal" either way. They're a criminal if they watch legal media on a "unlicensed" device because they must crack the DRM, they're also a criminal if they just pirate it for free therefor bypassing all the encryption and restrictions of what can be done with said media. Why pay to be treated like a criminal? Why pay to be a criminal when you can do it for free and with little chance of facing consequences? The media companies were late to provide electronic means to distribute their media on the internet. iTunes and Amazon are a good start, but unfortunately with their DRM schemes they are not as big or profitable as they could be. Thank you for your time.