FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
DRM, especially when coupled with the DMCA, is harmful to consumers. In the best cases it limits how consumers can use their content, under what circumstances, and when they have access to it. In the worst cases consumers are paying for content that may never work, can install malicious software on their PCs, and can turn software consumers believe they have purchased into something more akin to a long term rental. I am confident you will receive countless specific grievances, so I’ll keep mine short. I once purchased a game that would not run. My only hint was a vague error about ‘illegal’ software. At the time I had a program that emulated an unavailable video game console that I used to play fan created games. I was able to confirm this software was the problem by removing it and attempting to play my DRM ‘protected’ game. Later I spoke with a friend who had the same emulation software installed. My friend told me he had stolen the game and was able to play it without an issue. DRM did nothing to stop my friend from stealing the game (incidentally he did pay for it after the fact), but it prevented me, an honest user, from running it. I also object to the idea that a third party, SecuRom in this case, was able to scan my computer AND ‘phone home’ with information I cannot legally see (thanks to the DMCA). Either act is egregious enough, but combined it feels tantamount to an invasion of privacy. DRM spawned an entirely new class of viruses called “Root Kits.” Root kits were installed and spread by Sony Music a few years ago. They attach themselves to a computer so deeply it is very difficult to detect that they are present at all. They have the ability to transmit information from a running system freely. Malicious software programmers reverse engineered the DRM (When information is outlawed only outlaws will have information.) and put the technology to their own use. What would leak out if one of these were installed on your computer? What about the President’s? A recent poll showed the top ten most pirated games were protected by some of the most strict copy-protection schemes in use, primarily SecuRom’s solution. In closing, while some forms of DRM may be acceptable, the majority of popular copy-protection schemes in use today are harmful to consumers, potential security threats (private and national), and ineffective towards thwarting criminals.