FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle #539814-00324

Submission Number:
Nick Brosnahan
Initiative Name:
FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
As a consumer, I have in the past purchased DRM-encumbered music and have in general been disappointed in the interoperability of the media with different playback devices. Content purchased in one DRM camp is incompatible by design with playback devices from a different DRM camp. It is irritating and makes me steer clear of purchasing DRM-encumbered content of any form. As a specific example, consider Blu-ray. I do not own a Blu-ray player, even knowing the benefits of a higher-resolution picture and better audio quality, because I know that DRM is rampant throughout the Blu-ray ecosystem. Simply because I cannot legally rip the content off a Blu-ray disk and play it unencumbered on my Mac, PC, or mobile devices, I will not buy into this market. In this case, DRM acts as a barrier to my freely moving content that I have purchased between the various devices that I have also purchased. This is unacceptable and I am voting with my pocketbook. Consider another example, the iTunes Music store recently made a significant shift away from DRM-encumbered content and I am now much more happy with their solution since I can safely purchase content from them and play it back on any device that I have which understands the format. In my mind, there are really only two exits from the DRM-encumbered world. 1) Eliminate it entirely. There is no benefit to the consumer and the consumer knows this. They will only reluctantly buy into this space because it is filled with lions, tigers, and bears worth of frustration. Freely available decrypting software makes content protection effectively neutered anyway, so their content is ripped and distributed without DRM. It is only a barrier and irritation to paying customers. 2) Standardize it. If DRM-encumbered products were required to interoperate, a standard would emerge and the consumer would no longer encounter the "Balkanized DRM problem". Music purchased with DRM from iTunes would play back just fine on a Zune if both Apple and Microsoft were required to cross-license their DRM technologies or adhere to a DRM playback standard. If the movie industry were required to make playback of their movies distributed on physical media or over streaming technologies publicly interoperable by any party, then I would have no issue purchasing any content or device, because I would know that as a consumer, I would be safe and have fewer irritations. The first of these solutions is much easier and cheaper to implement and manage. To choose the more expensive and error-prone standardization route is to invite a layer of interoperability pain that the consumer and manufacturers derive no real benefit from. Ask any content manufacturer if they believe DRM works all the time and they would have to honestly say no. Ask any consumer if DRM causes them to think twice about purchasing, and they would have to say yes. It's a bad idea and it should go away. Sincerely, Nick Brosnahan