FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
DRM, Digital Rights Management, is a form of software attached to a retailed piece of software, such as a game, music, or program, that often restricts the usage of the retail software, especially when compared to forms of the software that are DRM-free. The main crux of any argument against DRM is that it only hurts the consumer that buys the product without providing any benefit to the company that owns the software in question. It is relatively simple for a piece of software to be “cracked”, pirated without any DRM present, within 24 hours of release, while those who buy the software are often hurt by the DRM. DRM hurts the consumer by not allowing full use of the software, or by placing unfair restrictions on the software. There are three examples often used to showcase the hurt done to a consumer by DRM. The most recent is the DRM placed upon video games such as Spore by the SecuROM DRM software. The most obvious affect of the DRM is the restriction of the number of installs a user may make. Normally, this is not a problem because many people install the game to one computer and let the entire family play, but the game limits the number of different save files to one, so a family may not even use the software as it was intended. It was partially the fault of SecuROM DRM that Spore became the most pirated game of all-time. The reason for this was simple. A DRM-free pirated version of Spore was a much better product than the retail version. Another widely known example of DRM hurting the consumer is the former use of XCP by Sony to protect music. This DRM downloaded a “Rootkit” without informing the consumer anywhere in the manual or the EULA to the computer that had the music CD in the drive. The program was then rendered invisible to the average user and deletion would render the computer's CD inoperable. This by definition is a Trojan and a "Rootkit", both forms of malicious code. Many anti-virus programs now recognize XCP as a virus. Not only did the XCP DRM hide itself from the user, but it also opened the path for malicious viruses and Trojans to "piggyback" into the operating system through the DRM. The most general way DRM hurts consumers is through the DRM becoming obsolete and incompatibility. DRM requires constant validation with a DRM server. When the server goes down, any software connected to DRM becomes unusable. The best examples of this are in the music industry. Any music purchased through MSN Music, Yahoo Music, or Wal-Mart recently became inoperable because the DRM servers were shut down causing the DRM to lock the songs and making them unplayable. DRM songs are often incompatible with other services as well. iTunes for instant would not import music protected by the XCP DRM already mentioned. Thus it can easily be seen that DRM hurts consumers while providing no benefits to the parent company.