FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
DRM frustrates people who do the right thing. While pirated media will work on nearly any device, DRM-restricted files can keep users from enjoying the media they purchase in a way that best suits them. It is, tactfully, a short-term solution to a long-term problem. Content distributors should find ways to suit the market, rather than expect the market to suit them. Media producers should expect payment for their goods. This cannot be argued. But DRM takes freedom from the purchaser -- it is like a punishment for doing the right thing. It does nothing to curtail piracy. Furthermore, media companies base much of their need for DRM on the belief that pirated data is a lost sale. This is misleading logic. Many people who pirate may never buy the things they download. At the same time, many who pirate still do purchase media through legitimate outlets. How many people who have downloaded a season of The Office have gone on to purchase it on DVD? How many people who have downloaded a band's album went on to buy their next release on a CD or at iTunes? It is reasonable to say that media producers have lost money to piracy. But it is also important to note that they have gained business from file sharing. Good people will continue to do the right thing, and bad people will continue to do as they please. Content creators and publishers should be providing reasons to purchase a product. Plenty of independent folks, like Jonathan Coulton and Leo Laporte, create DRM-free products and continue to thrive. When I buy a book, I can read it wherever I want. When I buy a CD, I can listen to it on any player, with whatever speakers or headphones I choose. DRM circumvents consumer freedom. The best alternative I could propose would be "Watermarking" files by placing purchaser information (a customer ID or email address, for example), within a purchased file's meta tags. This type of feature is already part of existing media formats, and is entirely unobtrusive. It is the same as writing your name in a book you've purchased. It is only a privacy concern if the purchased files are then redistributed, which legally they should not be.