FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
I am a professional in the entertainment software industry (Disclaimer: I am speaking on my personal behalf and not on behalf of my employer. Opinions stated here are my personal beliefs and do not represent my employer in any way). My livelihood depends on my customers paying money for my product. Even so, I do not support DRM software and do not believe that the legal environment which surrounds it is entirely ethical. - - - The vast majority of DRM implementations offer nothing but additional costs and/or limitations to the legitimate consumer. Nearly all of them rely on installing hidden software on the consumer's computer, software which is never adequately explained and which rarely removes itself properly, if at all, if the user decides to uninstall the original software. Software of this type has been used in the past as a backdoor by virus and trojan makers (Sony's DRM 'rootkit' is the most famous of these), and offers a continuous method of exposure for its use in the future. Even legitimate DRM software often behaves in the same way a virus does - making every effort to be difficult to detect, disable, and remove by the end user. If it happens to prevent the use of other legitimate software owned by the user, there is no option for them -- no appeals. You are required to have the DRM software installed, or you are no longer able to use the software which you legally purchased. - - - Software pirate organizations are not hampered by DRM software, and many appear to view it as a welcome challenge. Every major PC entertainment release in 2008 was available online, stripped of its DRM, within 24 hours of its official release to the public. In this environment, legitimate users not only pay more than pirates, they are inconvenienced more by the DRM software which pirates (other than the initial crackers) do not have to deal with at all. In other words, because of DRM software, the person who obtains software illegally has a better experience than the person who obtains it legally. - - - My company and others do not use DRM software to protect our products. Instead, we offer additional features to our legitimate customers (generally online) that are not obtainable if you have not purchased our software. Our legitimate customers, in other words, have a better product experience than those who obtain our software illegally. This is a profitable and sustainable business model, and does not put our customers at risk. - - - If this message has any effect at all, my hope is that it offers a counterpoint to the fear-laced message that is advocated by DRM manufacturers. Companies like Stardock, Valve, and Blizzard have proved that it is possible to thrive in a DRM-free world. Continuing to criminalize customers who just want to use what they purchased is, I believe, a self-destructive path and does more harm to intellectual property holders than some believe. - - - Thank you for the opportunity to express my opinion on this matter.