FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
DRM basically means that I need to buy the same media multiple times to use it on hardware from multiple brands. I understand the desire for copyright holders to want to be paid for their product, but I feel treated like a criminal when I purchase something with DRM on it. For example, if I purchase a song from Apple's iTunes Music Store with DRM on it, I can only use it on Apple products and up to 5 authorized Mac or PC computers. Even though I paid for it, I cannot use it on Microsoft's Zune or XBox, Sony's PSP or Playstation, or many other media playing devices. Things w/o DRM like CDs, some purchasable music files, and bootleg music files from the internet do not have these restrictions. While this allows for illegal copying, it also allows for fair use on all of the devices a user owns that can play back the media file. It allows for conversion of the media files to formats that their hardware can play back. Essentially it allows the end user to obtain one copy and use it anywhere instead of locking a user into one brand of hardware (which is uncompetitive by nature) or forcing the user to buy things repeatedly. The repeated buying may not be so bad, but since DRMed digital copies often cost nearly as much or more than CDs and DVDs, the cost of purchasing repeatedly is very high and thus prohibitive. I think it's important to also take into account that the encryption and region encoding used on DVDs and Blu Ray Discs is also a form of DRM which attempts to prohibit the end purchaser from using their media fully. It is well know that region encoding of DVDs and Blu Ray Discs are used for the purposes of selling media at different price points in different countries and to allow movies to be sold on DVD and Blu Ray in one country while the movie is still being played in the theatre in another country, thus avoiding cannibalizing theatre revenues. The theatre revenues can be maintained by companies releasing earlier in foreign theatres and/or delaying the DVD and Blu Ray releases until it is out of foreign theatres if it is such a big concern. This isn't the biggest problem of region encoding however. The biggest problem is that many movies and videos are not released in all countries. It is fully legal for me to purchase movies in other countries, but region encoding prevents me from playing it back in all DVD and Blu Ray players. This means some regions get priced gouged and many people are unable to purchase copies of foreign movies that are watchable in their own country. This restricts trade and makes little sense. For example, Welcome to Paradox is a Sci Fi Channel series that was not successful here in the USA. I would like to buy it, but Sci Fi did not release it in any format in the USA. It is available in Australia, but only on region 4 DVDs. Since the USA is region 1, I can buy it, but I can't actually watch it. Thus no one gets my money, and I can't get my show. Don't we want people to buy things they want? Why restrict them for videos of shows that are legal to watch? Finally, the encryption on the DVDs and Blu Ray Discs prevents my making backups for when my kids scratch a disc or making a copy I can watch on my iPod, Zune, XBox 360, PC, etc. This isn't about getting free stuff or giving away what people have made. This is about not having to buy the same thing repeatedly, worry about the DRM servers being taken offline and rendering my purchase unuseable, being able to buy things from any region if it's not sold here, and being able to fully use the media I paid for. I probably buy more CDs than anyone I know. I buy music from the USA, South Korea, and Japan on a regular basis. If it was easier for me to buy music and video in a digital format from any region, I would likely buy more, but instead the digital copies treat me like a criminal in most cases.