FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
I am certain that you will receive many comments as to how DRM treats the consumer like a criminal, and how ineffective it is against the very people it is designed to stop, but I would like to point out a couple of longer term issues with DRM. First, there is the possibility of a publisher going under, financially. One would hope that after the time of plausible profitability has passed, a patch would be released to remove the DRM from a game, but there is currently no requirement for a publisher to do so. This means that if a publisher goes under, there is a possibility that they will leave games unplayable without an individual taking actions currently illegal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This applies primarily to modern sophisticated DRM such as SecuROM which requires a connection to a remote server which would no longer exist in the event of a publisher bankruptcy. Another example of this sort of DRM would be the hardware dongles required by certain software to decrypt the software. A company bankruptcy coupled with a hardware failure would render the remarkably expensive software that employs this sort of DRM unusable. The second issue that I would take up with modern DRM is longer term. The primary function of DRM is to prevent people from stealing software, and I see nothing wrong with this goal. The actual effect that modern DRM has, however, is to prevent people from making a copy of the software. This means that the customer has no way of making a backup of software for use upon the eventual failure of the original disk. This can be a major issue because, aside from the possibility of physical damage to a disk due to improper handling, optical media can deteriorate through no fault of the user. Both environmental and manufacturing conditions can negatively affect the lifespan of a disk, and with no legal means of archiving the data held on the media a customer can be left with no alternative to purchasing software that has already been purchased, assuming that the software is even available at that time. I believe that publishers have a right to protect their intellectual property. Unfortunately, the current means employed by major software manufacturers are neither effective, nor fair to the consumer. I thank you for the opportunity to make my opinion on this matter heard.