FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
Intrusive DRM that is to say DRM that installs software on a users computer should not be permitted by law. There are many reasons for this but I will focus on two. 1) Computer systems are diverse - it is simply not possible for companies making DRM to anticipate every single software and hardware configuration. Intrusive DRM frequently must install some software object at a fairly low level in the target computer that prevents methods of copying. This can be anything from a driver that stops target programs that run virtual drives, to a rootkit device that locks down a computers functions when target software is run. 2) Intrusive DRM does not stop copying of software - any software technology that runs on the end users computer can be fooled. This includes DRM that checks back with online services. If the software is interesting enough (ie any popular piece of software) then someone will take the time to break the DRM. Often these individuals are not in the United States thus there is little this commission can do to stop them. Thus there is little point in using intrusive methods of DRM except to placate the feelings of uninformed software investors. A solution: There are ways DRM can be used to limit pirating of software that is not intrusive. The main way is an account system. Software is installed or at least decoded via the internet. Each software license is stored online. One method of this idea is embodied in Valve Software's Steam service (www.steampowered.com). This video game service keeps track of a persons account and allows the install of games based on whether an account key was purchased either from online or from stores. Other embodiments of this system are not hard to imagine. A system could be created that kept track via an online account of the number of times a given piece of software was installed on different computers. The software could allow the dissociation of a computer by simply logging in which would allow that same item of software to then be installed on a new computer. These non-intrusive DRM systems could still be fooled and pirated, but to do so is typically harder then the systems that rely on installation of some driver or rootkit. Meanwhile they also have the advantage of not destroying a persons computer that has an abnormal hardware and software configuration as intrusive DRM systems are known to do.