FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
Simply put, DRM does not prevent piracy, and only inconveniences legitimate users. An obvious example is last year's video game, Spore, which had draconian DRM protections and was widely available on pirate sites before it was available on store shelves. Legitimate purchasers were hit with restrictions on the ownership of the product they had purchased, and, allegedly, in some cases their computers were actually damaged -- there are several pending lawsuits claiming that the SecuROM DRM used by Spore disabled users' optical drives or otherwise prevented normal functioning of their computers. Meanwhile, anyone who wanted to pirate Spore merely had to punch up a popular BitTorrent site and could get it illegally in a matter of hours -- no installation limits, no disabled optical drives, a game that is actually more functional than the version that comes in a box and costs money. For these reasons alone, publishers should abandon DRM because it is so clearly bad business. But in the absence of publishers making that seemingly-obvious decision, the FTC should step in to protect consumers. First of all, any product that contains any sort of copy-protection mechanism should say so. It should be mentioned in the license agreement and on the box, and even if a user consents to install software such as SecuROM, the publisher should still be held liable for any damage that results from its use. Rules on ownership should be strengthened. If I purchase a piece of software, I should be entitled to all the laws of ownership that entails -- I should be allowed to make backup copies for my own use, I should be allowed to modify it to run on different hardware (many older video games, for example, will not run on modern computers), I should be allowed to use it fifty years from now if that's my desire -- and I should be allowed to resell it, so long as I uninstall it from my own system. Neither license agreement nor DRM should be allowed to restrict my basic ownership rights as a purchaser. Neither should software that does not naturally require any sort of network capability require repeated online authentication. I should be allowed to use my programs even if I have no Internet connection.